EU Ends Microsoft Investigation Without Further Comically Large FinesS

The European Commission has dropped its Internet Explorer antitrust case against Microsoft, getting big concessions in the process but not leveling any $1.35 billion fines this time.

Instead, Microsoft has agreed to give customers a choice of up to eleven competitive browsers, including Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera. OEMs will also be able to choose other browsers to install on their Windows PCs before shipping.

European consumers who already have Windows operating systems will be sent a software update by mid-March that will allow them to easily switch browsers. Going forward until 2015, new Windows buyers will be presented with the choice automatically. Since PC owners ostensibly have access to IE alternatives already anyway, all Microsoft is being forced to do is essentially to remind them of their options. It seems like a fair enough system, which makes it even more surprising that it took billions of dollars of fines to get here. [NY Times]