SMEs rally to the EC's side in Microsoft antitrust case

Trade group PIN-SME wants an end to practices it says lock SMEs in to IE and bar them from cloud computing.

A second trade group claiming to represent small and medium-size enterprises in the IT sector has joined the European Commission's latest antitrust case against Microsoft, this time on the side of the regulator.

The Commission has accepted the Pan-European ICT and eBusiness Network for SMEs (PIN-SME) as an interested third party in a case concerning the bundling of Microsoft's browser, Internet Explorer (IE), with its Windows operating system.

PIN-SME, an association set up in 2007, seeks an end to practices which "effectively lock-in SMEs to IE," it said.

"We became an intervenor as a result of our members' particular vulnerability arising from the very tight cost restrictions under which SMEs operate as developers, content providers and users," Sebastiano Toffaletti, PIN-SME secretary general said in a statement.

"Many of our members work and will, we trust, continue to work with Microsoft as content developers and users of Internet Explorer, but we believe that the tying practices involved in this case are detrimental to our innovation potential and future competitiveness. We want this de facto IE lock-in to end, especially as the European Court of First Instance has already condemned similar tying practices," he added.

On Monday the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), which also claims to represent SMEs in the IT industry, was accepted as an interested third party supporting the software giant.

It warned that the remedies the Commission is considering imposing on Microsoft to restore competition would harm small developers working on the Microsoft platform.

"The code which comprises Internet Explorer includes functionality that many developers take advantage of through Application Programming Interfaces (API's). If this code is removed, it could force many developers to rewrite and retest their applications," ACT said.

The remedies currently under consideration include offering users a choice of browser from the first moment they install Windows on their computers. This would comprise a list of the main browsers. Alternatively, the Commission may ask computer manufacturers to choose a browser other than IE to install on new computers.

Microsoft must respond by April 28 to the formal charges of monopoly abuse issued in January. It is expected to request an oral hearing in front of the Commission and all the interested third parties.

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