Google is joining forces with European regulators in an attack on Microsoft's dominance of the web browser market, injecting more bad blood between two of computing's richest and most powerful companies.
The latest assault on Microsoft's Internet Explorer comes as Google is trying to expand the usage of its own web browser, a six-month-old product called Chrome.
A complaint by another Internet Explorer rival, Opera, prompted the European Commission to open an investigation into whether Microsoft's bundling of its web browser with the Windows operating system had stifled competition and innovation. In their preliminary findings, the European regulators concluded that Microsoft had indeed given its web browser an unfair advantage that has been in violation of European law since 1996.
Microsoft has until late March to respond, which could force the Redmond, Washington-based software maker to detach Internet Explorer from Windows.
By becoming a third party in the European proceedings, Google hopes to build a case as to why Microsoft should be required to level the playing field for Chrome and other competing browsers.
"Creating a remedy that helps solve one problem without creating other unintended consequences isn't easy - but the more voices there are in the conversation the greater the chances of success," Sundar Pichai, a Google vice president, wrote in a blog post.
The makers of Firefox, which has risen in popularity in recent years and is the second-most-used browser behind Internet Explorer, already have offered to help the European Commission crack down on Microsoft.
A Microsoft spokesman declined comment on Tuesday, referring instead to a statement that the company issued last month after the European Commission's preliminary findings.
"We are committed to conducting our business in full compliance with European law," Microsoft said at that time.
In a quarterly report to shareholders last month, Microsoft said European regulators might force the company to set up a version of Windows that would bundle several browsers with the operating system, to make it easier for users to pick something other than Internet Explorer.
While Microsoft's has been at odds with other browser makers, its rivalry with Google is the most prickly.
Google has milked its leadership of the lucrative internet search market to undermine Microsoft's influence on how people interact with their computers. Microsoft has unsuccessfully tried to thwart Google's growth by pouring billions of dollars into its own search engine.
The battle between the two foes has occasionally spilled into the regulatory arena. Last year, Microsoft spearheaded a campaign that raised serious antitrust concerns about Google's plans to sell some ads on behalf of Yahoo, which is a distant second in the internet search market.
Google scrapped the Yahoo alliance in November, averting a lawsuit that US Justice Department planned to file to block the partnership.Reuse content