Summary:

Internet Explorer can’t catch a break in Europe. On the day the EC says it will charge Microsoft over browser bundling non-compliance, Russian web service Mail.ru launches its own rival software.

Amigo web browser

Just as the European Commission is preparing to charge Microsoft for not giving Windows users choice of web browser, Russian web service Mail.ru is launching its own browser.

Launched on Thursday to alpha testers, the “Amigo” browser includes a persistent sidebar that lets users use Mail.ru’s own MyWorld social service, its email service plus networks from DST stablemates Odnoklassniki and vKontakte, while browsing websites. That sidebar is not limited to DST investments – Facebook is carried, too. And the browser also includes a music service.

We have seen in China how web services, social networks and telcos are re-working open-source Android to offer their own, badged local mobile operating systems, devoid of Google’s name or services.

In the same way, Mail.ru’s desktop Amigo browser appears to be based on the Google Chrome browser’s open-source underlying platform, Chromium, making it easy to rebadge and customize. That repeats a tactic used two years ago by Mail.ru rival Yandex.

On mobile and now on desktop, emerging-markets brands are catapulting themselves forward using services that owe their existence to Google’s benevolence/naiveté. The effect, for Mail.ru, for instance, will be to rival Microsoft’s Internet Explorer for desktop share in Russia. That could give Mail.ru’s services a greater shot at gaining traction than MSN.

IE has the largest share of Russian browser use with 46 percent adoption, according to StatOwl, but this rate is declining.

In 2009, Microsoft agreed to a European Commission antitrust demand that it give Windows users a choice of rival web browsers to Internet Explorer. Despite having mostly complied with that agreement, the EC recently found that Microsoft failed to offer the choice in one update to Windows 7.

“The next step is to open a formal proceeding into the company’s breach of an agreement. We are working on this,” EC competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said on Thursday (via Reuters).

Microsoft could face a fine of up to 10 percent of its annual revenue ($7.4 billion).

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