After being granted two extensions to defend itself against anti-trust allegations in Europe, regarding the bundling of Internet Explorer in Windows, Microsoft has now canceled its oral hearing scheduled for the start of June because the right EU people weren’t going to be around. Apparently, the hearing was to clash with a global antitrust conference in Zurich which would be the preferred destination for many influential regulators.
The regulators attendance was important, since the commission typically consults with them before issuing sanctions and fines, but Microsoft was nevertheless denied when it tried to get its hearing moved to accommodate these observers and advisers. As a result the hearing has been canceled and the commission will instead reach its decision based purely on written statements from Microsoft and its adversaries.
This has unsurprisingly led to charges that Microsoft pulled out because it can’t cope with questions that Opera, Google, and Mozilla might ask. If Microsoft indeed abused its market position as Opera claims, however, one could argue that their efforts were not all that successful in Europe.
Although Microsoft's browser across all versions still leads in overall usage, Firefox 3 is currently the single market leader in that region, with a 35 percent share versus 34 percent for IE7, and even Google’s Chrome has gained a respectable following less than a year after its debut. I’m sure Opera has its own merits, but perhaps they should rethink their strategy rather than force its way into Windows through an anti-trust ruling.