The European Commission has abandoned its long-running antitrust case against Microsoft after the software giant agreed to offer European customers a choice of web browsers.
The decade long row centred around Microsoft's practice of bundling its own Internet Explorer web browser with the Windows operating system, which the EU claimed was thwarting innovation in the industry and denying consumers a free choice.
The EC had already imposed fines totalling over two billion dollars on Redmond.
Under the terms of the agreement struck today, Microsoft will now offer a choice of up to 12 different browsers on its systems such as Mozilla's Firefox and Google's nascent Chrome.
The vendor has undertaken to make available a 'Choice Screen' in the European Economic Area for five years, allowing users of XP, Vista and Windows 7 to choose which browsers they want to install alongside or instead of Internet Explorer.
"Millions of European consumers will benefit from this decision by having a free choice about which web browser they use," said competition commissioner Neelie Kroes.
"Such choice will not only serve to improve people's experience of the Internet now but also act as an incentive for web browser companies to innovate and offer people better browsers in future," she added.
Opera Software, makers of the Opera browser, which currently accounts for around 2% of the total browser market, hailed a victory for European consumers.
"This decision is ... a celebration of open Web standards, as these shared guidelines are the necessary ingredients for innovation on the Web," said Jon von Tetzchner, Opera CEO.
Opera made the original complaint against Microsoft in 2007.