Opera still mistrusts Microsoft on MSN browser lockout

Internet browser company Opera Software ASA is still not satisfied with Microsoft Corp.'s promises to grant Opera users full access to the MSN.com Web portal.

The software giant claimed it was repairing a technical glitch that prevented users of Opera, Mozilla, and other browsers from accessing MSN.com.

But Opera Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jon von Tetzchner said there was no technical glitch, but rather a deliberate Microsoft strategy to handicap his company.

Microsoft could not be immediately reached for comment.

MSN.com deliberately blocked access to users whose browsers identified themselves with the string of characters "Opera," Von Tetzchner said in a telephone interview. By simply changing one letter, sending the string "Opra," for example, they could gain access. That suggests that Microsoft had put Opera on a "black list," he said.

While he acknowledged that Microsoft has since corrected the situation, he pointed out that as recently as Thursday some parts of MSN.com -- such as the Carpoint.com automotive site -- were still inaccessible to Opera users.

He further rejected Microsoft's assertion that Opera and Mozilla do not adequately support the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard XHTML (Extensible Hypertext Markup Language). Once Opera users are granted access to MSN.com, XHTML pages render "just fine," said Von Tetzchner.

He accused Microsoft of trying to use strong-arm tactics to disadvantage his company, suggesting Redmond has designs on one of Opera's chief markets.

"We have been making significant deals in the Internet device market, and (Microsoft chief) Bill Gates has been on record saying the Internet device market will dwarf the PC market in a few years. Microsoft wants that market, so in essence they're trying to use their power in the PC market to gain dominance there," he said.

Opera recently signed a deal to provide browser software for set-top boxes, a major breakthrough for the Norwegian company, which offers free desktop browsers but hopes to make its main profit from smaller Internet devices.

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