"It gives them the image of some sort of neutrality," said Petit of Microsoft's use of trade groups and consortiums to hit Google in the EU. "They want to avoid the impression that this is strictly a commercial dispute because it looks less aggressive and makes them appear like they're not in the driver's seat."
In actuality, Petit argued, Microsoft is calling the shots.
But Microsoft is not the only major player to do this, Petit noted. "It's not unusual, in fact it's becoming fairly conventional," he said of the tactic.
Microsoft has also been on the receiving end. The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which counts Google as a member, was active in the Commission's antitrust case against Microsoft that wrapped up in 2007 and cost the company approximately $1.7 billion in fines.
Google already faces scrutiny by the Commission over its search practices, a case that has lingered since Nov. 2011. Two months ago, Google proposed a settlement, which Joaquin Almunia, the head of the Commission, is still mulling.
Petit said it's likely that Almunia will settle with Google over those older charges.
"The Commission has instructed all its services to close pending cases before next summer," said Petit, referring to 2014 and citing sources in Brussels. "Almunia's term ends in the fall of 2014, and he wants things on the fast track, to close cases and come to a resolution. He wants to show a good record before his term expires."
Microsoft declined to comment, instead pointing to the FairSearch press release ( download PDF) and noting that other companies, including Nokia and Oracle, are members of the group.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.
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