Today Google said it has complained to the EC (European Commission) about the way Microsoft bundles its own search mechanism in the latest version of IE (Internet Explorer).

Google said it has spoken with the EC as part of that organisation's examination of Vista, Microsoft's forthcoming OS (operating system), which is expected to become available to consumers early next year. As part of those discussions, Google told the EC it is concerned that the way that Microsoft sets search defaults in IE 7.0 benefits the software giant and removes choice for users.

IE 7.0, currently available as a beta, includes a box where users can enter search terms to conduct an internet search. The box uses Microsoft's own MSN search engine by default. However, a drop-down menu allows users to find other search providers and set the search box to use other engines, including Google.

The setup is similar to Mozilla's Firefox browser, which comes with Google as the default search bar. Firefox users can also choose to change the default search engine. MSN is not included in a drop-down list of other providers, but users can choose the 'add engines' option, which takes them to a separate page where they can add MSN or others as the default.

Google also said it commends the EC's work in helping to preserve competition and encourages it to closely look at behaviour that undermines fair competition.

The EC last month said it had sent a letter to Microsoft outlining concerns over Vista. One of the concerns was Microsoft's plan to bundle an internet search function into Vista. The EC hasn't launched a formal investigation.

Bundling multiple Microsoft products into Windows was at the heart of the EC's antitrust ruling against the firm in 2004, which centred on the bundling of Windows Media Player into Windows.