The European Commission announced Wednesday that it has dropped long-standing antitrust charges against Microsoft Corp. after the company agreed to offer European users a selection browsers via its operating system.

The EC terminated it case without a fine in return for a commitment from Microsoft to market rival browsers alongside Internet Explorer for a five-year period. This will come into effect in mid-March 2010.

Windows users will be provided with a Choice Screen containing the 12 most widely-used web browsers that run on the OS.

Web browsers include Apple's Safari, Google's Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox, all of which are free. Norway's Opera Software also makes Web browsers.

Millions of European consumers will benefit from this decision by having a free choice about which web browser they use, said EU 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 the future.

Europe's regulator and Microsoft have already clashed before, when the software giant was fined $1.35 billion (899 million euros) in 2008 for not complying with previous rulings.

Microsoft is up 27 cents or 0.9 percent on the Nasdaq to $30.29 in morning trading.