Can anyone understand the European Union's antitrust
If so, do not hesitate to provide some online comment.
Last week, the EU antitrust regulators told Microsoft not to
repeat the mistake of denying consumers a choice of rival web
browsers in its new Windows 8 operating system, in a dispute
that has already cost the software giant more than 1 billion
EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said he had spelt
out his concerns to Microsoft about Windows 8, its new
flagship software product which was released on Friday.
Thinking about Mr Almunia's comments, I wondered aloud (as it
happened) what he was talking about. Each of the computers I
have ever bought has arrived with IE as the explorer of
choice. And for a long time, that was my browser of choice.
And while my latest laptop arrived with IE on it, I put the
word "Firefox" into Bing, went to the site, downloaded the
Mozilla Firefox browser, ticked the box and made it my
default browser and never looked back. I also downloaded
Google's Chrome because when my son visits, he prefers
Microsoft founder Bill Gates and chief executive Steve
Ballmer did not send me an email asking me to desist from
using anything other than IE, which by the way I update at
regular intervals because I can.
Reuters reported a Microsoft spokesman saying that after
discussions with the commission, Microsoft had changed some
aspects of the way the browser-choice screen worked on
Windows 8, and those changes would be implemented by the time
Windows 8 launched.
Mr Almunia's warning came with charges Microsoft had broken a
promise to offer European consumers a choice of rival
browsers in its previous version of Windows, which could
result in a substantial fine.
Microsoft promised three years ago to offer browser choices
to settle an EU antitrust investigation and avoid a penalty
that could have been as much as 10% of its global turnover.
But the European Commission said Microsoft had not fulfilled
its pledge between February last year and July this year,
confirming an earlier Reuters report.
Microsoft could face a significant fine, as it is the second
time it has failed to comply with an EU order.
Microsoft, which has already been penalised 1.6 billion in
the past decade for infringing EU rules, apologised. It has
four weeks to reply to the commission's "statement of
objections", or charge sheet.
"Although this was the result of a technical error, we take
responsibility for what happened, and we are strengthening
our internal procedures to help ensure something like this
cannot happen again," the company said in a statement.
Mackline, of course, does not agree with cartels, price
fixing and monopolistic behaviour. However, in an open and
free market, should companies be fined such massive amounts
of money because they provide an operating system that is
geared towards people using its browser rather than a
If Mackline can easily download another browser choice in New
Zealand, perhaps there is something stopping EU residents
from doing the same.
Investigations will continue.
Mr Almunia said he had no reason to go after Microsoft's
operating system for tablets, a market that included rivals
Apple and Google.
"We have looked at Windows RT and, on the basis of our
investigation so far, there are no grounds to pursue further
investigations on this particular issue," he said.
The commission in July said several companies had accused
Microsoft of only allowing its own IE browser to be installed
on devices running Windows RT.
Microsoft's share of the European browser market has roughly
halved since 2008 to 29%: on a par with Chrome but behind
Mozilla's 30% share, according to web traffic analysis firm
With the Microsoft case heading for resolution, the next
web-related battle for the commission is likely to be with
Google, the target of complaints by Microsoft and more than a
dozen other rivals over its core search-engine business.
Google, the world's most popular search engine, is now in
talks with the EU watchdog that could help it avoid sanctions
which could amount to $NZ6.32 billion.
It's a dog-eat-dog world of technology in Europe right now.