In January the European Union stated that Microsoft most likely broke European antitrust laws since they were bundling Internet Explorer with their Windows Operating System. Today cnet news’ Ina Fried broke the story of Microsoft’s response to the EU; they will release a version of Windows 7 aimed for the European market without IE in it. As Microsoft themselves states it in their leaked memo;
"To ensure that Microsoft is in compliance with European law, Microsoft will be releasing a separate version of Windows 7 for distribution in Europe that will not include Windows Internet Explorer," the software maker said in the memo. "Microsoft will offer IE8 separately and free of charge and will make it easy and convenient for PC manufacturers to preinstall IE 8 on Windows 7 machines in Europe if they so choose. PC manufacturers may choose to install an alternative browser instead of IE 8, and has always been the case, they may install multiple browsers if they wish."
The whole case is so stupid in so many ways, and I have the following comments;
- This antitrust case comes at a time when there has never been more competition in the browser market than there is now. Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari are all doing very well, thank you very much. While IE had a market share that hovered around 90 % 5 years ago, it barely brakes 70 % today – and is on a steady decline.
- The main complainant in the case, Norwegian Opera Software, is (of course) not happy with Microsoft’s solution, saying that it will “not restore competition in the marketplace”. There are a lot of Opera fans out there, especially in Europe, but obviously not enough to make much of a dent in the charts when it comes to market share. But how come this browser is not gaining, while the other choices are? Might it be that the other products are perceived as better?
- If the European Union accepts this solution from Microsoft (which is not entirely sure) who thinks that PC manufacturers will actually provide a PC without a browser on it? And if they install one, which one will that likely be – IE most likely. Google might have the money to persuade manufacturers to bundle Chrome, but in no way does Opera Software have that money available. And what about retail versions of the OS? Does this imply that you go home with your copy of Windows, perform an upgrade or clean install only to have an OS with no internet browser at all? (This of course leads to the rebirth of internet browser CD install disks – back to the 90’s :-D) Stupid, stupid, stupid.
- In 2009 an internet browser is integral to any operating system. Apple Mac OS X without Safari? If this legal battle had taken place in the 90’s I could have understood it, but not now. The world has changed and the thought of having an operation system without an internet browser is just stupid. How in the world would you get on the net? You couldn’t even download a competing internet browser! As I have stated above there is more competition in this market than it has ever been, and Safari, Google and Firefox seems to be gaining market share at the cost of Internet Explorer every day. There obviously is no need for an antitrust case since the market seems to be functioning just fine.
- My last point: I am deeply sorry for this embarrassing legal battle instigated by a Norwegian Company (and we are not even members of the EU!).
What are your thoughts on this issue? If you reside in Europe will you purchase a European Internet browser free edition of Windows 7, or will you do as I will, get the US version?