EU Regulators Can't Resist: Go After Microsoft For Antitrust Yet Again

from the punching-bag dept

Microsoft is becoming quite the antitrust punching bag over in Europe. After a years long fight concerning antitrust charges in Europe, Microsoft finally gave in and agreed to pay up. So, now the matter is over with, right? No, of course not. EU regulators are back at it, telling Microsoft that the company is probably violating antitrust laws by bundling Microsoft Internet Explorer with Windows. This seems like an odd issue to bring up now as there is increasing competition in the browser market. Firefox’s marketshare has continued to climb. Google has entered the market with Chrome. Safari is gaining increasing life (in part due to the iPhone) and there are numerous other upstarts as well. The idea that Microsoft is somehow exerting undue influence on the browser market (a market that, for the most part, involves free software) seems rather odd. It seems to confirm the initial opinion that many had of the original antitrust lawsuit in the EU against Microsoft. It’s more about a simple dislike for Microsoft than any actual antitrust violation.

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Comments on “EU Regulators Can't Resist: Go After Microsoft For Antitrust Yet Again”

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db0 (user link) says:


If people getting windows had to select between IE, Fx and Opera before they could go onlinewe would probably see a different percentage of browser spread.

It’s a fact that the only reason MS’ below-par browsers still grab the largest share is because they come bundled with the OS and people just go with what s available. It takes much more effort to overcome this browser innertia once someone has started using one product for a while.

John Doe says:

Re: Bundle

So if people are too ignorant to download a free browser now; how are they going to choose one? Will it be another selection from Dell? What about in-store computers? Computer manufacturers can install other browsers if they wish so where it is Microsoft’s fault that they don’t? Yeah, they used to stop manufacturers from doing so, but not anymore.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Bundle

“If people getting windows had to select between IE, Fx and Opera before they could go onlinewe would probably see a different percentage of browser spread.”

First of all, I doubt it. Most people would still go with the name they recognized the most. Second, even if it did, it creates a level of confusion for less technical installers, and another mandatory interaction with the installer, which is an annoyance for anyone. Microsoft has done all it can to make the Windows 7 installer as automatic as possible. Now, we’re going to tell them they have to offer a browser choice? Why not a media player choice, or a GUI choice? And who gets to decide which choices are included, anyway? How about we make them include a whole spindle of DVDs loaded with every possible alternative software available?

The fact is, there is NO barrier to installing third-party apps on Windows. Heck, XP even supports Firefox for updates now, and Vista/Windows 7 never required IE for updates at all. If you want Firefox or Opera so badly, then download it, install it, and recommend it to your friends. If having to run an automated installation from a website is too much of a barrier, then the user is not going to know which browser to choose in the first place.

My final point: IE is down to under 60% market share in the EU. Firefox has 31%. How, exactly, does MS have a monopoly of ANY sort in the browser market? Majority != monopoly!

Spectere (profile) says:

Re: Bundle

If people getting windows had to select between IE, Fx and Opera before they could go onlinewe would probably see a different percentage of browser spread.

If you buy a Mac you’re not given a choice between Firefox and Opera out of the box. You’re only given Safari. Should they be regulated as well? After all, a lot of Mac users use Safari since it’s bundled with the OS.

The EU regulators would have had a point ten years ago when IE was basically forced on people but as of right now browsers like Firefox have gained a massive foothold on the browser market. People are no longer ignorant to alternative web browsers.

In later versions of Windows (Windows 2000 to present) IE isn’t used for much of for anything if you have an alternate web browser installed. The component that relied the most on IE, Windows Update, has been made completely separate from the web browser as of Windows Vista. If a users wants to use an alternate web browser, the only time they might need to “subject” themselves to using IE is to download their favorite browser. Incidentally, taking away IE would prevent users from downloading their browser of choice. The only good solution to this issue is to allow the user to uninstall Internet Explorer. If they’re just forced to stop including it, retail box customers could end up with a chicken and egg scenario (“okay, I need a web browser…now what do I do?”) if they don’t know how to use the command line FTP client.

When will it end? Today they’re just crying foul over the browser. What if in the future the EU decides that the games included in Windows are a threat to competition? What if they decide that Windows Movie Maker or Windows DVD Maker is a threat to competition? Media Center? Windows Defender? Windows Firewall?

There are many components in Windows that you can feasibly bring up a case against. Should Microsoft be responsible for offering alternatives to all of them? Frankly, I’d rather have them improving their OS and the built-in utilities rather than having to worry about integrating and supporting third-party products and I’m sure many others feel the same way.

Bob says:

Re: Re:

I agree, I don’t know what the EU is thinking. Bottom line is, the Windows OS is a Microsoft product, MS should be able to bundle anything they want with THEIR software.

This is comparable to telling Ford they need to install GM powertrains on their vehicles, because putting an Ford engine in a Ford car creates a Ford monopoly.

Anonymous Coward says:

I never understood the whole monopoly with free software argument.

Why not sue MS because Windows come pre-loaded with MS-PAINT and Adobe can’t compete!

But lately, dare I say it, but Firefox is a friggin resource Hog, and if Chrome can’t handle a webpage, I load IE instead of FF now. Its a shame, but if i had to pick between the 2, IE hands down 🙁

usmcdvldg says:

Re: Re:,139023437,339289417,00.htm

Now that your armed with some FACTS, perhaps you can reformulate some INFORMED opinions.

Xiera says:

Re: Re: Re:

Now that your armed with some FACTS, perhaps you can reformulate some INFORMED opinions.

Facts are fun if you care about them. If not, you choose what’s easiest and, for most people, that’s IE. No one’s saying YOU have to choose it, but you suggesting that other people shouldn’t use it is rather laughable. It’s like saying “hey, HDTV is the best picture so everyone should use it” — sometimes people just don’t need the extra performance/picture clarity/whatever.

usmcdvldg says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You can like or use whatever you want, but you said

“dare I say it, but Firefox is a friggin resource Hog.”

So to suggest that IE is an under performer in regards to FF is laughable at best. If you simply don’t know any better like most people, or have not encountered a reason to seek out alternatives; thats fine. If you have been using IE and thats been working fine, good for you, I wish you nothing but luck(which obviously have a lot of).

But that’s not what you said. You said that FF was a resource hog and related that to IE. You said you went out of your way to try both(Which I highly doubt), and IE explorer won”hands down”. Well, the great thing about facts is they allow me to say things like this.


hegemon13 says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

It takes a bit of the thunder away when you say “YOUR” instead of “YOU’RE.”

It also makes you sound like an idiot to write an entire post showing you have no understanding about the difference between fact and opinion. You can’t be wrong in an opinion. Both browsers have strengths and weaknesses. Depending on which features are most important to you, it is entirely reasonable to prefer one over the other.

For the record, I prefer Firefox.

Mike says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Well usmcdvldg,

To quote you

“Well, the great thing about facts is they allow me to say things like this.


gives me the opportunity to say that “YOU ARE WRONG”.

In my job servicing hundreds of Windows computers each month, and I’ve been supporting consumers since the first IBM XT machine came out in 1981, I can guarantee you that on many systems FF “IS” a resource hog. Many times pinning the processor and occasionally freezing up, only to crash. Even on a clean install of Windows with nothing else onboard.

One of the things I really hate about these comment areas is that there are a lot of people who are techs and some who think they are techs that don’t really have the street credibility to understand what happens with home users who don’t know a computer from a toaster or how to diagnose or help those people when they have issues.

Ask 10 techs the same question and you will get 10 different answers. Common experience shared among us is far more valuable than smart alek people that THINK they know it all.

Enough said.

Anonymous Coward says:

How do you profit from a browser anyway? I don’t understand the concern.

Obviously Microsoft is using their OS dominance to give IE a leg up, but I don’t see how that translates into money?

Unless someone had argued that they were increasing the cost of Windows due to the presence of the browser, I just don’t see how you can extract money from them.

Maybe it’s a standards thing?

Rick says:

Re: Browser Profit?

Browsers derive profit from the default home page, ‘search’ and custom error pages in some cases. IE defaults to Live search, although you can easily change it of course. You can also easily change your homepage.

The flip side of the coin is a browser must be installed or you can’t download another one, unless Microsoft includes them all with their OS – which is not necessarily a good idea. It would just create another layer of confusion for the technically challenged.

The fact remains that IE works best with Windows – it’s free and should come with the OS. I know how to download firefox, chrome, opera and safari – if I want them – but it’s MY choice, not Microsoft’s or the EU.

I’m an American anyway, so I could really care less….

Mike says:

Re: Profit is not the big issue here...

This lawsuit is not about Microsoft making more or less money.

It is about market share and being able to compete for market share.

The owners of Opera, with something like a .30% market share I think, complained to the EU that they could not compete with Microsoft’s IE because it was bundled. The complaint was filed early last year.

Interestingly, rumors are that Google, because of Chrome, also with a small market share to date, is siding with Opera.

The EU has now found, for whatever reason, to pursue this issue farther after some investigation.

The BIG issue as I see it, is that Opera is whining. Firefox has been able to compete, and now has something like 20% of the market share. They didn’t file an anti-trust suit. They competed in other ways and are growing every day.

Why can’t Opera do the same? My guess is that, just like the RIAA, they want the government to help their business instead of being creative and finding a way to promote their product in the competitive world.

How much IE is a part of the Windows OS is another story. But, it is deeply integrated and can not be totally removed.

Did you know your desktop is a web page?

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re: Re:

Haha! Man, that would be a sight.

Better yet, just include bundled instructions on how to download a browser via FTP by using the command prompt. That’s sure to make people happy! Oh, wait, including FTP functionality in the command prompt interferes with the market for other text-based FTP applications.

Honestly, they would probably have to go the route of having a “Get Online” icon on the desktop, which would act as an installer for the browser of your choice. Again, though, I ask: who decides what browsers are included as a choice?

usmcdvldg says:

Re: Re:


Then Microsoft could lose some of its world wide strangle hold on what is essentially a standardized GUI interface, that it has managed to own, and thus can profit by maintaining a horrible implementation, and ruining an industry.

Its very interesting, that if you live in certain parts of Asia and the middle east, Windows isn’t a necessity, because no one makes software in your language for it. So guess what, Microsoft GIVES IT AWAY FOR FREE just to keep there standard as THE STANDARD world wide.

If that’s not a Monopoly, IDK what is

I pray to god every night Balmer would do something that DUMB!!!!

usmcdvldg says:

Re: Re: Re:

Erroneous, You may think its gone but its not. There may not be an icon on your desktop anymore, but the underlying functionality and program resources remain! This can in odd situations with varying software cause a multitude of conflicts.

SP3 of XP goes so fare as to force you to have an IE6 or IE 7 installed completely.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Uh, you are wrong. The BROWSER is absolutely gone. The underlying functionality remains because any OS without web connectivity today is completely broken. They are OS-level functions required by hundreds of third-party apps. The underlying functionality does not compete with other browsers. Only the browser itself does that. I have had IE and Firefox installed for ages. Never ONCE have I encountered a software conflict due to it, other than those caused by negligent programming in third-party apps, which call IE directly rather than the default browser. Microsoft can’t be blamed for bad programming in a third-party app.

Oh, and I have service pack 3. The IE option is still present where it always is in the Add/Remove Windows Components section of Add/Remove Programs.

Red says:

What M$ needs to do to avoid all this whining from short sided regulators. simply add a step during install of the OS to pick and chose which extras to install.. i.e. paint.. Internet Explorer, Note pad.. etc..etc.. or simply check one box to install all default software packages. like a typical Linux install does now. Granted this does not work on pre installed Software from the computer makers. but, like some do with extra bundled software. At initial bootup the end user could then decide which default browser to install. as with any other accessories windows uses. The less technological end users will usually just check “all” anyway.

I do not buy Microsoft’s original argument that untying the browser from windows will degrade Windows capabilities.
(i.e. the original anti-trust trial claim) just their argument to keep Internet Explorer as the predominate browser in use.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re:

Yes, that’s just what we need. Now that Windows 7 finally has a fast, automated installer, we need a bunch of worthless choices to muck up the installer. Guess what? You and every other user has the option. It’s called Add/Remove Programs.

Some basics, such as an internet browser, are so central to computer use, that they MUST be included to avoid major end-user confusion.

Besides, name me ONE OS that doesn’t come with a browser? What about OSX, which comes with tons of unnecessary apps, like Garage Band, a DVD authoring app, etc, all of which could just as easily be added later?

Liam says:

it is anti-trust

Most computer users I’ve had experience with seem to think Internet Explorer IS the internet.

They don’t even know of choice, or why they would want it.
So I think they should be forced to bundle options into the installer.

The problem is IE is so inbuilt into the OS it would still need to be installed, and people know that to get onto the internet, you double click the blue e

Matt says:

losing browser share

the thing is, they’re losing browser share, but they’re still abusing the antitrust/monopoly aspects.

Car analogy time: this is like selling a car with x tires, but everyone hates them and switches to y tires because you know they’re crap.

Most companies have the common sense to maybe change said tires. In Microsoft’s case, they’ve been plodding along. However, when you force people to buy those tires, that’s pretty crappy. I’m not sure if it still qualifies under antitrust except that MS still has an overwhelming share of OS space supposedly.

Meanwhile, the smart people pirate/use linux, aka the truth of the matter is that an OS is not worth investing money in as a consumer. It’s worth investing time and effort, but it’s not remotely polished to this day (and probably never will be).

Kevin Stapp (profile) says:

Quit making a browser

M$ should simply stop making IE and simply endorse/support an open source browser. Radical? You bet but it makes a lot of sense.
1. It relieves M$ from much of the antitrust issues with Windows.
2. Allows M$ to be viewed as a ‘good guy’ again
3. Reinforces the stance M$ supports open source efforts
4. Enables M$ to counter Google’s growing influence in browser development (Google is the main financier of FireFox)
5. Enables M$ to leverage open source developers to help drive traffic to their internet properties
6. M$ can redirect resources to other areas that will directly drive profit greater profit growth in the future: search, cloud computing, etc

M$ has to get over this idea they need to strive to be the #1 player in every facet of the internet.

Dustin (profile) says:

Re: Quit making a browser

Last time it was the media player, this time it’s the browser. At what point does one say “screw it” and just start thinking that the EU simply sees Microsoft as the litigation equivalent of the school kid they can shake down for lunch money?

Nothing Microsoft has so far done couldn’t also be used as an argument against Apple, yet we only see one being attacked by regulatory courts. Until that changes this is little more than a shakedown.

Christopher Smith says:

Forced bundling

I may recall incorrectly, but my understanding was that Microsoft’s contracts with OEMs required the OEMs to include IE and no other browser with new machines (just like the OEM contracts forbade manufacturers from selling dual-boot machines that had Windows and Linux/Be).

Microsoft’s including IE with Windows shouldn’t be a problem. Microsoft’s telling manufacturers that they can’t put Firefox on new machines is.

Rodney Dodge says:

I think this is primarily about the EU going after Microsoft, the American technology giant. Europe would love to be the leader in software sales. They are trying to hamper large US tech corps (primarily MS) in an effort to give their own local companies a leg up. Google will be their next cash cow target.

If the EU continues to act in this arbitrary manner, it’s time for the US to initiate a trade war. We can start by implementing the same random sanctions on EU chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Windows 7 integrates very good disk burning software. I can see Roxio and Nero lining up to sue in EU courts. That’s as idiotic as forcing car companies to stick with rack-and-pinion steering. Like several people have already pointed out, the EU could go after nearly any bundled Windows application that a competitor happens to make (Paint, Notepad, Calculator, etc, etc, etc). At one point, every single bundled application and half of the operating system functionality (networking, audio) was an independently developed application. The EU is trying to stop a natural process that is identical to a car integrating its own stereo or GPS system.

Silverwolf (user link) says:



I have to say that I disagree with you on this one (Which is a rare occurrence indeed).

While it’s true that IE has been losing market share recently that isn’t particularly relevant to the issue at hand. Which as I understand it could be phrased as follows: “Did Microsoft unfairly leverage it’s monopoly status with Windows to the detriment of other competitors and consumers in the web browser space ?”

I think the answer to that question is fairly self-evident, in the early years of the internet (Windows 3.1 era, and even the first version or two of Windows 95) a web browser was not pre-installed with the operating system. I distinctly remember being offered a choice when signing up with my ISP at the time (FlashNet). I could receive either a floppy disk with Netscape Navigator or one with Microsoft Internet Explorer.

At that time IE had an extremely small amount of market share and the defacto standard was Netscape Navigator. This continued (more or less) until Windows 95 OSR2 was released with IE bundled with the operating system.

This was also about the time that internet use started becoming more main-stream and many people started using the internet for the very first time. These new users knew very little about the internet, they didn’t want to have to download and install a program so that they could get online. Most of them didn’t even understand what a “Browser” was.

Most of the new users simply clicked on what they called the “Internet”. What they were actually using was internet explorer 3. I think the statistics speak for themselves.

In April of 1996 Netscape Navigator had 89.36% market share and I.E. had 3.76%, but with the beginning of the bundling of I.E. the numbers had changed significantly by October of the same year (6 months later) wherein I.E. had jumped almost 4 fold to over 12%.

This trend continued unabated (more and more new users) until I.E. peaked at 95.97% in August, 2002.

Simply put, if Microsoft had never bundled I.E. with windows and consumers had been given a choice (as I was that first time), IE would likely never have reached over 95% market share.

Can you think of any other environment where one competitor reached over 90% market share when there were other options at the same price-point with the same (or better) features, performance, and security ?

People continue to use IE because it’s already installed, and they just don’t know any better.

I used the following websites (and my random opinions) as references:

Phillip (user link) says:

Re: Disagree

So Microsoft found a way of better competing, and beat out Netscape. I don’t see how that’s unfairly leveraging a monopoly.

The fact is, MS is NOT taking unfair measures to stop browser competition. They bundle IE with Windows because it’s more convenient and less of a hassle for the computer-ignorant.

There is no Antitrust here.

Silverwolf (user link) says:

Re: Re: Disagree


Your post doesn’t really add anything to the discussion, as it doesn’t make logical sense.

Microsoft’s “Better way of competing” that you mention was to include a copy of IE with every copy of Windows shipped.

Since Windows was already a monopoly (everyone had it, and everyone new was going to get it) including IE with windows was leveraging that monopoly to make sure that everyone had a copy of IE as well.

And as I mentioned in my previous post since everyone now already had a copy of IE included, they used it, many of them without being the slightest bit aware of what they were using, or of making a choice at all.

gene_cavanaugh (user link) says:

Microsoft bundling and the EU

When we consider how badly Microsoft stifled innovation with their campaigns against Netscape, etc. (I am of the opinion that a primary reason most advanced software development is no longer in the US is Microsoft’s business methods), it makes no sense to allow Microsoft to continue to use bundling as a marketing strategy, and wait to see how much damage they do before we go into damage control!
Personally, I am glad to see the EU do what we don’t have the courage to do here. It’s something we should have done a long time ago.

anymouse says:

Are we having fun yet?

“Ask 10 techs the same question and you will get 10 different answers. Common experience shared among us is far more valuable than smart alek people that THINK they know it all.”

Microsoft is a monopoly and they have utilized that position to eliminate/absorb/squash their competitors over the years (my opinion, but pretty close to fact if you look at their history, and yes there are arguments on both sides, but you don’t get as big as Microsoft without having a monopoly position….. anyone see any other HUGE FOR PROFIT operating system vendors….. yeah, me either, just a few small variants and ‘open source’ solutions trying to hang on to enough of a market share to survive).

As for browsers, should a browser crash take down the entire operating system? This has been typical of IE over the years, but I can’t seem to recall a FireFox (or Opera/Netscape) crash that wasn’t fixable with a CTRL/ALT/DELETE and killing the related process (similar actions on the IE process would often result in a windows crash or an unstable/unusable system).

Oh well, job security for IT folks, since we all know that MS will change everything every couple of years, and someone will have to be around to explain the changes to the ‘suits’…

Random Internet Quotes:

Just remember…. if the world didn’t suck, we’d all fall off.

They say that sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice. Nowhere is this more clear than corporate/government IT.

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