Defending Microsoft: Europe’s blatant favouritism of Google, Apple

The European Union this month has shown blatant hypocrisy and favouritism as they bring down a US $730 million dollar fine on Microsoft for…. wait for it…. daring to include Internet Explorer with their operating system, Windows 8. Specifically, that Microsoft failed to include a “browser ballot” screen in Windows 8 that lets users choose what browser to download and use when setting up their Windows 8 PC, Windows 8 Tablet or Windows 8 Smartphone.

$730 million dollars is utterly crippling to most companies. Even for Microsoft, struggling to retain an ever plunging market share in PCs and smartphones, losing that amount of money will hurt. But it’s not about the money, here. It’s about the principle and the utter lunacy of enforcing this old, very outdated antitrust settlement.

You see, there’s a bit of history behind this fine.

In 1998, in the wake of the very successful Windows 98 launch, a set of civil actions was filed against Microsoft Corporation, alleging that Microsoft abused monopoly power on Intel-based personal computers in its handling of operating system sales and web browser sales.

“The issue central to the case was whether Microsoft was allowed to bundle its flagship Internet Explorer (IE) web browser software with its Microsoft Windows operating system. Bundling them together is alleged to have been responsible for Microsoft’s victory in the browser wars as every Windows user had a copy of Internet Explorer. It was further alleged that this restricted the market for competing web browsers (such as Netscape Navigator or Opera) that were slow to download over a modem or had to be purchased at a store.” (Source: Wikipedia)

In the fifteen years following this decision, the world has observed some valuable facts:

  • Despite being the dominant PC browser until last year, Microsoft has not made any money from Internet Explorer, ever.
  • Despite being the dominant PC browser, PCs themselves have declined steadily, contributing heavily to a loss of Internet Explorer market share.
  • There are now twice as many smartphones as PCs being sold annually.
    • The biggest smartphone operating system on the planet is Google Android, which comes pre-packaged with its own Android Browser, which is set to search Google’s search engine by default.
    • Excuse me, where’s their browser ballot screen?
    • It is not impossible to replace Android Browser with a third party browser of your choice, but it takes about the same amount of steps as doing so with Internet Explorer on your PC.
    • Tablet sales are steadily rising: last year there were 50% as many tablets sold as PCs.
      • Of that, Microsoft has a measly 4% market share. Yet, it is the only tablet company being forced to offer users the choice to pick from 3rd party browsers by default.
  • The biggest market share of tablets still belongs to Apple, which packages Safari browser in both its tablets and phones.
    • Apple makes it impossible to wholly replace Safari with a third party browser in all its iOS devices.

Being 2013, downloading a new browser is now a trivial affair in terms of time and download size required. Back in 1998 when most of the world was on dial-up, it made a little more sense that a heavy 3rd party browser download was not an attractive option. Today, it takes mere seconds to install and replace a browser on a PC. This renders the point on “restricting the market for competing web browsers that are slow to download over a modem” obsolete.

Why then, is Microsoft still being punished openly and publicly for a behaviour that is so accepted by its peers and competitors? While Microsoft is whipped and cut down for acting like a monopoly as it brings a quality third choice to the tablet and smartphone market, the world can seemingly overlook Apple and Google with a forgiving, favourable eye. No one can dispute that Apple is notoriously the most locked-down operating system on the planet, partaking in the most obvious of antitrust behaviour across all its devices: you must use Apple core programs on Apple devices.

Ever controlling the world’s online access, Google’s smartphones, Android tablets and soon, Google Glass cleverly funnel you in to default statistical sharing settings, default search engine settings and the default browser application, and no one seems to be worriedly batting an eyelid, supposedly because its company motto is “Do No Evil”?

If driving the knife into Microsoft wasn’t enough, here’s a little devilish twist: Google and Opera were the ones who tipped off the EU and put them up to this. That’s right folks, the European Union is cavorting with Microsoft’s direct competitors who allegedly even helped them throughout the investigation.

Disgusting.

And Microsoft, caught between a rock and a hard place, knows it can’t take on the EU, Google, Apple, Opera and everyone else who will come down on them with a class-action shitstorm if they put up a fight, so what has ol’ Mister Softee done about this? They’ve released this humble statement of no-contest:

“We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologized for it. We provided the Commission with a complete and candid assessment of the situation, and we have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake – or anything similar – in the future.” (Source: Google & Opera Tipped EU | The Verge)

Tags: , , , , , ,

Categories: Business, Politics, Law, Science, Technology

Author:Andrew Beato

CEO, Chief Editor and founder of Intentious. Passionate comment enthusiast, amateur philosopher, Quora contributor, audiobook and general knowledge addict.

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