h1

antitrust.

February 24, 2009

Well, looks like Microsoft is facing antitrust charges from the EU. The company is accused of stifling competition by bundling the Internet Explorer browser with the Windows operating system. Wait? Didn’t this already happen back in the 90’s in the US? Seems to be very similar. And now that Google has applied to be a third party in the proceedings, in addition to Mozilla already being accepted, it’s become even bigger news.

Now, I use Firefox almost exclusively for my personal Internet activities. I use Internet Explorer at work because it’s the best with the company intranet. However, although I really only use one browser, on my recently retired laptop, I had 5 browsers installed (Firefox, IE – 6 and 7 – Netscape, Chrome, and Opera). Yes, I know, it was totally unnecessary, but I like having options. Just because IE came pre-installed on my laptop didn’t stop me from installing other browsers.

So what exactly is Microsoft going to do to help this problem? Pre-install it’s competitors’ browsers onto Windows computers? That seems ridiculous. And having that initial browser is key for consumers. It’s so nice to be able to buy a computer and jump right on the Internet without having to do anything. Microsoft realizing that users want various applications as soon as they get a computer and pre-installing them with Windows was a brilliant move. Yes, it gives IE an unfair advantage. But I’m pretty sure when I first opened IE, the homepage wasn’t Google’s search engine like I’ve set it to be now. I’m gonna bet (because I don’t really remember) that it brought me to the MSN homepage. Did that give Live Search an unfair advantage over Google? Not really; I just went and changed the setting, which is about as hard as downloading a new browser. And I bet if Microsoft could claim a 65% market share for search, people would start pointing fingers.

The innovation argument is valid too. Except, I really just don’t see the difference with most browsers (unless I visit a site that tells me it only works with IE). And I bet most casual Internet users wouldn’t find any stand-out features either. It’s like updating iTunes even though I only use it to tag my music and organize my iPod, which I could do from the beginning. The only things I need, or even probably know about, are basic (except the Shift+Ctrl+T shortcut that reopens my closed tabs, which is the best thing ever and I count as slightly more advanced).

As much as I don’t really like IE, I don’t expect a Windows machine to promote software that’s competition for Microsoft’s products. It’d be like asking Pepsi to supply Coke in their vending machines (only no matter how hard I try, I’m probably not going to get a Diet Coke out of a Pepsi machine). Why can’t Mozilla strike a deal with a computer manufacturer? I just don’t see how an antitrust case can end up as anything but “unfairly advantageous” to Mozilla and Google.

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One comment

  1. Problem is, there’s a good amount of people out there that don’t even know what a browser is exactly or even how to change their default homepage/settings so it’s definitely an advantage to Microsoft. Also, to the innovation point, Norway has started telling users to upgrade their damn IE 6 because it sucks. Here’s the article: http://www.cjohansen.no/en/browsers/norway_tells_ie6_users_to_shape_up



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