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Sunday, 14 June 2009 16:17

Europe v Microsoft, gloves are on in farce of the century

It seems that the competition regulator of an unelected government purporting to represent the sovereign nations of Western Europe is waging a socialist war against US technology companies - and Microsoft is the key target. The battle has now come to a head with Microsoft acquiescing to yet another nonsensical demand from the European Commission but still not able to make peace.

The latest nonsense spewing forth from the increasingly farcical EC is about choice in browsers on the upcoming Windows 7.

Apparently, after a complaint from the people running Norway's very own browser pride and joy Opera, the EC demanded that Microsoft should decouple Internet Explorer from Windows 7. That way, you see, we would all find it much easier to make our own choice of browser.

Well Microsoft of course would prefer not to do this as it is already losing browser market share hand over fist to Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Google Chrome and - yes Europe's very own Opera.

I am running Windows Vista (call me a fool if you like) and I used the pre-installed IE browser that came with my OS to download Firefox, the browser I use most of the time. I also have all of the other major browsers installed so that I can test them from time to time.

To even the casual observer of the Internet and web market space, it should be obvious that this is one area where Microsoft for the past five years has been having singularly unspectacular results.

Firefox continues to gain market share in the browser space and, certainly in Europe, may be on a par or even ahead of IE and still steadily gaining share. In the search space, Google has slaughtered Microsoft, which is little more than a third placed bit player. Silverlight is lost in the shadow of Flash.


What Microsoft did to Netscape is ancient history. Mozilla has well and truly got its revenge with Firefox. There are now more browsers than you can shake a stick at to choose from but this is not enough for the EC.

They insist that Microsoft decouples IE from Windows 7. So Microsoft, which no doubt is sick of European lawsuits, has said fine it will supply its operating system with no browser at all.

That way, system builders in Europe can supply new Windows 7 PCs with whatever browser they choose to add. Of course, if you want to buy a boxed off-the-shelf edition of Windows 7, then you'll have to add your own browser after you do the clean install.

But wait! This is outrageous screams the EC. We want Microsoft to supply its operating system with a choice of browsers. So Microsoft not only has to supply its browser-less OS but also installation files for a range of Windows compatible browsers?

Do these unelected EC bureaucrats have nothing better to do?

Fining Intel a billion dollars for using its market power to unfairly marginalise AMD is one thing. But honestly, who really gives a toss any more about Microsoft's rapidly waning browser dominance?

Here's a suggestion. Let Microsoft sell boxed copies of Windows 7 with no browser in Europe but make it a requirement to supply a separate IE installation disk in the box. That way users who wish to do a clean install of Windows 7 can the install IE and use it to download Firefox.

Actually, here's a better suggestion. Just leave Microsoft alone, let it supply Windows 7 with IE as part of the package. Believe it or not, it actually makes it really easy to choose what ever browser you want to choose - even Opera!

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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.



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