In the never ending saga of Microsoft vs the European Union, new developments have been announced regarding Microsoft’s latest attempts to smooth things over in it’s European market, unfortunately the EU isn’t still is not happy and is adamant about continuing its pursuit for cash…err, justice.
Starting with its record fine of approx $800 million USD in 2004, the EU has seemed to have found its primary cash cow, rather target, rather….. well to be truthful, there really is no pleasant way to word it. After handing down an astonishing $1.4 Billion fine last year in 2008 (for failing to comply quickly enough with the their 2004 decision) the Commission announced in January of 2009, that they would yet again be investigating Microsoft’s perceived unfair monopoly in only offering its own Internet Explorer browser on Microsoft’s Windows Operating Systems. As with Windows Media Player, which in compliance with the 2004 ruling was removed from specially labelled “N” versions of Windows – Microsoft announced they would would be completely removing IE from “E” versions in Europe for the upcoming release of Windows 7, and store shelves will only feature “N” and “E” versions of the Windows software, with no options for a regular edition.
Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Microsoft, Dave Heiner write, ”We’re committed to making Windows 7 available in Europe at the same time that it launches in the rest of the world, but we also must comply with European competition law as we launch the product.”
“Given the pending legal proceeding, we’ve decided that instead of including Internet Explorer in Windows 7 in Europe, we will offer it separately and on an easy-to-install basis to both computer manufacturers and users.”
”Microsoft will not offer for distribution in the European territory the Windows 7 product versions that contain IE, which are intended for distribution in the rest of the world,” reported Microsoft to its OEM partners “This will apply to both OEM and Retail versions of Windows 7 products.”
How Microsoft exactly plans to dump IE and allow OEM’s and end users to choose their browser is unknown. The EU has suggested a ballot selection system, which would have the major browsers included for a user to select during the install process. Though potentially, Microsoft could opt to include no browser at all, letting OEMs determine the software they wish to ship, and leaving end users hanging; having to obtain a suitable browser themselves via telekinetics or however else one expects to download a browser, without using a browser.
Microsoft had hoped this would help to stave off further investigation, and possibly fines, showing that they are committed to working with the EU to find a suitable solution.
Unfortunately the EU isn’t about to let this money tree just die. In a statement released after Microsoft’s announcement, the Commission said they were sticking to their guns and would still be pursuing charges, asserting that Microsoft has been acting unfairly since 1995 when IE was first introduced into the operating system. Even if the the Commission gets their way and forces Microsoft to bundle competing browsers with the OS in a ballot system, it is likely the investigation and inevitable “trial” will continue.
“At the level of both computer manufacturers and retail sales, the Commission’s statement of objections (SO) suggested that consumers should be provided with a genuine choice of browsers. Given that over 95 percent of consumers acquire Windows pre-installed on a PC, it is particularly important to ensure consumer choice through the computer manufacturer channel.”
It will be interesting to see Microsoft’s final response come release day, October 22nd 2009. If the browser bundle does make it through – what type of hits will IE take in the European markets? Will it cause confusion amongst a large majority of consumers who may have never heard or used of these competing browsers? And will Microsoft be investigated again if they decide to put IE at the top of the ballot box, or having it selected by default; using their position as the operating system’s developer to unfairly direct users towards their own product.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions HardwareCanucks or its staff