With the Noughties nearly over, the European Commission's case against Microsoft's naughty abuse of its dominant market position appears to have finally been brought to a close.
Those with good memories (or a dislike of the Internet Explorer web browser) may recall that in January 2008, the European Commission began looking into a potential breach of European competition law by Microsoft following a complaint that it was tying its Internet Explorer web browser to Windows and so abusing its dominant market position. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the European Commission took a preliminary view that by doing this, Microsoft was gaining an artificial distribution advantage on more than 90% of PCs.
Back in 2004, Microsoft was fined £331 million for bundling its Media Player with the Windows package - the European Commission decided that this also amounted to an abuse of Microsoft's dominant market position. Having already had this wallet-lightening experience, in order to deal with the web browser complaints, earlier this year Microsoft offered commitments that it would ensure PC manufacturers and users will be able to:
- install any web browser on top of Windows;
- make any web browser the default browser on new PCs; and
- turn off access to Internet Explorer.
Last week the European Commission announced that it was making these commitments legally binding, meaning that by mid-March 2010, all internet users who have Internet Explorer set as their default web browser should have been presented with a "Choice Screen" giving them the option to switch to Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, AOL, Maxthon, K-Meleon, Flock, Avant Browser, Sleipnir or Slim Browser. So don't forget to click on the "Install Updates" icon.
This Naked Lawyer wonders if most individuals are already too set in their ways for the "Choice Screen" to make much of a difference, but is making a New Year Resolution to try using a different browser when surfing the web.
Possibly realising that "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35), Microsoft has also given a public undertaking to promote interoperability between its products and those created by other companies. Microsoft claims that this undertaking "represents the most comprehensive commitment to the promotion of interoperability in the history of the software industry". The interoperability package being offered to third parties is available from its website. There may well be some interesting experimentation going on during the teen years of the third millenium anno domini.