Microsoft and the EU: Round X

Microsoft's seemingly never ending trials and tribulations with the European Union's antitrust case may have a new twist. Earlier this year, the EU's antitrust agency charged Microsoft with shielding Internet Explorer (IE) from competition by bundling its browser with Windows. This was based on a 2007 complaint by Opera Software. Mozilla and Google have also joined the complaint.

According to Net Applications Inc, a US Web metrics company, IE had 68.2 percent of the browser market in December 2008, and was even less popular in Europe (59.5%). As of April 2009, IE share in Europe is about 48%, with Firefox having 39% of the market.

While the EU has racked up over $2 billon in fines against Microsoft since 2004, their rulings have not had a noticeable impact on market share. You may remember several years ago that the EU required Microsoft to produce a version of Windows XP without Windows Media Player. That software, known as the Windows XP N Edition, was available only in Europe. Sales figures indicate there was virtually no demand for "N" from PC manufacturers, retailers, or consumers. Media Player had about 50% of market share at the time of that ruling. The ruling did not appear to impact those numbers.

Measures the EU is considering may require Microsoft to redesign Windows so IE code could be disabled. They may also try to force numerous browsers into Windows, to dilute Microsoft's advantage with IE. Windows 7 will include the capability to shut off (but not delete) IE if users want an alternative.

Note that Google, which has the dominant search engine, has had a download for Chrome on their page, although its not clear that has helped with Chrome's market share. The EU may just be barking up the wrong tree in its claim that having a built-in browser is an important advantage in this day and age of quick and easy downloads. [Note: Chrome is up to about 2.5% of the market. At its current rate of increase, we expect to see it at 50% by 2034.]

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