22 June 2005

Microsoft & the EU

The European Commission (of the EU; hereafter, the EC) is a very important body in antitrust action nowadays because of its rapidly increasing market power. The Competition Commission, under Italian Mario Monti, attracted international headlines by stopping the merger of Honeywell & GE; Monti also began a lawsuit against Microsoft, which has taken a while to attract the sort of attention as the Clinton-era antitrust action against the Renton, WA-based company.

The American Department of Justice action against MS was directed firstly against its pressure on retailers to bundle computers with MS Office (or face sanctions from MS), and secondly its bundling of the Internet Explorer Web browser with the Windows OS. The EC action focused not on the web browser, but on the Windows Media Player (WMV). BusinessWeek points out that the Windows XP N ("N" means there's no WMV) has been a commercial bust, and of course the whole concept of penalizing MS in this particular way is just incredibly silly. For one thing, WMV is usually available for free. The anti-bundling methods used by antitrust courts have usually culminated in forcing MS to de-bundle one of its features, i.e., make Windows available minus the feature—say, Internet Explorer, WMV, and so on. The customers always want the version with everything, so why would they buy the strippie? And it's an awkward precedent. What about PDAs equipped with GPS? Apple iPods with Bluetooth telephony? This could easily become an obstacle to incorporating technological advances once they appear.

The other front, the source code for Windows FTP server, is a much more logical tactic. Competition in the computer industry has made far more progress through licensing agreements, than efforts to control what computer firms may or may not develop.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home