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Microsoft and the European Union finally seem to be on the verge of working out their differences, with a new Windows 7 balloting proposal.  (Source: MSDN/Microsoft)
The European Commission and Microsoft appear to finally be on the verge of resolving an antitrust dispute over Windows 7's browser

Microsoft has long packaged its Internet Explorer browser with Windows.  The bundling has given Microsoft's browser a dominant position in the marketplace, despite promising alternatives including Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Google Chrome.  That cozy position could soon change, though, thanks to action by Europe's antitrust watchdog and business regulatory body, the European Commission.

The EC demanded Microsoft offer a ballot selection screen to allow users to pick their browser of choice with Windows 7.  Microsoft at first refused, saying it would not include IE 8 in European copies of Windows 7.  In the end, though, Microsoft came around and agreed to a ballot screen.

The EC had some minor complaints about Microsoft's first proposal -- mainly its lack of information to users about what the browsers were to help them make their selection.  Under the new proposal, which the EC calls much "improved" users could find out information on what a browser is from the ballot screen.  They would also have access to additional information about each browser they could install, to help them make their decision. 

Under the new proposal, the balloting system would work for five years after purchase on any new install.  Windows 7 and all future versions of Windows would implement this scheme.

EC showed Microsoft some love, with a regulator stating, "The commission's concern has been that PC users should have an effective and unbiased choice between Internet Explorer and competing Web browsers to ensure competition on the merits and to allow consumers to benefit from technical development and innovation both on the Web-browser market and on related markets, such as Web-based applications."

Brad Smith, general counsel of Microsoft stated that his company was "pleased by today's decisions."

Microsoft and Europe have had a rocky relationship, with Microsoft fined 899 million euros ($1.35 billion) in 2008 for antitrust violations.  Brad Smith says that situation has greatly turned around, though.  He gave Europe some love back, stating, "It's heartening to see the much better relationship that exists today."

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RE: Capitalism
By Yawgm0th on 10/7/2009 12:41:44 PM , Rating: 2
What you're describing is cartel behavior, but I don't really see it that way. They all subscribe to similar business models, by which third-party software developers, ISPs, and other companies pay them or give them deals in some way to include their products on computers.

They are not collectively abusing their market share (their... septopoly? ;-) ) to affect other markets or push products. They are individually getting deals that make their products cheaper, which they must do in order to be competitive.

An okay analogy is car dealerships. Most people would prefer they were open on sundays. In many states, however, vestigial blue laws prevent them from being open on Sundays. Car dealerships actually want this, as being open on Sundays would increase costs without increasing revenue enough to cover those costs. Competition, however, would drive one to open Sunday and the market would dictate that others must follow or risk losing business. Without the law, they would all have to open Sunday and all of them would most likely see lower profits.

In this case, OEMs must provide extra software and "deals" so that they can compete with their competitors' prices.

Don't get me wrong, I have gone on many a rant about how big OEMs are crippling the PC industry and giving Windows a bad name by their mandated inclusion of bloatware on new computers. I think it's a terrible practice. But there's nothing anti-competitive about it. It is, in fact, the result of good competition.

RE: Capitalism
By crystal clear on 10/7/2009 1:18:53 PM , Rating: 2
Now read this-(forgot to add this on to my comment)

First, the proposed measure ensures that PC manufacturers will continue to be able to install any browser on top of Windows, and make any browser the default.

Second, it ensures that PC manufacturers and users will be able to turn Internet Explorer on and off, even putting the code that executes the IE browser frame into a separate cache on the hard drive.

Now Microsoft & Google can pay the OEMs (huge sums) to ensure their browser is the default browser.

RE: Capitalism
By Yawgm0th on 10/7/2009 1:51:31 PM , Rating: 2
A crappy practice, indeed, but not a monopolistic one by any means.

RE: Capitalism
By crystal clear on 10/7/2009 2:01:33 PM , Rating: 2
Yawgm0th - I will be back asap-will respond to this.

RE: Capitalism
By crystal clear on 10/8/09, Rating: 0
RE: Capitalism
By Yawgm0th on 10/8/2009 12:01:47 PM , Rating: 3
As you may recall, the Commission's position is that PC users should have an effective and unbiased choice between Internet Explorer and competing web browsers to ensure competition on the merits.
I disagree with the Commissions position on two counts.

A web browser is not a product. It is a part of a larger software suite or a utility that can be added on. It does not need forced competition or government regulation. Microsoft killed the paid browser market in 90s. Let's keep it dead.

Users have an "effective and unbiased" choice amongst web browsers. Users who can even comprehend the choices are capable of downloading them. Those who aren't will only be confused by a browser ballot.


So this crappy practice (as you call it) denies the user an effective/unbiased choice between browsers,as the OEM installs the default browser of highest bidder (Microsft or Google).
It doesn't deny the user a choice at all. They don't need a browser ballot to get an unbiased choice. Have you seen the browser ballot? It's silly. It doesn't tell you anything about the browsers. If people want an unbiased explanation of web browsers they need to read a few reviews or -- God forbid -- download and try the browsers. In any case, they have a choice between PC manufacturers. If a given manufacturer includes an inferior web browser out of the box it will affect sales. It's not necessarily that people will buy based on the default browser; it's that if the browser doesn't work it will affect people's perceptions of that OEM negatively. People still have lots of choices.

OEMs will not give you the ballot screen !

Thank goodness! I'm glad they will spare European consumers that particular pain.

It cleary shows the E.U. is more interested in hitting Microsoft with fines rather than free choices & competition.
Verity! I have no doubt the EU is simply out to fine Microsoft at every turn.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh

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