The EU Slapped Microsoft Yet Again.
In what seems to be a bad flashback to the 1990’s the EU has fined Microsoft $731M for inhibiting user choice of browser in Windows 7.
According to Venturebeat the fine stems from a bug in Windows 7 SP1 that disabled a browser choice screen. The EU claimed this was a breach of an agreement Microsoft made with them to prevent Windows users in Europe from simply defaulting to Internet Explorer.
You Want the Truth…
The EU seems obsessively fixated on massively fining American multinational technology companies. Microsoft are not alone here, companies like Google have also been subject to the whimsy of the EU Anti-trust “cops”.
The other ugly truths here are: –
- The people suing Microsoft are the same people deciding if that case has any validity. As the Roman poet Juvenal asked Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the Watchmen?)
- This case seems to rest on the flawed premise that Europeans are simply too inept to know how to install a different browser. Really?!??
- Browser usage statistics over the past several years have indicated a world-wide downturn in use of Internet Explorer. This sort of undermines the premise of this case too. Why? Because other desktop browsers have seized a greater market share and because of the increase in Smartphone browser use.
The Warptest POV
The EU is not exactly displaying enlightened self-interest by fining Microsoft $731M for what was not a malicious or intentional breach of agreement. Whilst this bug should not have slipped thru the testing cracks I still maintain that the underlying premise(s) of this case are so flawed that they would be better served working with Microsoft on what the EU wants for Windows 8.
One could accuse the EU of a pattern of pathological behavior that displays xenophobic, Euro-trash tendencies designed to undermine foreign companies operating in Europe or worse that this is a cynical attempt to line the empty coffers of the EU at the expense of private enterprise.
If Steve Ballmer Skype’d me now to discuss this my advice would be simple: the cost of doing business in the EU just got too high. Microsoft cannot allow a situation where the wolf is guarding the sheep.
In an ideal world I would recommend shutting down all Microsoft offices in the EU and moving the jobs to neighboring countries. Microsoft would have to be sadomasochistic to continue the existing relationship with the EU. Let the EU Competition Enforcement Department run a Linux or Mac OS X computer and see if the same inhibited choice of browsers exist there.
Was this Avoidable?
Possibly if Microsoft had fixed this bug on the spot but somehow I feel that past behavior of the EU indicates that one way or another Microsoft were going to get fined.