Is Microsoft now going to have to give everyone a choice of web browser?

Microsoft continues to try to dodge the "Eye of Sauron" of the European Commission (EC) by proposing that consumers get to choose which browser they want installed via a ballot screen.

Microsoft continues to try to dodge the "Eye of Sauron" of the European Commission (EC) by proposing that consumers get to choose which browser they want installed via a ballot screen.

Opera Software, the browser maker that kicked off the antitrust investigation into Microsoft's business practices, said it is "very happy" with Microsoft's ballot screen idea, but believes that the deal should be extended to customers worldwide.

Microsoft seems to be going to great lengths to appease the EC, both by releasing an IE-free version of Windows 7, XP, and Vista for five years and proposing to make changes that would make it a snap for users to install browsers make by the competition. This seems to indicate to me that Microsoft knows it's on shaky ground and that its old business practices were wrong. If Microsoft feels it is on shaky ground in Europe, chances are it won't feel any different anywhere else. That's the kind of uncertain ground that a conviction for maintaining monopoly power by anticompetitive means puts a company on.

I can't help but feel that Microsoft is standing at the top of a very slippery slope. Backing down so spectacularly in Europe could prompt antitrust investigations elsewhere simply based on the fact that the move has made the company look weak.

Five years from now, I think that all Windows users will be getting a choice as to which browser they want to use.

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