Mozilla chief backs Opera's browser-bundling complaint against Microsoft

Mozilla chief backs Opera's browser-bundling complaint against Microsoft

Summary: Allowing Microsoft to make IE the default browser in Windows the courts has put a damper on Microsoft's competitors. I agree with Mozilla Foundation Chief Executive Mitchell Baker on that. But the real question now is what could and should be done -- at this late date -- to fix this fact.

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Unsurprisingly, the head of the Mozilla Foundation is backing Opera Software's browser-bundling complaint against Microsoft.

Mitchell Baker, Chief Executive of the foundation, has gone on record saying she concurs with the European Commission's preliminary conclusion that  “Microsoft’s tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice.” (The "preliminary conclusion," which is roughly equivalent to a preliminary finding, is the result of an antitrust complaint Opera lodged against Microsoft in December 2007. The EC issued the finding in mid-January 2009.)

I agree with Baker that Microsoft's tying of IE to Windows hurt competition. Although Microsoft argued more than ten years ago in its antitrust case here in the U.S. versus the Department of Justice that IE was part of Windows, I -- and many other observers -- never felt Microsoft proved its case. However, Microsoft was not forced by the U.S. court to unbundle IE and, since that time, has been allowed to continue to ship IE with every copy of Windows.

Allowing Microsoft to make IE the default browser in Windows the courts has put a damper on Microsoft's competitors. The real question now is what could and should be done -- at this late date -- to fix this fact.

Mitchell blogged on February 6 that "(t)here are separate questions of whether there is a good remedy, and what that remedy might be." In her post, she never suggested that remedy should be (though did offer her counsel to the EC, if they want/need it).

The remedy is what's key here -- not "proof" that Microsoft's behavior hurt its competitors. What kind of action would provide more customer choice?

Opera officials have said they are in favor of the EC requiring Microsoft to either push other browser to users via Microsoft's own patch/updating mechanisms, like Windows Update; and/or requiring Microsoft to distribute other vendors' browsers with Windows. (So far, happily no one has suggested Microsoft be required to remove IE from Windows and sell a completely browser-free version in the EC. That strategy, required by the EC in the case of Media Player, resulted in a version of Windows that consumers don't want and aren't buying.)

Few company observers seem to think even the Microsoft-bashing EC would go so far as to require Microsoft to use its own update mechanism to distribute its competitors' products. But making Microsoft put the  Firefox, Opera and Chrome bits on the Windows DVD? That seems like something the EC just might do.

The next question becomes: If the EC requires Microsoft to offer users a choice of browsers will this delay delivery of Windows 7 in the EU? Will Microsoft argue that it will have to "un-integrate" IE from the rest of Windows before it can proceed?

What do you think is going to happen next in the EC browser-bundling case? Do you feel forcing Microsoft to distribute its competitors' browsers alongside IE would help consumers -- and not just Microsoft's competitors?

Update: Hmm.... What do the Firefox crew want?  Firefox architect Mike Connor is quoted saying he's dead-set against Firefox being bundled with Windows and that Opera's browser-bundling argument that is the crux of its EC complaint is misguided.

Topics: Browser, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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296 comments
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  • MS should file a counter complaint


    Because I believe every common Linux distro has either Opera or Mozilla.

    I say level the playing field for all. No web browsers on any OS. The customer can use FTP from a command line to download and install the browser of their choice.

    Yeah! Progress!
    croberts
    • Two problems with your logic

      First, bundling is not illegal. Using a monopoly (OS in this case) to leverage another market (web browser) is the issue at hand. So MS's defense would have to revolve around either proving they are not a monopoly (which to them would be akin to admitting failure) or proving that their actions did not harm Opera, that perhaps something else was to blame (this is their best defense IMO).

      Second, your defense assumes that Opera is calling for no web browsers in an OS as a remedy. They are in fact asking for the opposite, that multiple web browsers be offered. Most Linux distros do just that. And many Linux distros would even happily offer IE as an option, if it were legally available to them. For MS to win your defense, they'd HAVE to make it legally available, otherwise their argument would be lost.
      Michael Kelly
      • A couple of problems with your logic

        "First, bundling is not illegal. Using a monopoly (OS in this case) to leverage another market (web browser) is the issue at hand."
        They were already found guilty of that and properly punished.

        "So MS's defense would have to revolve around either proving they are not a monopoly (which to them would be akin to admitting failure"
        not really because if they could do that then the first thing goes away. Has the EU declared that MS is a monoply in the first place the the US did?

        "or proving that their actions did not harm Opera, that perhaps something else was to blame (this is their best defense IMO)."
        How could their actions hurt Opera when Firefox is doing so well, seems to me that all the web browsers would be hurting not just this one right??


        "Second, your defense assumes that Opera is calling for no web browsers in an OS as a remedy. They are in fact asking for the opposite, that multiple web browsers be offered."
        Thats not fully true opera is seeking in their complaint:
        "Force Microsoft to unbundle IE and Windows or preinstall alternative browsers on the desktop (read Opera);
        Require that Microsoft follows ?fundamental and open Web standards accepted by the Web-authoring communities.?
        http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=7332

        Most Linux distros do just that.
        Yes but not all, (most)and mac doesn't do it. So what you are saying is that the EU needs to tell mac and Linux what browsers they should include?

        "And many Linux distros would even happily offer IE as an option, if it were legally available to them."
        This made me laugh, thankyou.


        Personally I dont see what the problem is with the OEM's offering it at startup, as you are setting up your computer you should pick wich one you want. I dont see what the big deal is except for windows updates, if they pick something else the OEM's need to have a disclamier that the computer will not update. Retail OS's IE should be included so you can atleast pick and download what browser you want.
        NoThomas
        • You're talking out of both sides of your mouth

          First you say: "They were already found guilty of that and properly punished." (refering to browser integration).

          Then you say: "Has the EU declared that MS is a monoply in the first place the the US did?"

          Maybe you missed it or something, but hopefully my point is obvious: They were found guilty and punished [u]in the USA, not the EU[/u] where the trial is taking place. There is no double jeopardy when you cross borders.

          And since you asked, MS was fairly recently ordered to split out the media player in the EU as a result of "leveraging its near monopoly". So apparently a near monopoly is good enough for sanctions in the EU.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_media_player#European_Commission_case
          Michael Kelly
          • If by giving people gift certificates good towards Microsoft products...

            If by giving people gift certificates good towards Microsoft products is
            called a punishment... OK.

            Microsoft was not punished in any meaningful way in the U.S.
            olePigeon
        • *sigh*

          "They were already found guilty of that and properly punished." So if a convicted criminal offends again and keeps on offending, they should not be punished further as they've been "properly punished."?

          "Yes but not all, (most)and mac doesn't do it. So what you are saying is that the EU needs to tell mac and Linux what browsers they should include?" No. Neither are monopolies. Neither are convicted monopolists. Both have the option to [b][i]completely[/i][/b] remove the respective default browsers.

          ""And many Linux distros would even happily offer IE as an option, if it were legally available to them."
          This made me laugh, thankyou." Agreed!

          The way that Microsoft is abusing its monopoly and only distributing IE is far more subtle than most people have realised. IE doesn't even come close to being a standards compliant browser. As a result, when an average user sees a "broken" (coded for IE) page, they blame the browser, not the idiot that used word/frontpage, and go back to IE. A page that is semantically correct x/html and laid out with CSS [i]should[/i] render perfectly in [i]any[/i] browser on [i]any[/i] platform. None currently do. Opera and Safari both have beta versions that are close.
          SimonUK
          • Re: Broken Pages Coded for IE

            I fall on the side of letting MS just sell IE and let the OEMs decide if they want to put something else in there.

            With that said, I use Firefox, almost exclusively, and I have to say that I rarely come across pages that don't work in Firefox. They exist, but they're few and far between.

            At work, I run IE8 in the default (more standard compliant) mode. Aside from some internal apps, I never run it in the IE7 mode.

            But what do I know. I never thought the netscape case was worth pursuing. If they'd brought action aginst MS for making sure that Lotus didn't work or the way they pretended to work on OS/2 while secretly working to put out 95, I'd have been 100% behind the action. MS has done some terrible things...but for some reason, those are never the reasons that the various governments get involved. Instead they worry about them giving away software that other companies also give away.
            notsofast
          • Agreed

            The plans MS has for it's live services is probably the main reason that the EU are looking at IE and how that is coupled to the OS again.
            Alan Smithie
        • It's not the bundling, it's the integration...

          It's not the bundling, it's the integration. There's nothing wrong with
          Microsoft bundling Internet Explorer.

          The problem is that they make it impossible to [i]not[/i] have Internet
          Explorer. If there was an option to have FireFox instead of Internet
          Explorer, fine. But there isn't. Microsoft has integrated Internet Explorer
          in such a way that it's not possible to remove it from the OS.
          olePigeon
      • I keep hearing about MS market dropping rapidly, but monopoly status seems.

        to stay put. <br><br>
        MS is in the 80% range these days. Not even close to a true monopoly, which is complete control, such as MLB or AT&T in the past. <br><br>
        Oh, in both cases the governemt was ok with it, still is with one. <br><br>
        But when the DoJ pressed civil charges against Microsoft, it was TOTALLY as a Monopoly on the x86 platform. Jackson formed a new little area of law to play with and since Apple and SUN (who incidentally was formed by the governement, for the goverment and given AT exemption for several years to grow as large as possible, the government cheering them on) made it so that MS was not a true monopoly, he narrowed his definition of Personal computer monopoly to Personal computer using the x86 architecture. I didn't even know judges had the power to make law from the bench? Did you? <br><br>
        Well we know liberal judges have done just that over the years, without regard for the constitution in many cases, all the way up to the Supremes. Making law from the bench. Here I learned in Civics back in 8th grade that only congress can create laws and it must pass by a large majority of votes to move on, and finally with all parties in agreement it can become law. <br><br>
        But there was Jackson making up law on the fly. <br><br>
        Anyway, a lot has changed since that time. This so called x86 architecture monopoly now has 10% going to Apple, who bundles their own browswer by the way without any objections that I'm aware of from Opera and Mozilla. I mean the size of the piece of pie is not important any longer because a lock on a technology that has hundreds of millions of users hurts them as much as those who have a billion users. <br>
        In fact, probably moreso since those are the people who don't want to use the software from the larger piece of pie anyway! They would be better suited for being open to Opera, don't you think, so I say we should have a law that states, when a company controls both the hardware and OS and browser and all apps that can every be run on a machine, they need to be held accountable as a monopoly of that specific hardware that locks it's users entirely into only it's own software. <br><br>
        And on top of MS already paying their "dues" as being the x86 architecture OS monopoly. Their marketshare, again, has decreased quite considerably snice the days the "monopoly" tag was legally applied. It is no longer applicable. You can choose any browser you want for your Windows machine. Just because certain organizations don't commercially advertise their product and try to compete fairly in the marketplace, but instead want the courts to deliver their marketshare w/o so much as one AD not one dime spent on making people aware and deomonstrating why they have a better browser, head to head in the same market which this so called x86 architecture OS monopoly exists, then they should just go about their business of charity and be happy for those that do use their product and stay out of it. <br><br>
        Enough of the politics and posturing to have the courts start handing out marketshare to those that never even tried to earn it. That is total BS.
        xuniL_z
        • You are confused on may aspects (market, for example)

          Couple of points:

          1) Microsoft was found to have (and abused) monopoly status in 4 regions: US, European Union, Japan and South Korea. In relation to this blog, the scope is the European Union (where Opera is based out of). On those that they have appealed the decision, they have lost for the most part (they avoided a break up order in the US Appeals Court).

          2) At the time of the initial US case, the only relevant market was the x86 pc market (for the case). This held up in appeals, as that was the scope.

          Jackson did not form any new law, this was basically Anti-Trust Law being applied. Jackson rejected non PC based systems in the case as they were not impacted. Neither Apple nor Sun Microsystems were in fact formed by the government, Sun was actually stared by students at Stanford University (thus the original name was Stanford University Networks, shortened to SUN). Apple was started by Steve Jobbs and Steve Wozniak, neither were funded by the government (nice fantasy, though). Both systems originally used Motorola chips, Sun created SPArc later. The rest of your law comments are about as valid (as in, not!)

          A lot has changed, you are correct. This case
          is in Europe and nothing in the US (your narrow vision appears to be limited to that market) is relevant to the case or the market. OS market share is roughly as follows (stats for January, global market): Windows is at 88.26%, MacOS is at 9.93% and Linux is at 0.83% (FreeBSD is at 0.01%). As per browser usage, the stats are: IE at 67.55%, Firefox at 21.53%, Safari at 8.28%, Chrome at 1.12% and Opera is at 0.70% (rest omitted). Domestically, the numbers may be slightly different, same with the European market (which is the only one that matters in this discussion, read the blog again).

          This article is about the European Market, thus your domestic (as in, American courts) reference is not applicable. It was also a very long whine. Grow up!
          B.O.F.H.
          • That's BOFH, can't reply w/o an ad homimem attack can he.

            Well in that case, it's evident what you are like as I've seen you be just as condescending to other people who have thier own beliefs that don't match yours. Also, I can only imagine what kind of personality would choose a fictional character as your nic. I've read bits from BOFH and to be honest, I don't find much humor there. I guess you have to be into hackneyed dry wit. <br><br>
            <i>
            1) Microsoft was found to have (and abused) monopoly status in 4 regions: US, European Union, Japan and South Korea. In relation to this blog, the scope is the European Union (where Opera is based out of). On those that they have appealed the decision, they have lost for the most part (they avoided a break up order in the US Appeals Court).
            </i><br><br>
            You fail to mention that they avoided a breakup in the U.S. due to a show of complete and utter bias by the judge presiding over the case. That is the exact oppposite of how a judge behaves. In any other case like that the judge would be removed and the case dismissed or started over in a new court where the law is correctly upheld. <br><br>
            <i>2) At the time of the initial US case, the only relevant market was the x86 pc market (for the case). This held up in appeals, as that was the scope.
            </i><br><br>
            Courts get it wrong all the time. 4 years later and that would have never maded it to court. It had a political component. And who was the plantiff, in other words, the person claiming injury in the case? That's is what I find bogus. There was none. Sure you can name states and people but that is only after it came up from the DoJ with no clear injured party to begin with. There can be no crime w/o any injured party who was clearly damaged by their dominance on the x86 platform. No other company was writing an OS for that platform at that time. DR has been debunked time and time again. The defining moment in that case is when Novell bought DR and changed directions away from competing against MS DOS. DR was in line to make huge ground and perhaps pass MS, who NeVER let any "MS OS ONLY" code go out in a final release. So there was DR ready to strike and Novell pulled several blunders that allowed MS to stay on top. Read you history and be honest about it. The Netscape case is ludicrous as well, they quite supporting any new HTML versions, how could anyone continue to use Netscape as their browser? Tell me that? The settlement was a business decision, not admission of guilt like you and others pretend is obvious and w/o question. <br><br>
            <i>Neither Apple nor Sun Microsystems were in fact formed by the government, Sun was actually stared by students at Stanford University (thus the original name was Stanford University Networks, shortened to SUN). </i><br><br>
            Study your history and be willing to be honest when the news isn't about Microsoft, your favorite company to hate. The Stanford University Network was far from the only research going into Unix in that time frame, the darpa projects were funding many others too. Berkeley, PARC, other universities and many private research facilities, such as where Mr. Cerf came back with TCP/IP. You do realize that McNeally and his group were funded by U.S. taxpayers for what the S.U.N. was doing, right? Without that funding there would never have been a "SUN" today. Moreover, the technology that formed SUN was not just from the funded S.U.N. project, McNeally was one that was pressed to go private with the darpa technology to expand it. He received all of the technology from the darpa projects, from RISC technology, that what Berkeley did (which was more than Stanford) and given AT exemption. Maybe you don't call that being born of the government, butI do. For good or bad, that is what happened. <br>
            http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=6323&page=140 <br>
            This is just one small statement, history shows they were basically started by the feds. <br><br>
            <i>A lot has changed, you are correct. This case
            is in Europe and nothing in the US (your narrow vision appears to be limited to that market) is relevant to the case or the market. OS market share is roughly as follows (stats for January, global market): Windows is at 88.26%, MacOS is at 9.93% and Linux is at 0.83% (FreeBSD is at 0.01%). As per browser usage, the stats are: IE at 67.55%, Firefox at 21.53%, Safari at 8.28%, Chrome at 1.12% and Opera is at 0.70% (rest omitted). Domestically, the numbers may be slightly different, same with the European market (which is the only one that matters in this discussion, read the blog again).

            This article is about the European Market, thus your domestic (as in, American courts) reference is not applicable. It was also a very long whine. Grow up!
            </i><br><br>
            Grow up, eh? You have a big mouth. But it didn't deny that Opera has not tried to earn it's spot in the marketplace, but rather like so many, is seeking the courts to do it for them. The EU being very aggressively against American companies, the precedence is clear, is a great place to start. Look how many American companies who get no satisfaction in the U.S., come crying to the EU with their cases. When you have Google doing this, to both the U.S. DoJ then the EU, you know it's greed and hate driven and an attempt to hijack a company. <br><br>
            The funny thing in the EU, they got their wish on MP being removed, how many "N" versions do you think get sold each year? What a waste of the European taxpayers dollars. <br>
            More funny is their main suit against MS was not the Windows desktop. How could it NOT be. They went after the Windows Server first, which by your, and all other MS haters accounts, Unix and Linux owns that market and always has. MS hasn't broke into it all all. give it a rest. <br>
            Then they go about commssioning think tanks that tell us, in 2008, that naked PCs would be beneficial so as to start the NEXT round with Microsoft and OEMs that operate in the EU (along with the 50 other American companies they have in line to gain revenues from fining at the very least). Did the "Thinktank" ask the people if they want to deal with a "naked" PC? Hell no. It's all bogus and aimed straight at the hated Microsoft. <br>
            Let's put it this way, if YOU truely think that a significant amount of people would choose something other than Windows on desktops, then why aren't we seeing Linux OEMs springing up around the world? Why has NOT ONE VC or Billionarie decided to build the "Dell" or Linux OEMs? You know why, the company won't make it. They know the hardware margines are razor thin and they cannot make any money on the Linux based OS they use, so now, in 2009 I don't see any Linux OEMs being built. Hmmmmm. But at the same time, you and the EU think Windows is being forced on people. That is a total contradiction and you need to grow up and see the world as it really is, not how you think it should be. OEMs are not charity organizations that are going to load and support Linux w/o revenues to offset that cost. That would be crazy. <br><br>
            A whine? Are YOU saying that the U.S. DoJ case has never been brought up as precedence in EU courts? It has never been offered up as any kind of evidence, uses as a prosecutors tool or just straight up been precdence directly entered at the proceedings? <br><br>
            You said the U.S. case has nothing to do with the EU case, grow up. <br><br>

            Are all non Americans so condescending with an ego the size of Poland?
            xuniL_z
          • Biased judge?

            [i]You fail to mention that they avoided a breakup in the U.S. due to a show of complete and utter bias by the judge presiding over the case. That is the exact opposite of how a judge behaves. In any other case like that the judge would be removed and the case dismissed or started over in a new court where the law is correctly upheld.[/i]

            Of course the judge was biased. Everyone is. There's no such thing as an impartial person. The question is whether or not his bias was correct. In this case, he was very strongly biased against criminal behavior and an utter lack of remorse for the same, which is exactly the way a responsible judge ought to be biased. Just because the appeals court prefers to be soft on crime doesn't change that.
            masonwheeler
    • Command line

      There are a lot of people out there that don't know the command line. I think that a icon on the desktop for each browser would be much better. All that you would need to do then would be to take your pick.
      pooroldjim25
      • I'm sorry...

        ...the only icons that go on my desktop are either what I put there or the OS puts there.

        I certainly don't want a bunch of crap, third party icons scattered all over my desktop. Why should I have to spend my time deleting a bunch of icons I don't want there, for software I am not going to use?

        Put a set of options on the installation screen that says:-
        1) Default installation, IE as browser. (default)
        2) Custom installation, optional browser icons.

        It's pathetic all this nonsense, maybe Microsoft should make the developers of these other browsers contribute to the development of Windows as they want to be part of it, that'll shut them up.

        Everyone is keen to jump on the bandwagon until they have to pay for a ticket.
        LeeC
    • Of which are not tied to the core OS

      And they can be removed completely, hell they don't even have to be installed. And you also have Konqueror, Lynx and a couple other web browsers as options. FTP clients? At least 10 to choose from and none of them are tied to the core OS either. So what's your complaint again? ]:)
      Linux User 147560
      • Stop with the silly icons

        My complaint is that any OS - Windows or Linux - shouldn't have any web browser set as the default. At all.

        That would be the only true way to ensure fairness. Pointing out that Linux distros can have different browsers is beside the point. No Konqueror, No Mozilla. Nothing.
        croberts
        • Silly icons?

          If there was no default web browser loaded on an O/S, how could a person download their choice from the Internet. A default browser, as long as it can be removed, gives people a choice. I had Windows Explorer and changed to Firefox. I down loaded the free browser by using Windows Explorer. Without a Windows Explorer as a default, I could not have downloaded Firefox.

          Linux does give a good choice of web browsers but has to have one as default, just in case the operator does not know how to install one; making the O/S user friendly.
          rcbarr83@...
          • downloading without a browser...

            Wouldn't be too difficult... The easiest way to do it would be to write a simple app, similar to what Vista and Win 7 do for Windows Update - and have it automatically connect to Opera and Mozilla's sites to grab their latest browser - or download and install IE.
            Wolfie2K3
          • Microsoft needs to borrow another idea from Linux...

            ... and that is to use the repository concept.

            Right now, in the Windows world - you have Windows updates. That's fine - but for each and every non-MS application, you're on your own.

            No so in the Linux world. Providing you installed the application from the repository, it will be updated.
            SpikeyMike