The European Union has just taken a fresh bite at Microsoft’s anit-competitive business practices, and accused the company of harming “competition between web browsers” by bundling Internet Explorer with its Windows OSs. It’s a preliminarty finding, so no punitive action is outlined. Yet.
On February 27th last year the EU found that Microsoft hadn’t complied with a 2004 EU anti-competitive finding, and subsequently fined them around $1.4 billion, which was in addition to the $800 million or so that Microsoft was required to pay in 2004. That case started in the 90s and centered on the bundling of Windows Media Player with the OS, and the fact that Microsoft wouldn’t release key internal code specs to allow other competitor networking software to properly connect to Windows machines.
This year’s case (the EU tends to grind around to these things slowly) is due to the bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows, which the EU has found creates difficulties for other browsers, “undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice.”
Microsoft now has eight weeks to make a formal response, and is said to be studying the ruling–it hasn’t ruled out asking for a formal hearing. Presumably the EU lawmakers are also busy working out what to do about the situation, and it’s easy to see them requiring Microsoft to unbundle IE and pay another substantial fine.
Of course Apple also bundles its Safari browser with its OS, but since Apple’s PC market share is dwarfed by Microsoft’s, it’s not exactly anti-competitive behaviour, and as such hasn’t attracted the wrath of the Euro courts.