Microsoft moves to offer less choice, not more

Wow, I have clearly missed a lot while on vacation for a couple of weeks! Not only did we lauch the beta of Opera 10 and Opera Mobile 9.7, but there are other developmens such as Opera reinventing the Web, and of course Microsoft is up to its regular tricks. …

In a clever PR move, Microsoft announced that they would remove IE from Windows 7 in the EU. However, anyone who has followed Microsoft's antics for a few years know that this is nothing but yet another attempt by Microsoft to gain the upper hand.

Needless to say, the EC is not impressed. I think they put it quite nicely:

Rather than more choice, Microsoft seems to have chosen to provide less

What Microsoft's announcement did, though, was to get some people up in arms over the evil EU enforcing its own laws and allegedly ordering Microsoft to remove IE. But as the informed reader knows by now, this was not the case.

It was Microsoft's decision to announce the removal of IE from Windows 7. Faced with the option of giving more or less choice, Microsoft opted for less.

Business as usual, then.

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29 thoughts on “Microsoft moves to offer less choice, not more

  1. Adding this as a comment rather than updating the blog post.Channel Register has a piece on Microsoft's removal of IE from Windows 7 which quite nicely explains how this move by Microsoft is simply Microsoft trying to play games to ensure a favourable outcome for themselves, as they have always done in the past:

    Making Windows 7 available in Europe minus IE should be seen as more judicial and extra judicial maneuvering to achieve a favorable outcome. Microsoft is trying to outflank the legal system by presenting a fait accompli: a solution the EU will be forced to accept.This is from Microsoft's legal playbook: During the long-running settlement phase of Microsoft's US antitrust case, Microsoft kicked out Windows XP Service Pack 1 to hide Windows Media Player (WMP) and IE from the end user ahead of a settlement that came two months later.

    On page 2 of the article, Channel Register makes an important point:

    Microsoft is also attempting to exert pressure on regulators as it did in 2006 by enlisting the court of public opinion.

    How many of you fell for it? I have seen the effects of this on quite a few sites.Microsoft realizes that the move would likely be harmful both to OEMs, and it wouldn't address the issue of IE's dominance:

    This is not an deal based in reality. In fact, it's potentially harmful to OEM business, it won't redress the imbalance in browser market share, and it can potentially rebound on Opera. And Microsoft knows that, which is why Microsoft made it.

  2. "Business as usual" indeed. It is difficult to create or enforce a level playing field when one side is determined to be vicious or evil in their actions. Microsoft is incapable of acting in a way that would result in less customer lock-in or more competition for themselves.No doubt it is their prerogative to continue to act in their own best interests. I can not generally accept that a company must be legally forced to encourage or allow their competitors more opportunities to harm their business, but boy, I sure do want Microsoft to be punished.

  3. I've always supported opera, I even make my friends and family use it, but I think you can't make microsoft to build a windows with all the browsers pre-installed and if you do, you should do the same to mac and safari…

  4. My basic probliem with al lthis is: Should a company be forced to include/bundle competitors' product(s) in their product?Why should Microsoft be forced to bundle another company's product at their cost? Is this a dangerous precedence being set?If we are going to go down the road of forcing a company to support its competitors' products, when are they going to force apple to make ipods work with something other than iTunes? They have the lion's share of the digital media player market, why must I be forced to use their bloatware?…Best solution I have heard is of a dialog that pops up asking the user to download their browser of choice….I too would love to know how much of european's tax money is being spent in this pursuit.

  5. Will Opera please make available info on how much European taxpayer money this has cost when all is said and done?Also what is the best outcome Opera is hoping for? Realistically as in a decision by the EC, not what you hope that decision will eventually bring.I've heard lots of evangelism and hope nothing really solid.

  6. The difference between Windows and MacOS is that Windows is a monopoly having 90% of market, while MacOS is not. So Microsoft has to play by special rules, while other OS vendors may do what they want.

  7. I'd have to say that it's not Opera that should be providing the details of the costs of this lawsuit. And, if memory serves, it wasn't Opera that initiated it, they just participated in it.Opera is, in this case, fighting not only for themselves, but for everyone who uses a web browser. At issue is not that Microsoft includes a browser, but that they include a crappy insecure browser that doesn't even pretend to be standards compliant. Forcing microsoft to make better software or make it easier to allow the installation of software that is standards compliant should be a goal we can all get behind.I also agree that it's really hard to believe that legislation is the way to go here. If the only thing all this noisemaking accomplishes is that people en masse realize how awful Microsoft behaves, well I think it might be money well spent. If the customer demands standards compliance, we all win.

  8. Why all naysayers can't accept that normal rules don't apply to special situations? Why? It's just so simple. Please understand that Microsoft is in special position because of it's monopoly in the operating systems market. And Microsoft abuses it's special position in it's OS market to undermine competition in the web browser market. So no, we don't force everyone to give out everything, just Microsoft, because Microsoft is a special case.

  9. Originally posted by NFGman:

    'd have to say that it's not Opera that should be providing the details of the costs of this lawsuit. And, if memory serves, it wasn't Opera that initiated it, they just participated in it.Opera is, in this case, fighting not only for themselves, but for everyone who uses a web browser. At issue is not that Microsoft includes a browser, but that they include a crappy insecure browser that doesn't even pretend to be standards compliant. Forcing microsoft to make better software or make it easier to allow the installation of software that is standards compliant should be a goal we can all get behind.I also agree that it's really hard to believe that legislation is the way to go here. If the only thing all this noisemaking accomplishes is that people en masse realize how awful Microsoft behaves, well I think it might be money well spent. If the customer demands standards compliance, we all win.

    http://www.opera.com/press/releases/2007/12/13/ Same one?Opera doesn't have to supply that info I just think it would be nice if they did. Along with, when the time comes, their opinion of whether the punishment met their own goals.If it costs say 30m Euros and they fine Microsoft 10m Euros I believe some serious questions need to be asked of the EC.In the UK the magistrates courts are being questioned about sending people to jail for weeks for failing to pay a 200 pound fine. When it costs more than that to have them in jail per day. I don't see why we can't question the EC in the same way. I do trust Opera to give a more honest answer over cost so I ask them to. I believe the people should be allowed to ask questions of their legislators something about paying them and wondering if they are providing judgments that are in the peoples interests overall.

    Opera requests the Commission to implement two remedies to Microsoft’s abusive actions. First, it requests the Commission to obligate Microsoft to unbundle Internet Explorer from Windows and/or carry alternative browsers pre-installed on the desktop. Second, it asks the European Commission to require Microsoft to follow fundamental and open Web standards accepted by the Web-authoring communities.

    Microsoft has voluntarily done the first thing Opera said it would like to see (yet now it's bad for doing so). So how exactly does Opera expect it to do the second, it's great to have that goal (one i truly agree with). But how do they propose it's done through legislation? Does Opera have a list of standards it wants implemented somewhere? What does it consider fundamental? Are all the other vendors in agreement with this list? Do all the other vendors have these implemented? Who will guarantee that it's followed? Would they allow Microsoft to regulate themselves, allow an independent commission or the EC itself? Do they have an opinion how how long Microsoft should be give to comply with this?The fundamental question is a difficult one. I take it that it won't include draft standards.

    The complaint calls on Microsoft to adhere to its own public pronouncements to support these standards, instead of stifling them with its notorious "Embrace, Extend and Extinguish" strategy. Microsoft's unilateral control over standards in some markets creates a de facto standard that is more costly to support, harder to maintain, and technologically inferior and that can even expose users to security risks.

    So do you want support for the de facto standards dropped completely? If so who would foot the cost for moving businesses that sadly rely on them for operation to open standards?I don't think I'm asking too much to have these things clarified. Haavard seems to be the one keeping us up to date so I'd like to see his thoughts on it as well.

  10. I think for the most part we are. They have broken existing regulations. The question is how will we punish them for that.They have agreed to take out IE as a default install. So should we now ask them to support other companies indefinitley over 10 (maybe) years of breaking regulations? I don't believe so, we should punish them for the past and allow companies to gain there own slice of the pie with a level playing field. That would mean offering OEM's the choice and that would mean each vendor offering incentives.What happens if OEM's decide to just install IE (I truely believe they will). Are we going to go after OEM's for making their own choice?I think it would make more sense to have them pay for all costs, provide some compensation to other vendors and be fined as punishment. Then add stipulations that stop them from going back to their old ways.IF after that they make Microsoft show a list, the vendors should pay for the damn billboard. It's supposed to be in the peoples interest as a whole not a few select companies (yes after a real and deserved punishment is served that includes what's in Microsoft's interests as a commercial entity operating within the EU).If the EC just punish them every so often with a low fine, then I think that would be out of order. In that it would just be creating work for themselves while not helping a single person or entity.

  11. Originally posted by NFGman:

    2. It's not up to Opera to tell anyone how much the EU is paying to pursue this action. How would they know? Do you think the EU is itemizing it and sending monthly updates to Opera? Obviously it's important not to blow scads of cash on frivolous things, but is this a frivolous matter? The internet is a fundamental human right in some countries, and fast becoming so in many others. Are you suggesting there's a dollar value beyond which it's OK that MS can run amok, ruining this beautiful thing for everyone?

    If Opera has lawyers involved it's not beyond reason that they would have an idea on cost.Yes if for example the EC decide to "monitor the situation" rather than set definable punishments, fines, goals. We need to ask was it worth it to the tax payer. I never mentioned frivolous (for a start you would need to know it was a junk move before proceeding). I'm saying if the end result costs more taxpayer money than is collected back without other real benefits that needs to be questioned. I don't believe in punishments that either amount to slaps on the wrists or that cost so much overall for little or no benefit.The worst case is that EC would run this with a high cost and just impose fines every so often.If, in the end it improves the lives, business practices, of the people cost will be easier to justify.Originally posted by NFGman:

    What else is there to do? How can they be fought? Making a better product isn't enough, so what is?

    We can set real, set in stone, definable regulations. Hope and "wouldn't it be great if" are not regulations.

  12. We're on the same page. I disagree that anyone but the EU would know what the EU spends on anything, but I will readily admit ignorance here.You're right about creating real regulations, but isn't that what we're already facing? Microsoft has broken real, solid monopoly laws. The question is, how should they be punished? This conversation starts to sound a bit like we're passionately arguing about an unknown quantity: Q: how much will it cost to extract an unknown punishment?A: Yes.

  13. 1. You're right, it was Google and Mozilla that joined the complaint that Opera started. My bad. I think that it speaks volumes about the merit of this complaint that important companies like these two are in agreement.2. It's not up to Opera to tell anyone how much the EU is paying to pursue this action. How would they know? Do you think the EU is itemizing it and sending monthly updates to Opera? Obviously it's important not to blow scads of cash on frivolous things, but is this a frivolous matter? The internet is a fundamental human right in some countries, and fast becoming so in many others. Are you suggesting there's a dollar value beyond which it's OK that MS can run amok, ruining this beautiful thing for everyone?The painful truth is that Microsoft's 'embrace/extend/extinguish' method of business sucks for everyone but business. I am fully against regulating a successful business with laws tailored to them, but I am also against this kind of behaviour. What else is there to do? How can they be fought? Making a better product isn't enough, so what is?

    So do you want support for the de facto standards dropped completely?

    Future support should be dropped. If a company wants to keep using their broken old code, they'll have to use broken old browsers. I don't see this as a problem, nothing lasts forever, especially in IT.

  14. Some would be better directed at the EC. I did however ask for Opera's opinions on the matter, they did file the initial complaint and one of their proposals was voluntarily met by Microsoft. To then attack that and say it was not enough does seem very strange and to a point vindictive, clearly Opera's stance on the matter has changed since the initial release they can update people on this. In a press release would be nice.Opera especially is coming under fire from some corners over the issue (bs boycotts, less than nice opinion pieces). Clarified opinions can help in that situation. Cost is always relevant in the real world especially when it's someone other than the parties involved (possibly) footing the bill.

    Opera, Mozilla, Google and other "interested parties" can give their opinions, but the EC makes the decision in the end.

    I would assume your all providing those opinions to the EC though, not unrealistic to think what you have to say would have a bearing on the final decision. Also it's not uncommon after a court or other judicial body reaches a decision for parties involved to provide their opinions on it.Thank you for your answers so far.

  15. What a bull****. Microsoft offers no less, no more choice than before.Just like before you can install and use any browser you want.

  16. BleedingHeart: You should really be asking the EC all these questions, and some of them are already answered in the blog post. But for the sake of clarity, I will comment briefly on some of the things you brought up:As the blog post states, the EC did not accept the removal of IE. The EC will probably go for a ballot screen where you can choose between several browsers. This is also a pretty clear goal in my book, so that answers your questions about that.The specifics of how this will be implemented is up to the EC, not Opera. It is also not possible to answer now because these things probably haven't been concluded on yet. Our original press release had some proposed remedies, and part of the process is to look at the possible options, and exclude the ones that wouldn't work. Opera, Mozilla, Google and other "interested parties" can give their opinions, but the EC makes the decision in the end.I do think that forcing Microsoft to adhere to standard could be a realistic goal. All the browser vendors, including Microsoft, pretty much agree on what standards need to be implemented. The difference is that while everyone else is actually doing it or planning to, Microsoft is stalling.I don't think the question of cost is relevant. It is very obvious that Microsoft has made some serious damage to the market, so this is necessary. Microsoft doesn't seem to be willing to do the right thing without being forced to. It wasn't until after the complaint was filed that Microsoft changed their minds and decided to default to standards mode in IE8, for example. That was a direct response to the complaint.Real competition in the browser market will save everyone a lot of money. I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft had to pay for the costs associated with the antitrust case as well.

  17. The difference is that while everyone else is actually doing it or planning to, Microsoft is stalling.

    This is of course a bold lie. Any idiot can see IE7 has better "standards" (I guess you mean W3C recommendations, W3C doesn't own the Web if you don't know yet) support than IE6 and IE8 has better "standards" support than IE7. IE8 has been released 2 months ago.

  18. grafio: "Stalling" doesn't necessarily mean that they are standing still, just that they are holding back, or trying to hold back. Examples from before the complaint was filed include ECMAScript 4 (which they successfully destroyed) and CSS. I am well aware that W3C publishes recommendations, but in the context of this discussion, the distinction isn't very important. Thanks for calling me a liar, though. Such things are always very pleasant when trying to have a decent conversation…BleedingHeart: I have already addressed the issue of the original suggestions for remedies:

    Our original press release had some proposed remedies, and part of the process is to look at the possible options, and exclude the ones that wouldn't work.

    Clearly, both the EC and Opera found that unbundling IE was not a good solution after all. One is allowed to reject proposals from the initial "brainstorming" if they are found to be lacking after closer inspection, I hope.I also addressed the question of cost, but to briefly sum up what I wrote in my previous comment, it is clear that Microsoft has done real damage to the market, so something needed to be done, and the remedy will likely work quite well if implemented properly. In addition to this, actual competition in the market will save everyone a lot of money in the long run.

  19. HAHAHAHAHA!Funny how those who hate Microsoft resort to calling people, who disagree with their position, names to make their arguments. "Microsoft Lovers" indeed.I use opera daily it is the best browser in my opinion. But that still does not change the fact that i beleive that forcing Microsoft to bundle others' programs is wrong.Most sensible people download and install better browsers as soon as they connect to the internet anyway. Advertising other alternatives to IE could be better done than it is now.Ask the regular person if they use firefox or chrome and they draw a blank. Google and Mozilla make huge profits yearly perhaps a little could be used to advertise their browser, advertising worked for finallyfast.com, why wouldn't it work for browsers?…The orginal complaint in this case was about Microsoft "bundling" IE with their OS, now that they offer a version without it, you all are still finding something to gripe about. The EU keeps changing the argument to suit their purposes. I never said that the practices of others makes microsoft less guilty, all i ask for is fairness in how companies are dealt with. Other companies with monopolistic positions and behavior (APPLE/iTunes) should also be held accountable.If it ever comes out that laws are being bent or shaped to make special laws for one entity unfairly, then down the road this might leave the EU open to lawsuits. Would it not?

  20. Clearly, both the EC and Opera found that unbundling IE was not a good solution after all. One is allowed to reject proposals from the initial "brainstorming" if they don't work, I hope.

    OK and the reasons in your and/or Opera's opinion for this change in stance are….?Of course you can change opinions, you can say "We changed our minds" (as you have done) or you can say "we changed our mind because…" then list reasons.

    I also addressed the question of cost, but to briefly sum up what I wrote in my previous comment, it is clear that Microsoft has done real damage to the market, so something needed to be done. In addition to this, actual competition in the market will save everyone a lot of money in the long run.

    No that really doesn't say anything. Some figures supporting that would. Just saying it does not. I can believe it's possibly cost Opera some market share and in turn some revenue. I can't guarantee that would outweigh the overall costs of the EC involvement, migrating existing business to open standards (if that's the course of action the EC decide) or the inconvenience to OEMs and end users. How would you quantify "a lot" in a market dominated by "free" browsers, I do hope the EC has actual data available that they will use to reach their final decision, rather than someone saying "a lot".

  21. BleedingHeart: Unfortunately, I don't know why the unbundling suggestion was rejected, but the Channel Register article probably offers a few useful insights into possible reasons.Browsers may be free to download and use, but browser vendors are still making money. But it isn't just browser vendors that would be able to move more resources over to improving standards support instead of emulating bugs in other browsers. With improved standards support in all browsers and IE forced to catch up instead of stalling, Web developers could spend less time coding for specific browsers and more time doing work that actually improves the site itself. The bottom line is that everyone benefits from fair competition in the browser market.

  22. Thanks for your answers. I get that vendors have profits and they are tied to usage in many cases. Also that people time costs money, very difficult to quantify though.Opera and the EC are the ones that will take the brunt of abuse if the EC's final decision is less than perfect. Either an insanely high fine or simply not enough of a fine. So I hope you deal with that well and a favourable decision doesn't cost you in mind-share.

  23. Anon writes:I have been using Opera for probably over 5 years. Right now, I am considering switching browsers because of what Opera has started. (see http://www.jcxp.net/news.php?newsid=2801) I feel like it is ridiculous to require Microsoft to distribute competitors' products.If I understand correctly, Opera gets money from Google when I do a Google search from the search bar. (I might be wrong there.) I think I might start going to the Google homepage before doing searches instead of using the search bar. This way I won't be supporting this company.

  24. yawn writes:"Right now, I am considering switching browsers because of what Opera has started."Are you going to boycott Microsoft for their antitrust complaint against Google, and Google for their antitrust complaint against Microsoft too?Are you going to boycott Firefox and Chrome, seeing as they joined the complaint against Microsoft?Or are you nothing but a hypocrite who is easily fooled by Microsoft's nonsense? You realize that all of this is a PR strategy by Microsoft to portray themselves as the victim, right?"I feel like it is ridiculous to require Microsoft to distribute competitors' products"Other convicted monopolists have to distribute competitors' products, so why should Microsoft be any different? Why should Microsoft be above the law and get special treatment?The whole boycott thing is based on pure ignorance and hypocrisy.

  25. Originally posted by BleedingHeart:

    OK and the reasons in your and/or Opera's opinion for this change in stance are….?

    Because they compared the IE case to the old Windows Media Player case later on. Unbundling WMP did not make any difference.The whole point is to give consumers more choice, which means, more browsers.Originally posted by grafio:

    Any idiot can see IE7 has better "standards" (I guess you mean W3C recommendations, W3C doesn't own the Web if you don't know yet) support than IE6 and IE8 has better "standards" support than IE7. IE8 has been released 2 months ago.

    I'm actually quite surprised that you make this statement, considering your developer skills are very good. So, what does IE8 support that IE7 does not ?CSS 2.1 – check, according to their testsuite, which has a few problems, but nothing too seriousdata uris – checkSVG – noDOM 1 complete support – noDOM 2 complete support – no, neither partialDOM 3 support – nonethe defacto standard for getters and setters – noa new rendering mode, non-standard – checkproprietary XDR instead of XHR with Access Control – checkX-Content-Type-Options proprietary header to workaround the same old problems with content sniffing – check (reference)new undocumented parsing of xml namespaces in xml, non-standard of course – checkSo, the argument that IE8 is "more" standards compliant than IE7 is true, but by a small margin, but at the same time, IE8 has more proprietary features. If instead of developing these new proprietary features, Microsoft decided to implement the web standards that other browsers are implementing, they would be in hazard of being more compatible with them. This obviously means trouble for a monopolist, because interoperability is always a big threat to a monopolist, because it eases the entry of 3rd parties in the market.@everyone, in case you want some insight on the EU competition law, check these linkshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_82#Limiting_production – the case when IE6 stagnated for 6 yearshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_82#Price_discrimination – because MS did bullied OEMs into not including 3rd party software (Netscape) else they would increase Windows license priceshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_82#Tying – by tying IE to the OS, and claiming that it was unremovable. If they had allowed IE to be removable, then this would be a moot point. They are doing it for Windows 7, but that does not make them innocent from past actions

  26. Whether Microsoft is still breaking the law if they IE is sort of besides the point. Microsoft did break the law, and when you do, that should have consequences.If you read the article I linked to in the first comment, you will realize that this was, as you put it, "pure marketing noise" from Microsoft. It was simply an attempt to manipulate people.The question is what the most appropriate remedy to restore competition is. Evidently the EC did not think that Microsoft's move was sufficient. Opera Software was of the same opinion, but has no authority, and can only voice its opinions when asked by journalists. But since the EC rejected Microsoft's offer anyway, there is no need for Opera to "complain officially" anyway (if that is even an option).Microsoft is not required by law to bundle competitors. Unless, of course, they break the law, and this kind of bundling is found to be the best remedy to restore competition in the market. As far as I know, this remedy is far from exclusive to this particular antitrust case.

  27. some facts…:no:… MS being monopolist on operating system Windows cannot bundle other own products eg browser IE with that operating system as that reduces competition de facto.:no:… MS is not by law required to increase competition by adding competitors products. (as must include all then. not only those with significant market share)by selling Windows without IE MS is no longer doing anything illegal provided Windows sold works with any other competing browser and MS is not forcing pc vendors to install IE in any way shape or form thus reducing competition de facto. (windows without IE wouldnt constitute a lawsuit case in the first place so how can it turn into one now)if Opera now officially complains about MS move then its pure marketing noise. which probably will backfire if too loud and clear… so :coffee:

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