Why should Microsoft have to bundle other browsers?

One of the most frequent questions I see about the Microsoft antitrust case in the EU is why Microsoft should have to include competing products in Windows. Is poor Microsoft being hunted by the evil EU with its silly laws that ensure competition in a free market? …

The reason for bundling other browsers is of course that simply removing IE is most likely not a very effective remedy. Channel Register has a nice piece explaining why, and the same article shows how Microsoft's move was nothing but an attempt at manipulating the EC and public perception.

The fact is that having convicted monopolists bundle competing products is not something they came up with for the Microsoft case.

For example, in 2004, Coca Cola was forced to reserve 20% of the space in its coolers for competing products, if those coolers are the only ones in the store.

Regardless of whether you think forcing a convicted monopolist to bundle products from competitors is right or not, it is not a remedy exclusive to Microsoft. As such, it is not unfair to force Microsoft to do the same. What would be unfair is to give Microsoft special treatment compared to other convicted monopolists.

And let's not forget that Microsoft has been in trouble with the antitrust authorities in other countries as well, such as the United States and Korea.

The notion that the whole EU case is some kind of major conspiracy to bully poor little Microsoft gets sillier the more you look at the facts. I recommend everyone to look at the actual facts before forming an opinion on the matter.

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14 thoughts on “Why should Microsoft have to bundle other browsers?

  1. One problem I have with bundling other browsers is how would you determine what browsers to include? How would technical support be handled?I think the fact that OEM's are allowed to install whatever browsers they choose and set them as the default browser is competition enough. Google is pushing Chrome with their advertising muscle and OEM relations. Firefox has their grassroots campaign, and Safari has the Apple clout.The Coca-Cola example is different as that is a physical shelf. Browsers are software, and I think access to the internet and the freedom to install whatever browser you choose is equivalent to that 20% space. Besides, with that analogy, the store owner (OEM's), not Coca-Cola (Microsoft), is the one responsible to fill that 20% space. And that gives me an idea. I think forcing the OEM's to install an alternative browser(s) and letting the customer choose is a better idea than having Microsoft bundle them with Windows. That way the technical support issue is resolved (OEM's), and the list of browsers can be customized and modified with geography and over time.

  2. I don't think it's that difficult to determine which browsers to bundle. In practice, you only have a few "main" browser today: IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera.So what do they all have in common? Well, they are complete browsers (not just a shell around someone else's engine (Chrome has its own JavaScript engine, and a fork of WebKit)), and they all have an active organization behind them.Shipping IE without any browsers does not seem like a good solution. For example, as you point out, it would put Google at a huge advantage. If they were to offer revenue sharing based on searches, Google and the OEM could split the profits 50/50. Opera and Firefox would never be able to match that offer because they would have to split it three ways (browser, OEM, search engine).I disagree that the Coca Cola example is different. That it is physical doesn't really matter.How do you let the customer choose if the OEM picks the browser?

  3. The OEM's can have a "pick browser" dialog in the initial setup, just like what is suggested for Microsoft. The EU can force the OEM's to put those "main" browsers in the list of choices just like it's trying Microsoft to do so.Google could use its power to get Chrome to be the default choice, and Firefox and Opera could be listed below. This way, the OEM's could still use these revenue streams to lower the prices of their computers while still offering a choice to customers.

  4. Here's my thought on how to provide a browser selection. I've thought about it a fair bit:1. Microsoft establishes a (really simple) web service that provides browser metadata such as name, download URL, etc.2. Installation connects to this service (or first internet connection), pulls the list, and provides the user a selection.3. Microsoft maintains the web service so that it is always up-to-date.This solves a number of problems. First, they aren't bundling browers, theirs or a competitor's. Second, the list is always up-to-date. That's something that had been bothering me. Third, the service is easy to monitor (anyone can connect to it). Fourth, it makes it easy for a user to change their default web browser or try a new one… just connect to the service. Finally, it's a solution that could be easily added to all of Microsoft's current OSes. An (simple) update to XP could even add it to the control panel there.Undoubtably there will be technical issues to take care of (e.g. when Windows 7 is replaced, some browsers may no longer support it. That will have to be included in the metadata). But I believe it's the simplest and most robust of the solutions I've seen. Certainly better than just removing the browser 🙂

  5. PPK brings up an interesting point at http://www.quirksmode.org/blog/archives/2009/06/state_of_the_br_1.html . That is the user doesn't want to have to choose. That's probably true.So… how to fix that? Well, I'm not sure, really, but I've got a couple ideas. First, make the metadata hierarchical. Not sure how to do that, or what to do with it, but it will help guide the choice (maybe even make a wizard out of it?) Second, allow OEMs to specify a default. This would be shown as the first on the list, and be pre-selected. So if the user just wants to click on the next button, they can.PPK's article as a whole is an interesting read (up to the point where he argues against the EU process, blaming Opera), stating that sometime next year IE7 market share is likely to drop below IE6, with explanations as to why.

  6. I don't know about PPK being a moron–he's a very smart guy. However, I've seen this type of comment from all over the place from very smart people. And he doesn't have appear to have lots of love for Microsoft.It's a point of view that does make sense…treat everyone equally regardless. However, what doesn't seem to be taken into consideration is do you treat a convicted repeat felon who moved in next to you the same as you do someone who has a squeeky clean record? No. And Microsoft has been convicted of monopolistic practices on more than one occasion. The point being, the laws regarding that are being applied evenly, as Haarvard said in this post.

  7. I too think he's wrong…my point is it's a mistake that's I believe is easy to make. Being ignorant of the issue is a far cry from being a moron.

  8. Anonymous writes:You guys are forgetting: Microsoft sells its product to the consumer, and as such it sould be tailored to the consumer – not to what somebody else who DIDN'T FORK OVER THE CASH!The average consumer doesn't want to have to do things like pick a browser – they just want to plug in their new PC and have it work. Anything else beyond this is asking for trouble for all parties in the transaction. This is why not bundling a browser or giving people a choice is a really bad idea.Dont get me wrong – I think the best thing microsoft could do would be to throw IE in the trash and start bundling Firefox / Chrome / Opera / Safari with windows. (One of these – not all of them.) But unfortunately we can't make the end consumer care about the issues we care about – trying to shove it down their throat is simply fascist.This is where the cola analogy is simply wrong – it is not a case of simply having non cola products present – it is more like having to ask the shop keeper for any product, (coke or otherwise), rather than being able to simply pick up the one you want. (My point is that it is an additional step in the process that is not necessary from the point of view of the end user).You or I may not find it too troublesome to pick a browser because we already know what they all are, and what the difference is. Other users do not, and simply do not care.

  9. lulz writes:"giving people a choice is a really bad idea"You work for Microsoft, don't you?Your long and misguided rant gets you nowhere. You still can't get away from the fact that Microsoft broke the law.And read the blog post. Cola is not an analogy. It's an example showing that forced bundling is not exclusive to Microsoft.And if it were an analogy, your is terrible. Your argument is basically "CocaCola should be the only available product because GIVING PEOPLE A CHOICE IS A REALLY BAD IDEA".Oops, guess your self-defeating contradiction came back to bite you in the ass!Microsoft broke the law. They will reap what they sow. Get over it.

  10. I must admit even though I am an IE basher I really don't care if MS bundles Internet Explorer with their OS. However, I don't want that piece of junk tightly integrated into the OS and I want to have the ability to completely remove it from my system – think about it: Internet Explorer is the cause of many Windows vulnerabilities. You don't even need to use IE to be able to get affected by IE vulnerabilities either!I see this EU stuff as an opportunity for a more secure Windows.

  11. Originally posted by qlue:

    I'd prefer a windows free computer if I could get one. .

    I'm pretty happy with Windows NT Workstation 4.0 – I don't have to worry about that rotten Internet Explorer – it isn't on my system anymore :)Internet Explorer 2.0 is quite easy to get rid of from Windows NT 4.0

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