Has European Commission gone too far against Microsoft?

I am not immune from a healthy dose of Microsoft bashing from time to time, but even I have to cringe at the ongoing competition case against Microsoft. The European Commission brought a case against Microsoft alleging that it violated EU Competition law by bundling the Windows Media Player with the operating system, as well as claiming that Windows Server 2003 was anti-competitive because it restricted inter-operability. The resulting ruling against Microsoft  has always seemed to me ill-informed and seemingly vindictive, as it did not really address the competitive issues with Microsoft, and instead concentrated on minutiae that nobody cared about (have you ever heard of Windows XP N?).

Now the Commission is at it again, asking Microsoft to either untie Internet Explorer from releases, or to bundle other browsers with the system. Microsoft has replied that such a move would benefit Google and cement its dominance of the search engine market because Opera and Firefox both come with Google preloaded as the default search engine.

I do not think that Microsoft has a point there. The fact that Internet Explorer has Live Search as its default engine has not even dented Google’s dominance, which indicates that people vote with their clicks by changing the default search settings. Nonetheless, I believe the Commission are not really tackling the right target here. Firefox has made remarkable inroads in the browser department; for example, 60% of this blog’s readers do so in Firefox. IE’s dominance is not such that warrants regulatory intervention.

Perhaps the problem that I have is that I am, to this day, highly suspicious of the effectiveness of competition law. The more I study about networks, the more I realise that the rise of some services to dominant positions is inevitable. Unfortunatly I think that this is yet another regulatory effort doomed to failure.

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