The long-running battle of wills between European Union regulators and Microsoft executives has reached, at long last, an absurd climax.
Sure, the situation has been skewing toward absurdity for a while, but surely it is steaming toward Lunacy Station now.
It’s gotten to the point where Microsoft, under antitrust pressure from the EU not to bundle a paid-for product with a free offering, has chosen not to provide a browser with its Windows 7 offering system in Europe this fall.
It’s not clear how consumers that buy Windows 7 will obtain a browser — presumably through FTP — but this approach to solving the bundling issue seems to indicate that both parties need to rethink the entire matter.
When European bureaucrats first took antitrust aim at Microsoft back in the 90s — before the Internet bubble burst, never mind the current financial-inspired downturn — Microsoft arguably was a colossus bestriding the globe.
Now? Well, not so much.
Microsoft has legitimate competition nearly everywhere it turns, including in the browser space, where its primary rivals are the Mozilla Foundation (Firefox), Google, Apple, and scores of ankle biters. Its browser market share has been ebbing gradually for a few years, and consumers know how to use one browser to download a competing browser from the web. Competition is alive and well, and Microsoft has learned to live with that reality.
It’s now time for the EU bureaucrats to make their peace with reality. Let Microsoft bundle the browser with Windows 7. European citizens are smart enough to decide whether they want to keep using Internet Explorer or download another browser.