With Microsoft Windows 7 In Europe, You'll Have to Ride on the Rims


The usual suspect list of anti-Microsoft blogoblatherers was up in arms during the week of June 8 because Microsoft (MSFT) will offer retailers and PC manufacturers a version of Windows 7 that does NOT include Internet Explorer (IE). The version is translated into the umpteen languages of the European Union (EU) so it is nominally the EU version of Windows 7 (but see my tongue-in-cheek explanation of a more likely scenario, Is Microsoft Really Abandoning the Browser Market Worldwide?, on my investment-research Web site).

Microsoft is taking this step because the EU Competition Commission (which is really an anti-competition commission or a hamstring-competition-for-American-companies commission) is investigating Microsoft's decade-long bundling of IE within Windows. The investigation was instigated by an obscure Norwegian company called Opera, spun out of Norway's formerly monopolistic phone company, that offers an obscure browser. According to people who keep such statistics, the Opera desktop browser has been unable to build "market share" after over a decade of availability and even after Opera began giving it away for free without advertising in 2005. (As also explained on my Web site, using the term 'market share' for browsers is misleading. It's like asking who has the market share lead in spell checkers.)


Norway does not even appear to be a member of the EU, so that tells you something about how quickly the EU Competition Commission will jump into Microsoft-bashing. What's really ironic is that the EU and the blogobatherers say they are not in favor of Microsoft shipping IE unbundled from Windows 7. That is kind of odd since that is exactly what these same Eurocrats and Microwhiners insisted on a few years ago relative to Windows Media Player.


I tried to find a good analogy for what the EU is saying publicly (as opposed to what it is really doing, which is to trying to legistate/regulate the success of a statist information-technology company/industry). I can't do better than "Jose," commenting on Venture Beat (correcting for a few spelling errors in the blog post):


"The behavior Microsoft uses is the same behavior Apple, Sun/Oracle, Google and any other company employs to get the products in consumers' hands and to maintain them there. Ultimately consumers will decide if a product is good or not good and make the decision to purchase and stay with a particular product. Consumers around the world have chosen Microsoft's OS. Governments should not impede my choice in preference to what a few ministers in a government want.

"BMW, Mercedes, Opel, Volvo, Fiat, Ford, Renault, Citroen and all the others are car manufacturers. They do not manufacturer tires. So why not force them when they sell their new cars to consumers that they are to provide consumers with at least four different sets of tire brands on each car and give us the option of deciding which set of tires we want for our car. Oh, and while they're at it, why not force the car company to ensure that a car comes with as many axles as possible so that I can have the option of deciding how many axels to use as well as which tire brand to use on each axel.

"Who decides that a car must have four tires and two axels, the car company or some government? After all a car can have as many axels the manufacturer wants on it. Why can't Microsoft decide on what constitutes its own operating system and what component to make and ship it with?"


Note the actual feature article to which this comment was appended on VentureBeat has been removed from the Venture Beat Web site but the cached version is available here (at least as of June 15, 2009) if you want to read Jose's entire comment. I believe the VentureBeat article was removed from its Web site becasue its news source had the story backwards, saying that the EU ordered Microsoft to unbundle IE when in fact the EU is objecting to the unbundling as described above.


But Jose's comment deserves better than that. And if his analogy is not clear, he is not saying Microsoft is like a car manufacturer. Dell (or HP or Lenovo) is. Microsoft makes some tires that Dell, HP, etc. put on their car.


Except in the EU this fall, you'll be riding on the rims.