Microsoft under siege from Europe’s competition czar

Last week, Mario Monti, Europe's competition czar, announced that he was prepared to levy fines and force further changes to Microsoft's computer operating system.

In essence, Monti wants to force Microsoft to turn over its own intellectual property to its global competitors. A press conference was called mainly to let the world know Microsoft was being given one last chance to repent and surrender, says the Wall Street Journal.

The European Union’s regulations increasingly seek to tie down not just European companies but also those from any part of the world that trades with the EU:

  • Microsoft has already modified Windows to let computer makers configure their machines to give more prominence to media players made by Microsoft's competitors, such as Real Networks' Real Player.

  • Computer makers are even free to hide the media player that Microsoft includes (free) in every copy of Windows.

    Why isn't this enough?

    According to the Journal, Monti's investigators sent out questionnaires to businesses that distribute audio and video files. At the press conference, the commission then triumphantly declared that the answers showed that most content providers are inclined to make their video and audio clips compatible with Media Player, because it comes already installed on new Windows machines.

  • In other words, the commission's evidence consists not of anything Microsoft itself has done, but the fact that potential users like what it has done.

  • All this makes the commission's proposed remedies – either sell a crippled version of Windows that can't play content, or else make sure Windows machines all have both Microsoft's media player and a competitor's – particularly perverse.

    Somehow the U.S. government has to draw a line in the sand here, says the Journal. Intellectual property and services are the growth engine of the modern economy, of which Microsoft is a crown jewel, it explains.

    Source: Editorial, Monti’s Wrecking Crew, Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2003.

    For text (WSJ subscription required),,SB106021398070464800,00.html
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    FMF Policy Bulletin\12 August 2003
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