European Windows users will now be able to get online however they want - and it's all thanks to the EU. Competition regulators have agreed to drop any outstanding antitrust charges against Microsoft, provided the US software giant starts giving equal prominence to the likes of Firefox and Chrome as well as IE. The deal appears to put an end to the decade-long spat between the EU and Microsoft, as part of which the latter has already been fined €1.7bn for abusing its monopoly position to promote its own products via Windows (the operating system that's used by nine out of 10 PCs across the world). For some, this move might seem about as exciting as spending two hours listening to the X Factor Christmas song on continuous repeat. But for others, it's a victory for the little guy over The Man...
As a result of the EU ruling, Microsoft will now show Windows users a ‘ballot screen' with a list of browsers they can set as their default - opening up the market to rivals like Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple's Safari, and lots of smaller rivals. Power to the people!
Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner for competition policy, likened Microsoft's Internet Explorer monopoly to a supermarket where ‘they only offered you one brand of shampoo on the shelf, and all the other choices are hidden out the back and not everyone knows about them'. Although actually, it's more pervasive than this: the analogy would only work if the shampoo you chose then affected your experience of all the other toiletries and foodstuffs you bought subsequently...
It's less than ideal for Microsoft, but a real boon to its rivals. Each browser will now stand a greater chance of becoming the gateway to internet services for more than 100m European computer users by mid-March, and for about 30m new PCs over the next five years.
So that's one-nil to the people over corporate monopolies. And it might soon be two-nil if the Rage Against the Machine internet campaign manages to beat X Factor to the Christmas number one. Buy it online if you want - but equally if you want to buy that nice young man's single instead, that's fine too. It's all about personal choice, after all. Just ask Microsoft...
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Microsoft's 'one brand of shampoo'
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