Success = Monopoly = Antitrust? Why the MS antitrust case is just wrong

I came across an interesting article which articulates much of my own thoughts on the entire Microsoft Internet Explorer antitrust saga. The article on a blog JCXP which I came across for the first time. The blog seems to be by MS fanboys supporters is calling for a boycott of Opera Soft, makers of the amazing Opera browser. The article, Opera Boycott: Clearing up a few things is actually a follow up article to the initial call for boycott.

I have some thoughts on the points presented in the second article but before that the disclaimer: I’m not a MS supporter or an Opera hater. In fact the two primary browsers on my laptop was Mozilla Firefox and Opera. I dislike IE (at least 6 and 7) primarily because of the headaches they have given me and the PITA they have been to the whole design and web-development industry. This article is not an evangelizing of IE or MS but broader thoughts on the anti trust calls when an organization starts to succeed and gains significant market share.

With that out of the way, I quote a part of the article:

"But it’s against antitrust laws!". Good to know. I’ll gladly admit I know very little about European antitrust laws (ie. barely anything). All I know, and this has been my stance since the very beginning, is that Microsoft has (or should have) every right to include their own Internet Explorer web browser as the only and default option in Windows. This applies to any and all companies on any matter, not just Microsoft. If Microsoft were to file an antitrust complaint agaisnt[sic] Apple for including Safari as the default browser in OS X, I would be just as peeved. Many have been saying that Microsoft has been taking advantage of its dominance of the market by bundling IE with Windows and that they are forcing it on customers. I do not see how that is true in any way. Nothing has changed in the last 15 years. Internet Explorer has been an integral and key feature of Windows ever since Windows 95, before Microsoft "dominated" the market. It’s not like Microsoft only recently started bundling IE with Windows, it has been there all along.

This is a view point I agree with whole heartedly. Why should an organization which has succeeded so wholly and entirely on their own suddenly be branded as cheaters? If this is the case, than is it not applicable for _all_ utilities being bundled with an OS, any OS (calculator, graphics program, image viewer etc). Isn’t Apple being anti-competitive by bundling Safari (and only Safari) with OSX? Or consider this – If Intel manufactured CPU cooling fans and they were bundled with the CPU, would they be behaving anti-competitively? Even though there are a zillion other brands and types of CPU cooling fans available for the buyer to choose

Let’s take another example: IPods are the most popular portable media players. They work primarily with ITunes which is what is bundled with those devices. Additionally, installing iTunes also forces a user to install QuickTime (a very bad media player and bloat ware IMO). Is that not forcing the consumer out of a choice?

Yes, there is Winamp, GTKPod and hundreds of other apps which can be used to manage the iPod and view the media files. But they are NOT bundled with the iPod. Why should they? Apple should and is free to bundle what they want with THEIR product. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. And if you still buy it, don’t install it (ITunes that is. QuickTime unfortunately is SHOVED down everyone’s throats by ITunes. Ugh)In the same vein, there are lots of other browsers available on the Internet, most of them definitely better than IE. But that does not mean that MS should start bundling everyone of those with it’s OS. You don’t like the components, then either don’t buy Windows (there is always Linux) or don’t use the browser.

I am not saying that MS is all holy. If they use their influence to force computer makers to install their software or to pressurizing them against installing competitors software then they should be taken to task. That would be an abuse of monopoly, NOT including their own software in their own product.

5 Comments

  1. Pramod Biligiri (11 comments) June 23, 2009

    Before I read the rest of the post:I dislike IE (at least 6 and 7) primarily because of the headaches they have given me and the PITA they have been to the whole design and web-development industry.

    Amen, brother!

  2. Pramod Biligiri (11 comments) June 23, 2009

    I completely agree that MS should be allowed to bundle whatever they want. I hate anti-trust laws – I think EU forced MS and Intel to pay up big time recently.
    The Google-Yahoo ad deal was pulled off and Google continues to remain under silly scrutiny.

    Parallel to getting rid of anti-trust laws, I also support getting rid of all IP laws! People should be free to copy and re-sell software.

  3. AJ (258 comments) June 23, 2009

    Truly spoken Pramod. I’m against IP laws as well. It is one of the reasons I’ve consistently refused to participate in the IP declaration/patent filing in my current employment. I dislike software patent like nothing else.

  4. Asa Dotzler (1 comments) June 23, 2009

    I think you fundamentally misunderstand anti-trust law.

    Apple is free to use its Desktop Operating System and its iPhone Operating System to advance its browser, Safari, because Apple does not have an overwhelming share of the Desktop Operating System or mobile device Operating System marketplace.

    If you don’t like Apple’s practices, there are lots of other _viable_ choices for desktop operating systems or cellular telephones.

    Microsoft, on the other hand, does have an overwhelming share of the PC Operating System market and has been convicted of using that monopoly share to stifle competition in the US and in Europe.

    In the US, Microsoft told PC OEMs like Dell, HP, and Sony, that if they tried to include other browsers on their machines, that Microsoft would charge them exorbitant licensing fees for Windows or would deny them Windows licenses all-together.

    That kind of behavior, where a company uses its monopoly leverage to force an unrelated product into the market place, is illegal.

    Imagine if the company that sells you electricity was the only electricity company in your state or country. Now imagine that they told you that if you didn’t also buy their telephone and internet service that they would charge you 1,000 times more for your electricity, or cut you off completely. Would you be OK with that?

    When a company has a monopoly, they’re in a position to easily abuse their customers. Anti-trust laws are designed to prevent that kind of abuse. Microsoft has been convicted in the US and Europe of exactly that kind of abuse.

  5. AJ (258 comments) June 23, 2009

    Thanks for your comment Asa. I agree with you. There are choices when Macs are taken as the example. But what about IPods? Or ITunes (as the music/media store)? Does Apple not enjoy a huge lead over the other players in the respective field?

    But that said, what you mention about Microsoft’s dictat to HP, Dell etc is the sort of behavior I am against as well. That is what I say in the last paragraph. I think I should have elaborated more on that.

    The way Intel bullied OEMs against AMD or as you mentioned what MS threated HP, Dell etc with is worthy of legal action.

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