The Microsoft Saga Comes to an End

Over a decade ago, the European Commission initiated a string of antitrust cases against Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) that resulted in millions of dollars in fines and a seemingly never-ending sequence of new complaints. Among others, the objections came from companies like Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: JAVA  ) and Novell (Nasdaq: NOVL  ) . The major grievance was the companies' bundling of software packages alongside Microsoft Windows.

Finally, the saga has come to an end. In exchange for the EU abandoning its case and not dolling out any additional fines, Microsoft has agreed to deliver a ballot screen of browser choices in addition to its Internet Explorer. According to the Wall Street Journal, the EU's competition commissioner stated: "Millions of European consumers will benefit from this decision by having a free choice about which web browser they use."

The hope is that other browsers will have a fair shot at gaining market share, such as Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) Safari, and Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Chrome. The competition commissioner believes greater choice will cause companies to innovate further, which will ultimately lead to better browsing opportunities.

What do Fools think? Will this actually spawn improvement in the browser world -- or is this just a way to put the Microsoft antitrust cases to sleep?

Fool contributor Jordan DiPietro doesn't own any of the shares mentioned above. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 12:34 PM, alexinlax wrote:

    Attention Shoppers.... the browser war has been over for years and a complete distraction....it's all about the search engine wars and Google is the Microsoft in terms of monopolistic behaviors. Now that Microsoft has been fined a billion + by the EU and forced to offer multiple search engines within Windows versions, isn't it now time to force Apple to offer multiple search engines within its browser safari other than Google? Isn't it time for force Apple to pre-install the Microsoft Bing search App on the iphone in addition to pre-loading the Google search app? Isn't it time for the Google search page to offer multiple search engine choices? Aren't we seeing a double standard here? Apple and Google are guilty of the same behaviors that they protested about with Microsoft!!

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 12:37 PM, alexinlax wrote:

    Attention shoppers! The browser war has been over for years and is a total distraction. It's all about the search engine wars now. Now that Microsoft has been fined a billion + by the EU and forced to offer multiple search engines within Windows versions, isn't it now time to force Apple to offer multiple search engines within its browser safari other than Google? Isn't it time for force Apple to pre-install the Microsoft Bing searchApp on the iphone in addition to pre-loading the Google search app? Isn't it time for the Google search page to include other search engines? Aren't we seeing a double standard here? Apple and Google are guilty of the same behaviors that they protested about with Microsoft!!

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 12:37 PM, texican55 wrote:

    I have had Safari and Firefox both on my Windows XP system for years now... I fail to see any value in this decision

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 1:37 PM, 1232152314235 wrote:

    It will put and end to people thinking Internet Explorer is the only program that browses the web, which is good for all other browser-makers. I can see why they complained, but doesn't the same go for Windows Media Player and so on... It doubt the MS vs. EU Battle is over, far from it, and I assume this won't make a big difference in the browser-market-shares.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 2:45 PM, alexinlax wrote:

    @JelleV...if Microsoft should be prevented from installing Windows Media player with Windows , then shouldn't Apple be prevented from installing itunes with Apples operating system as well? Double standard? Apple clearly has the monopoly with itunes.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 2:52 PM, alexinlax wrote:

    @ JelleV.....If Microsoft should be prevented from installing Windows Media Player with each install of windows, shouldn't Apple be held to the same standard and be prevented from installing itunes with every copy of it's operating system? Double standard?

    Note: sorry my posting appear twice... for some reason when I post here, the first post doesnt get posted until I post a second time... technical gliches at Motley?

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 4:16 PM, DefunctAcct wrote:

    @alexiniax :

    Microsoft was put in this position because of its refusal to share technical info with others who make the same products for Windows.

    For IE, the latest suit filed in 2007 pertained to IE not meeting standards and Windows probably supported those non-standard functions. That means IE is integral part of the OS, not a separate product. That also means other browsers cannot run on Windows reliably, if at all. The suite was to force Microsoft to observe standards so there is a level playing field.

    MSFT is apparently pulling the same trick with WMP. That means no one else can write a media player for Windows that compete against WMP.

    In the case MSFT, where Windows basically owns 90% of the PC market, this can be seen as a monopoly. Not only do you use Windows, you have to use IE and WMP to browse and to get music and videos. No other choices are allowed. Is this what you want?

    You picked on Apple, so let us examine Apple. iTune comes with each Mac but Apple does not stop anyone from creating an iTune-like service that can run on the Mac. Just like MSFT is not stopping anyone from creating another text editor (WORD) to run on Windows. In fact, companies like SanDisk actually built media services that can pull music information out of iTune into their devices.

    Safari is a GOLD STANDARD web browser. It observes standards to a "T".

    The Mac can run Firefox, Chrome, and even IE if there is still a version for Mac. Apple does not do anything underhanded to stop other browsers from working on the Mac.

    Do you understand now why the Europeans picked on Microsoft?

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 4:23 PM, DefunctAcct wrote:

    What the Europeans did and what others want is for Microsoft to play fair.

    Windows is an operating system. Others want to be able to write applications for it and sell their applications that run on Windows. In terms of IE, they want Microsoft to support the Web standards so that IE also observes such standards. This means Windows will behave as expected and others can write browsers to run on Windows. This decouples IE from Windows making IE a separate "product" from Microsoft and opening up the field to fair competition.

    Apple adheres to Web standard. This is why Firefox and Chrome can run on the Mac. So can other browsers who chose to run on OS/X. There is no competition issue because Safari has to compete against other browsers just the same. Apple is not deliberately crippling other browsers to force people onto iTune.

    If you are a "Fool" and you invest, it really pays to carefully study up on these issues in greater details.

    Cheers!

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 5:44 PM, dweinsto wrote:

    punishing msft for including explorer would be like penalizing the first car company that included a radio and heater. i have used firefox for years, and i have netscape and opera. bfd. they give us explorer. this should not even be in court unless they make the other products incompatible.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 6:23 PM, WoodyDog1400 wrote:

    Win 7 will not allow you to run any other ver of web browser from Microsoft but IE 8. Which is crazy because IE7 and below or FireFox are the only browsers I can use with Oracle..leaves me with Firefox now.. way to go microsoft... release more crap that is not compatiable with the rest of the world... Went from monolopy to moron in a decade.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 7:58 PM, DefunctAcct wrote:

    @dweubsto:

    MSFT makes Office and it does not stop people from making an Office equivalent that runs on Windows. Why won't MSFT let people make a browser that can also run on Windows?

    Suppose MSFT makes a car called Windows and MSFT owns the global car market with 90% share. Suppose it makes its own heater and its own radio and it refuses to let others make replacement heater and radio for its cars. You want to buy the Windows car? You use their radio and heater.

    On the other hand, MSFT will let others make after-market glass, seats and dashboards (Office equivalent) for its car.

    What does it mean for car heater makers and car radio makers? The market is cornered by MSFT, there is no room for these other companies to compete, right?

    Is that not a monopoly in the making when it comes to car heater and radio?

    Thus the Europeans decided to force MSFT to be fair. MSFT can build its car, make its engine and everything else but make the car such that car owners can swap out the radio and heater if they so desired. Many will not bother but of those who want to use something else, at least they have a choice.

    It is this "choice" that will foster competition and make a product better.

    I fail to understand all the resistance to Microsoft having to play fair. You all want a monopoly so the world has only one shade of OS and one shade of web browser?

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2009, at 7:49 AM, Tuxster12345 wrote:

    No, this will not spawn improvement in the browser world. It is just a way to put the Microsoft antitrust cases to sleep.

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