I love Europe for travel, the U.K. especially. For business and investing, not so much. There are better markets for your money.

Here's why. Over the weekend, regulators at the European Commission filed a Statement of Objections that accuses Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) of stifling competition in the browser market via tying their browser to Windows. According to a press release announcing the ruling:

The evidence gathered during the investigation leads the Commission to believe that the tying of Internet Explorer with Windows, which makes Internet Explorer available on 90% of the world's PCs, distorts competition on the merits between competing web browsers insofar as it provides Internet Explorer with an artificial distribution advantage which other web browsers are unable to match. [Emphasis added.]

Lucid. Well-written. And entirely false.

According to researcher Net Applications, Internet Explorer accounted for 68.2% of web searches in December. Trade magazine Computerworld says that's down eight percentage points year over year.

The math speaks for itself, really. If IE is available on more than 90% of the world's computers, yet less than 70% actually use it, then 20% of the population chooses a non-Microsoft browser.

Mr. Softy fares even worse in Europe. French researcher Applied Technologies Internet put IE's share of the Continent's browser market at just 59.5% in November, the last month for which it had IE data, Computerworld says. The open-source Firefox browser held 28% of the market in December.

The worst numbers go to Opera, a relatively well-liked browser created by Norway's Opera Software, which had just 0.7% of the market, according to Net Applications' estimates. Applied Technologies gives Opera 3.3% of the market. Either way, it's the laggard in an emerging category that features not only IE, but also Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Safari and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chrome.

Coincidence, right? Nope. Opera helped convince the EU to file the complaint and applauded the decision. "This is extremely important. It's important that people have a choice of browsers. It's important that we don't have one company dominating the browser market," CEO Jon von Tetzchner told Computerworld in an interview.

The EU, in other words, is playing bodyguard for Opera. Not only is that wrong, it shows how little the Continent's regulators think of a historically Web-savvy population that's given birth to Skype and Linux, as well as Microsoft competitors SAP (NYSE:SAP) and Nokia (NYSE:NOK).


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