Dear Brussels, You Are Fighting Last Century’s Battles
Okay, Internet. Here’s a pop quiz.
Which of the following scenarios has regulators in Europe issuing hundreds of millions in new fines this week?
1) Google has released a laptop that consists of nothing more than its browser, thereby severely foreclosing opportunities for competition on any number of fronts.
2) Apple, which for years wouldn’t allow iOS apps to compete with its built-in programs, still won’t allow access to its fastest browsing engine, forcing rivals to use slower technology.
3) Microsoft, which used to have a dominant browser and operating system but has been losing share for years, has failed to live up to the terms of a deal over that fading monopoly.
If you guessed No. 3, you might have a job waiting for you at the European Commission.
While everyone else has turned their attention to mobile — an area where Microsoft trails badly — European regulators have remained doggedly focused on making sure consumers have plenty of choice of browsers when they bother to boot up their desktop.
The issue seemed passe when the EU revisited it back in 2009 and seems all the more so four years later.
Windows and Internet Explorer have continued to lose share over those four years on the desktop itself, and the real growth in the Internet is from billions of mobile devices.
To be fair, Microsoft did agree to offer European consumers the option of a ballot to choose which browser they wanted. Even Redmond admits it made a mistake.
“We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologized for it,” Microsoft said in a statement. “We provided the (European) Commission with a complete and candid assessment of the situation, and we have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake — or anything similar — in the future.”
But, at this point, might regulators want to turn their attention elsewhere?
Consumers certainly have. Even RealNetworks, Opera and the other outfits that initially complained about Windows have, too.
By Ina Fried