I support open source and free software and I use quite a lot of such software. However, this does not make me anti-capitalist and hate everything proprietary. If it weren’t for the capitalist businesses, the world would not have been as industrialized as it is today. Even though the recent credit crisis which plagued (and perhaps still plaguing) the world was primarily caused by capitalist business (private banks), history has shown that governments cannot run businesses efficiently. Yet, the knives are always out for some capitalist businesses. The rulings passed by the European Commission (EC) of the European Union (EU) against the capitalist powerhouse Microsoft seem to have been made on hatred for Microsoft and everything proprietary.
Well, I’m far from being a fan of Microsoft. Yet, I cannot deny that Microsoft has introduced the world of computing to many millions of people, primarily with their desktop Operating Systems. Microsoft may not be a technology pioneer, but it has certainly been excellent at doing business and dominating the world software market with its products.
Here are the key rulings passed against Microsoft by the EC:
March 2004: Microsoft penalised with a $613 million fine, 120 days to divulge some Windows code to enable other vendor products be interoperable with Windows and 90 days to offer a Windows Operating System without Windows Media Player.
July 2006: Microsoft fined $357 million for failing to comply with the anti-competition ruling made against in in March 2004 (mentioned above).
February 2008: Microsoft fined £1.35 billion for failing to comply with the anti-competition ruling of March 2004
In addition to the above rulings, the EC also announced:
May 2008: EC was going to investigate Microsoft Office’s OpenDocument Format Support
January 2009: EC was going to investigate Microsoft’s bundling of IE with its Windows Operating Systems.
Unsurprisingly, companies that goaded the EC to push Microsoft to one corner are Microsoft’s competitors – Novell, Sun Microsystems, Opera, Mozilla and Google. Well, I am surprised that Google became involved as I thought it usually just lets its products speak for themselves.
Well, I believe that the EC’s rulings against Microsoft and other investigations are unfair. Microsoft has every right to keep its own code proprietary and why should Microsoft pay the price of being so successful and dominant in the software market? Why can’t Microsoft’s competitors develop better products and market them better to remove Microsoft’s dominance? Yes, Microsoft has the great advantage of using its Operating System to enable its other products reach the masses. So what? Why can’t other companies develop better Operating Systems and bundle them with better products? I do appreciate the requirement to release code to enable other vendors make their products interoperable with Windows (that’s the only part of the ruling I agree with), but requiring Microsoft to strip down its OS and remove products like Windows Media Player and IE is simply ludicrous.
The EC’s ruling, in effect, stipulates an upper limit for a successful software business. If you’re doing great and nobody else can do better, you got to slow down to allow others to catch up.
Why isn’t the EC bothered about the following?:
Apple bundling the Safari browser with the Mac OS X
Google striking a deal with Sony to ship all Sony PCs/laptops with the Chrome browser
Perhaps, the EC believes that Microsoft enjoyed its success for too long and now while Microsoft is being punished for moving too fast towards world domination, other companies should be allowed to catch up!! And which browser do you think Google will bundle along with its Chrome OS due to be released next year? The EC’s ruling against Microsoft has set a bad precedent.