Friday, April 23, 2004

Microsoft vs. EU

As we all know, the EU decided to fine Microsoft 497 million euros ($589.9 million) and ordering it to sell a version of Windows, its computer operating system, without audiovisual software, because of its illegal monopolistic practises. It recently released a big document outlining its thinking, a condensed version can be seen here.

While the document may be impressive in its weight, this summation does not suggest it is much good in its clarity of thought. The petard they decided to hoist Gates on was "There is a huge switching cost to using a different operating system...It is this switching cost that has given customers the patience to stick with Windows through all our mistakes, our buggy drivers, our high TCO, our lack of a sexy version at times... It would be so much work to move over that they hope we just improve Windows rather than force them to move." Windows' high switching costs should not be news to anyone. In addition, having a monopoly (which Windows has) is not illegal. Anti-trust law, when sensible, only looks at when a monopoly acts illegal to extend its monopoly in a way that harms the public, and Microsoft's actions, to date, have not really demonstrated this (although I am no fan of the platform myself). Just as the internet, open source software, etc io


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