On fairness and solutions where the problems are

Via OSNews I just got to this article from CNet news claiming that the European Union might force Microsoft and OEM vendors to force the choice of an Internet browser to users.

Despite being a strong believer that Microsoft’s dominant position in the market is harmful and the lack of freedom of choice for the market is a total disaster for the industry, I think that forcing vendors to throw a choice to users is even worse.

What browsers are gonna be included in this OEM setups? IE+Firefox? IE+Opera? IE+Safari? Who’s going to make that decision? If Microsoft if forced to offer choice, i guess Apple should be forced too right? Not only in Macs but in iPhones too maybe? If we do this with browsers, why not with media players? And office suites? Is the EU going to force vendors to include Wine+IE or Opera in computers with Linux pre-installed?

I think it would be really hard to make such a proposal really fair and Microsoft-agnostic, and if a proposal becomes really hard to execute it probably means that it’s the wrong solution for the problem.I would rather take a closer look at how Microsoft is dealing with OEM vendors and public administrations to get their products mainstream, there is where Microsoft really harms the freedom of choice.

I think the EU is missing something here, it is the market that makes the choice of Operating Systems for users, as in the guy in the shop selling a computer, the geek neighbour helping when the computer crashes, the operating system supported by popular ISV products, the Universities enforcing the tools the students should use, the public administration asking for certain document formats if you want to communicate with them, the job offers asking certain expertise to new employees… these areas is where the EU should be focusing on encourage neutrality. Smashing a dialog asking “do you prefer this blue icon or this orange one to browse your internet?” is not going to solve anything rather than generate annoyances, more unfariness and confusion.

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9 thoughts on “On fairness and solutions where the problems are

  1. one thing you may not know … is that microsoft has cornored the mark , the majority of people in the world actually think that ie is the only way to access the internet and that ie is internet… this may seem ridiculous to a normal 10 – 35 year old , but not to others

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  2. The issue is that Microsoft stopped other web browsers from being installed and that this compromised the market for other web browsers. Then, that Microsoft paid people selling computers so much that no other company could have their software installed before the computer was sold (including web browsers and media players). Then, that Windows’ own media player stopped competition for other media player software. In each case, the investigation sought to discover if Microsoft used incentives given to IT professionals to selling computers with Microsoft-only products, which skewed the market unfairly.
    Were GNU/Linx systems the majority, there would be no room for a complaint against whoever was the dominant distribution provider: there already exists choice of desktop or window manager, web browser, e-mail program, media player and the rest. But that overlooks the real issue: none of Linux, FSF, GNOME, KDE, Mozilla are using their clout to stop competition in their respective fields. That’s the reason that the Director General for Competition is presently investigating Microsoft.
    I would be curious to see how the EU’s DG-Comp would respond to a case made by a web browser or media player company about the iPhone App Store run by Apple.

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  3. But that issue is long gone – Windows ships with IE, sure, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s entirely possible to install Firefox or Opera or Safari or something else and have it be your default browser, and the dedicated icon for the Internet in the Start menu changes appropriately, file associations are updated… and IE won’t grab them back unless you explicitly let it.
    The only hole in the system is that programmes using an embedded IE control to render HTML content will open any links from that in a new IE window instead of your default web browser. If they could fix that (except where those links stay internal to the app of course), I wouldn’t even have any niggles to make.
    If Microsoft are still giving disincentives to vendors who ship another browser preinstalled, then that’s bad and they should be appropriately chastised, but the current situation regarding the ability to use a different browser, or a non-Microsoft word processor or email client or anything else, is generally very good.

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  4. @A:
    The fact Microsoft has a monopoly is a temporary fact, permanent laws shouldn’t be made to solve temporary situations. And temporary solutions with no deadlines can lead to unfair situations in the future if not applied again or if applied wrong in the future.
    @Matt W:
    Totally agree with you here. I think the EU and people tend to just blame Microsoft for the monopolistic situation, but I think it’s partly everyone’s fault, and that the EU should look further into what’s causing the unfair situation.

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  5. @as:
    The majority people in the world are not able (and not willing to be able) to make a well thought decision on what browser do they use. They just want to browse, period.
    That decision belongs to OEM vendors, and the responsibility to make the market vendor neutral is in the public administration (governments, EU…).

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  6. ‘I think the EU is missing something here’
    The EU is missing nothing, as everything you are discussing is wild guesswork by CNet and Microsoft. Far too many ‘mights’ in that article to consider shouting at the EU.

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  7. I haven’t read the proposal and I guess that OSNews hasn’t either. Since from all I know OEMs are indeed forced by Microsoft not to install other Browsers (or Office applications etc.)
    I mean if it would be allowed we’d probably have a lot of PCs with preinstalled Firefox, OpenOffice.Org, VLC and other stuff. But a typical preinstalled PC comes with the standard Microsoft shit + some more shit from the OEM.

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  8. @McR:
    Agree, allow OEMs to choose what they want to provide in their boxes it’s the good way to address the problem.
    If what the article says is true, asking end users to make that choice by throwing a wizard on the first startup to let them choose is the wrong way to do it.

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