According to Ina Fried of CNet News, Microsoft plans to remove its Internet Explorer web browser from the new versions of Windows 7 when it ships it in Europe later this year. [Additional coverage at ZDNet.] MS is apparently doing so to assuage the concerns of EU antitrust officials, who have been obsessed with the company for the past decade. [Update: Here is MS official announcement.]
Apparently, European officials think their citizens are too stupid to find an alternative browser. I mean, seriously, how hard is it? Does the competition lack name recognition such that consumers can’t find them? Hmmm… Google and Apple seem to be pretty well known brands, and their browsers (Chrome & Safari) are pretty easy to find. And then there’s Mozilla’s Firefox browser (my PC favorite) and Opera (my mobile phone favorite), which are outstanding browsers. [Incidentally, Firefox already has 31% share of the European market.]
OK, OK, the regulators might say, but these competitors are just too expensive! Uh, no, wait… every one of them is free. So, strike that theory.
Well, the regulators need another theory then. How about illegal tying of products and services! You know, there’s only certain sites or services you can use with IE, right? Nope, that theory doesn’t work either. And does anyone believe that MS could really tie OS functionality to the use of IE? How long would the world tolerate Outlook e-mails or Word documents that only allowed linking to URLs via IE?? Come on.
OK, any other theories left? Not that I can think of. Which brings us back to the only theory the Euro-crats have left: people are sheep. They’ll take whatever MS bundles into the OS free, you see, and they will use it more than they use competing products. Thus, we regulators have to save them from their own stupidity! The masses just don’t know what’s good for them! These free, integrated services are harming them! And, therefore, the only remaining solution is to kill innovation by crippling functionality and removing the free offering. That’s pro-consumer! … or so say the European antitrust bureaucrats.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, a whole lotta innovation continues to take place. But shhhh.. don’t tell the Euro-crats. They need a company to pick on. Welcome to the Theater of the Techno-Absurd.