The European Commission today announced the settlement of its antitrust case against Microsoft concerning the inclusion of Internet Explorer in its operating system. In the settlement, Microsoft has agreed to offer a “browser ballot” in its Windows 7 operating system, which Adam Marcus and I commented on in November.
It’s a relief to see that the European Commission is bringing to a close this chapter in the seemingly endless epic of its antitrust persecution of Microsoft. The Commission should have recognized that Internet Explorer’s rapidly falling market share made it unnecessary to meddle in software creation. Still, I suspect that it’s only a matter of time before the Commission hauls another Microsoft or some other innovative American tech titan into court on trumped-up charges.
Worse, such mandates could easily extend to require “ballots” for choosing one’s default search engine, media player, instant messaging client, email provider, and so on. That kind of bureaucratic interference with the delicate art of interface design will only serve to discourage Microsoft and its many competitors from including useful new features in their offerings, thus harming consumers.