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25 Feb 2009 07:34
Google has become the latest company to join the chorus of voices supporting the European Commission’s investigation of Microsoft over allegations of anti-competitive behaviour.
The Silicon Valley internet giant said on Tuesday that it was hoping to become a party to commission’s investigation into Microsoft’s dominance of the internet browser market.
Google said it hoped to add “perspective” to the inquiry, which is due to report over the coming months, and is focusing on whether Microsoft has unfairly boosted take-up of its web browser, Internet Explorer.
“We are applying to become a third party in the European Commission’s proceeding,” Sundar Pichai, who is responsible for the development of Google’s own Chrome browser, wrote in a blog post.
“Google believes that the browser market is still largely uncompetitive, which holds back innovation for users. This is because Internet Explorer is tied to Microsoft’s dominant computer operating system, giving it an unfair advantage over other browsers.”
Pichai compared Microsoft’s position on home computers to its share of the mobile internet market, where it has much lower penetration.
The announcement is the latest salvo in the continuing action against Microsoft, which is effectively a re-run of a previous antitrust investigation into its dominance of the internet browser market.
Although European regulators have taken a dim view of Microsoft activities in the past—fining it €497-million in 2007 and a further €899-million last year—for anti-competitive practises, the latest action specifically to its dominance of the web browser market.
The complaint that sparked the latest investigation was made in 2007 by the Norwegian web browser company Opera, who said that bundling Internet Explorer with copies of Windows put competitors at a disadvantage.
The pace of accusations has gathered in recent months as investigators begin to close in on a ruling.
Last month the Commission gave a preliminary view of proceedings in which it said that Microsoft’s influence “distorts competition”.
“The Commission is concerned that through the tying, Microsoft shields Internet Explorer from head-to-head competition with other browers, which is detrimental to the pace of product innovation and to the quality of products which consumers ultimately obtain,” it said.
Those comments led Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation—which makes the popular Firefox browser—to write that she agreed wholeheartedly with the Commission’s view.
“The damage Microsoft has done to competition, innovation and the pace of the web development itself is both glaring and ongoing,” she said.
“There are separate questions of whether there is a good remedy, and what that remedy might be.
But questions regarding an appropriate remedy do not change the essential fact.”
The timing of Google’s announcement, however, was more than a little. new version of its toolbar for Internet Explorer, as well as Apple’s release of a new version of its own Safari browser.
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