Microsoft Fine $730 Million By EU for “Browser Ballot” Mishap.

Last year Microsoft discovered and acknowledged there was “mishap” with Windows 7 SP1 sold in the EU. Since 2009 Microsoft has been required for new installs of Windows in EU to present a “Browser Ballot” pop-up giving the user the choice of which will allow the user to choose which browser they wanted to use. This was a result of an Anti-Trust investigation against Microsoft which claimed that Microsoft was being anti-competitive for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. More so, the EU felt Microsoft having the most common operating system was forcing Windows user to use Internet Explore with out letting them know up front of other choices.

From May 2011 to July 2012, 15-million EU users did not getting the pop-up. Microsoft admitted there was a glitch with the release of Windows 7 SP1. They fixed the glitch and they even pushed out an update within a couple days that would pop-up the “browser ballot” screen. They even offered to extend the ‘browser ballot” more than a year longer than the prior agreement. Still The EU slapped Microsoft with this €561 million ($730 million USD) fine. Though it may seem like a huge amount it works out to be about $5 for each Windows user it failed to provide with a ‘browser ballot”.

I could understand if Microsoft had hid or denied the issue, or even refused to fix the issue, but they admitted their error and went out their way to correct the error in a very timely matter. Of course, I think the whole “browser ballot” requirement is stupid. I don’t see how it is anti-competitive as the user is not being forced to use IE (other than to download the browser of their choice). Furthermore, it is not like users have to pay for Firefox, Chrome, Opera, etc and by having IE bundled with Windows, Microsoft is taking away from the profits of those browser makers. Most users nowadays know about other browsers and know how to go and download/install another browser on their own.

If you want “anti-competitive”, how about Apple? Their operating system with only run on their machines with propitiatory parts. You can’t go out and by a Dell or HP Mac or even build your own. Further, they bundle (and “force” users to use) Safari with their computers. How is this not anti-competitive? I guess it is not because Apple’s computers and operating systems are not “as common”. I am just waiting for the EU to give Microsoft grief about having Bing as the default search engine in IE or going after Google because Chrome is installed standard on their machines and Google is the default search engine on Chrome.

Interestingly, Microsoft has declined to appeal the fine. I suppose in part because it is not all that large to begin with and they will just absorb the fine by upping to price of their software in the EU. Further, they likely feel and appeal would just be a waste of time and money.

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