Microsoft Allies Rally Against EU


An industry body partly funded by Microsoft has come to its defence

Microsoft is pulling out all the stops in its latest tussle with European anti-trust authorities including calling on allies to help its case.

This week, the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), a 25 year old industry group funded in part by Microsoft, released a statement coming out against the latest EU case against the dominance of Internet Explorer.

“CompTIA believes the EC’s objections stand on dubious factual and legal grounds – the browser and PC markets are highly competitive, making regulation wholly unnecessary,” said CompTIA Antitrust Counsel, Lars Liebeler. Undeterred by this, though, the EC has proposed a remedy that heavily penalizes third-party OEMs, forcing them to carry other browser software on their valuable desktop ‘real estate’. This remedy represents a startling and significant intrusion into the day-to-day business decision making process of computer manufacturers.”

Liebler went on to claim that if the EU ruling comes out against Microsoft it could have implications for the whole market for IT products.

“If adopted, this remedy would be the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “Competitors will use the Commission’s elastic precedent to arbitrage competitive advantage. More and more companies would demand that the European Commission give their products a ‘preference’ by affirmatively requiring every single computer manufacturer to offer their software product through a similar ‘ballot screen’ even if consumers did not express a desire or need for their program.”

Despite the fall-out from the global banking crisis – and the fact that sections of the US automotive industry and banking are now supported by government – Liebeler went on to claim that hands-off regulation and open markets were the only way to benefit consumers.

“The PC marketplace thrives. Regulatory action that seeks to micro-manage the industry is not in the long-term interests of the firms in the market, or of consumers around the world. The EC’s ruling will hamstring innovation, mocking the desires of the vibrant PC marketplace.”

Earlier this month Microsoft declined the European Commission’s offer to hold a hearing on antitrust matters concerning its browser bundling claiming “unfortunate scheduling” that would have left senior decision makers absent from the proceedings.

The latest EC case against Microsoft was initiated by a compliant made by Norwegian browser maker Opera in December 2007.

The EC responded to the compliant by issuing a statement of objection in January this year in which it voiced concern over Microsoft’s strategy around Windows and IE and gave the company 8 weeks to respond. “The evidence gathered during the investigation leads the Commission to believe that the tying of Internet Explorer with Windows, which makes Internet Explorer available on 90 percent of the world’s PCs, distorts competition on the merits between competing web browsers insofar as it provides Internet Explorer with an artificial distribution advantage which other web browsers are unable to match,” the EC said in a statement.