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EU Plays Hardball with Microsoft, $751M Fine for Browser Infractions

microsoft_logo_2012If you are Google you are taking a hard look at how the European Union just treated Microsoft when it deemed that the software company had crossed the line in their efforts to make their browser, Internet Explorer, the ‘go to’ browser for users in EU countries.

Reuters reports

The European Union fined Microsoft Corp 561 million euros on Wednesday for failing to offer consumers a choice of web browser, a charge that will act as a warning to other technology firms involved in antitrust disputes with the EU.

It said the U.S. company had broken a legally binding commitment made in 2009 to ensure consumers had a choice of browser, rather than defaulting to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

An EU investigation found that Microsoft had failed to honor that obligation in software issued between May 2011 and July 2012, meaning that 15 million users were never made aware that they could choose.

Microsoft’s share of the European browser market has taken a brow beating in recent years. The question is whether that shift has occurred or because of increasing competition, or both. If it is both then Microsoft may end up being at a competitive disadvantage when held back by sanctions that don’t apply to their competitors. This is the soft-white underbelly of regulation that most don’t like to talk about because it can truly kill competition in the same breath as it looks to encourage it.

Microsoft’s share of the European browser market has more than halved since 2008 to 24 percent. Google’s Chrome has a 35 percent share, followed by Mozilla with 29 percent, according to Web traffic analysis company StatCounter.

While Microsoft is suffering the consequences of rulings against it, Google will be keeping a watchful eye on what they might expect in the future. If this is any indication they may want to buckle their seat belts (unless of course it’s one of those driverless cars but that’s for another post).