The Incredible Browser Machine

by on August 26th, 2009 3

The famous “anti-trust” lawsuits against Microsoft, which already inflicted hundreds of millions of Euros in fines, not to mention legal fees on both, Microsoft and tax payers, is a total waste, pure destruction of wealth and cause of massive aggravation for European consumers.

This is again of interest as Microsoft is on the verge of releasing Windows 7, which will have to be amputated of Internet Explorer in its European version. This is assumed to help other browsers gain wider distribution. Given that browsers are all distributed for free, it is hard to understand how this will translate into a measurable benefit at any point at all. Besides, IE has been losing ground for years simply because other browsers got better and users are now more educated and hence interested.

The entire issue is so surrealistic, one could not make it up: Microsoft is being punished for delivering an added benfit to its users. That’s as if car manufacturers were prosecuted for installing their own car radios instead of “allowing” the consumer to make that choice. Imagine, they claim that if the car has a built-in radio- essentially at zero added cost for the consumer – other car radio manufacturers are harmed because they can’t get a sale unless the buyer is a passionate music fan who wants better sound equipment.

It’s hard to believe anyone could defend such an argument with a straight face.

(Ok, there’s worse, like the argument that “Coca Cola free” should not be allowed for sale in France, because the correct French term (sic) is “light“).

The simple fact is that consumers are much better off if they get a fully configured computer that supports all the essentials, such as internet access, out of the box. If no browser was installed, they would not even be able to download one. Most users wouldn’t know what to look for and don’t care about which browser they are using.

So in order to “help” (“subsidize” would be a better word) companies that can’t convince consumers of the benefits of their products, all EU Windows users will have to deal with the inconvenience of  incomplete Windows installations that are different from US versions and everyone will have to spend time and energy to choose a browser to install. All users world-wide will have to pay a higher prices for all Microsoft products to cover the fines and legal fees Microsoft had to pay.

Indeed, any such “fines” are just an additional tax levied on consumers and in the case of Windows, it comes with an added annoyance, the absence of a potentially useful piece of software, which costs nothing and that can easily be replaced if so desired.

You might be wondering about the title of this article: it is a reference to the famous book from the 1960s, “The Incredible Bread Machine”, which illustrated how enterpreneurs create great wealth and consumer benefits, while politicians and bureaucrats just make life harder. For them, as the book points out, there is no such thing as an acceptable price:  if you charge less than the competition, you’re “dumping”, if you’re charging more, you’re “gouging” and  if you charge the same, you’re in “collusion” or a “cartel” with the competition

In this Kafkaesk world, if you produce bad but cheap and popular software, you’re “harming consumers” and if you produce fantastic, popular software, you’re creating a “monopoly”. Just wait until Apple is prosecuted for a phone that is “too good”.

Let us all say NO to bureacrats and politicians and tell them to get off our backs! Leave Microsoft and all the other companies alone, as consumers, we will sort them out with our purchasing decisions.

NB: None of the above is in any way supportive of IE, which I don’t use. FireFox and Chrome are both preferable. And they’re just one download away. However, it is handy to have IE for those few web sites that exploit specific IE features.

Completely agree with your point, but somewhere I feel that fight to take against IE is only the beginning to stop Microsoft’s monopoly in may areas.

August 27, 200911:00 am

Let’s see the definition of “Monopoly”: An exclusive right granted by king or government, enforced by police and army of a country.

Switzerland still has a post monopoly. When a small company in my area, Lausanne, tried to regionally distribute parcels much faster than the official post office – a service very much appreciated by businesses here – they were shut down by police officers arresting the company staff.

THAT is a monopoly.

So what kind of “monopoly” does Microsoft have? Ah, right: NONE. For every single product they sell, there’s plenty of competition.

There was absolutely nothing obvious about their success in the past and there isn’t for the future.

What they have is a large MARKET SHARE, which is like counting the survivors after a battle: it’s an observation ex post (after the fact), a statistical value that implies absolutely no guarantee that it will still be the same in the future.

When you have an actual monopoly, you know that no matter what the consumers think, it will still be the same until it is legally revoked. The only way Microsoft can maintain a high market share is by improving their products continuously and thus getting people to voluntarily buy them.

Microsoft have absolutely zero power over the purchasing decision anyone makes. Thus any legal effort to reduce their market share implies that you prevent some WILLING customers from buying their preferred product. You harm not just Microsoft but the consumers in favor of some producers who were unable to acquire customers.

NB: This does not imply anything about “quality”. Sometimes, very bad products are very popular, but they’re still the consumer’s choice.

August 27, 20092:32 pm

>>> Switzerland still has a post monopoly. When a small company in my area, Lausanne, tried to regionally distribute parcels much faster than the official post office – a service very much appreciated by businesses here – they were shut down by police officers arresting the company staff.
>>> THAT is a monopoly.

Monopoly Indeed.
About Microsoft, I guess it can be explained this way. Most people like you and me use Microsoft products, because they are a lot cheaper and deliver more for the cost. But certain communities exist who hate Microsoft for petty reasons such as not being Opensource which doesn’t matter us at all. What do I do if I get windows source, when I haven’t even once seen free Linux kernel source? Politicians today are NOT with strict ideals or good morality. They exploit these people (mostly computer science students) by doing foolish things as irritating Microsoft. Not good at all.

September 2, 20095:16 pm