Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has applied to join in the European Commission's antitrust investigation in to Microsoft's browser strategy. After browser maker Opera filed a complaint in December, competition commissioner Neelie Kroes sent a statement of objection to Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) on January 15, communicating her "preliminary conclusion" that tying Internet Explorer to Windows "harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice".
Google product VP Sundar Pichai agreed in a blog post yesterday: "We believe that we can contribute to this debate. We learned a lot from launching our own Google Chrome browser last year and are hoping that Google's perspective will be useful as the European Commission evaluates remedies to improve the user experience and offer consumers real choices ... the more voices there are in the conversation the greater the chances of success."
Google is now getting more blatant with its lobbying, having endured a litany of counter-lobbying, some of which from Microsoft scuppered its Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) ads deal. Google's nose isn't clean in Europe - earlier this month, the commission disbanded an expert group of five privacy experts, comprising Google chief privacy counsel Peter Fleischer, that was set up to review data protection legislation, after deciding too many of the members were American. Google also has a vested interest in Firefox, which uses Google as its default search provider; Mozilla also backs the EC's case.
In truth, Internet Explorer these days is barely more "tied", in real terms, to Windows than Safari is to OS X, or Browser is to Google's own Android. But commissioner Kroes has punched Microsoft around Europe's antitrust boxing ring for the last decade, issuing fines totalling 1.4 billion for tying Media Player and locking down server code. With that ruling as a precedent, it's quite likely Microsoft will have to sell a version of Windows without IE. Alternatively, The Reg says: "With a recent SEC filing, Microsoft divulged that the EC may force the company to ask users which browser they prefer during Windows setup."
(Photo: Javier Aroche)
By Robert Andrews