Microsoft cocks a snook at the EU

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Whatever you think of the European Commission's investigation of Microsoft for possible anti-competitive behaviour in the browser sector, it's well worth watching the spectacle of the two slugging it out. Here's Microsoft latest move, and it's a classic:

Microsoft said Thursday it will make a separate version of the Windows 7 computer operating software for Europe that does not include its Internet Explorer Web browser, as it tries to head off another antitrust scuffle with regulators there.

This is, of course, intentionally useless – it's like selling a bicycle without any wheels. It's designed to make the product as unattractive as possible, so that Microsoft can then point to its market failure as proof that the European Commission was completely misguided in its actions.

It's also a complete red herring. The problem is not that users cannot install other browsers, it's that Internet Explorer is woven into so many other aspects of the Windows platform that doing without it is difficult (for example, in South Korea, the almost universal use of ActiveX controls makes Internet Explorer indispensable for banking and many other everyday operations).

What the the EU should do – and may even be trying to do – is to produce a level playing field so that browsers can compete on their merits. This is actually *good* for Microsoft, as the rise of Firefox has shown: it forces the company to innovate, which, in turn, is good for users.

Microsoft's gambit is highly entertaining, but let no one be fooled: it's only the first move in what will doubtless prove and long and complicated regulatory chess match.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

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