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You are here: Home Blogs Community Does the Windows ballot screen for choosing a browser represent meaningful progress in Europe?

Does the Windows ballot screen for choosing a browser represent meaningful progress in Europe?

by Peter Brown Contributions Published on Jan 06, 2010 03:03 PM
Thanks to the European Commission's antitrust like activities, European citizens will soon be presented with a ballot choice between twelve browsers when first using a newly purchased computer preloaded with the Microsoft Windows operating system.

But is this really progress? It's not much of a choice when you have to give up your freedom first in order to select a browser -- a few of which might be free software. Why not give citizens the option of purchasing the computer with a free software operating system like GNU/Linux, or with no operating system at all? The best way to fight monopoly isn't to give more choices after the most basic premise of the monopoly has already been agreed to -- it's to let people opt out of the monopoly from the beginning.

It's the forced bundling of Windows with new computers that is at the root of the problem with Microsoft and the continued exclusion of free software. Offering users a ballot to choose their operating system might be a better option. Indeed, upon choosing not to use Windows at the ballot screen, citizens could even be taken to a checkout to receive a refund from Microsoft. Choosing freedom would be a money maker! But all joking aside, April, the French free software association, is urging the European commission to take action and continue enforcement efforts to a logical end:

"This announcement is an interesting step. It will enable users to freely choose their web browser" said Frédéric Couchet, April's executive director. "But the basic problem can only be solved by tackling the almost systematic bundling of Windows with new computers. As long as Microsoft pre-empts the market, there will be no room for competition nor for users' free choice."

Furthermore, in its press release the Commission indicates that Microsoft revised their proposals on the disclosure of interoperability-related information. Microsoft continues to brandish its software patents, which makes their stance on interoperability considerably less convincing....

April calls on the European Commission to maintain its efforts against Microsoft's abuse of dominance. April urges the Commission to reject the new interoperability agreement proposed by Redmond and to take charge of the PC+Windows bundling issue in order to open the European market to competition, innovation and freedom.

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) highlights that the European Commission continues its investigation of Microsoft over interoperability. As Microsoft continues to obstruct competitors from interfacing with its dominant software, it's clear that the European Commission still has serious work to do to get Microsoft to play nicely with free software:

Carlo Piana, FSFE's legal counsel said,"The patent commitments are clearly insufficient, because they don't allow commercial exploitation. This keeps out competition from Free Software, which in many areas is the biggest competitor to Microsoft's programs. Instead, Microsoft will continue to threaten commercial Free Software developers and their customers with patent FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt)."

Please support FSFE and April in Europe, and do what you can to raise awareness of the forced bundling of Windows as the overriding issue.

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