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Microsoft?s antitrust fine: Sin of omission

March 20, 2013

IN 2009 the European Commission carried out an investigation into Microsoft. The American software giant bundled Internet Explorer, its web browser, into Windows, the operating system in the great majority of personal computers. This, thought the commission, might be an abuse of its dominance in operating systems: buy a PC, and unless you took the trouble of choosing otherwise, you would browse the web through Explorer.In December that year Microsoft promised the watchdog that until 2014 it would provide a ?choice screen?, asking European Windows users whether they wanted to install another browser. The screen first appeared in March 2010.Jolly good?but Microsoft forgot to keep its word. On March 6th the competition commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, said he had fined it ?561m ($732m) for not including the choice screen with 15m copies of Windows software between May 2011 and July 2012. Neither Microsoft nor the commission spotted the lapse. It seems that eventually other companies did.The fine must sting all the more because Microsoft?s transgression brought it little if any gain. Explorer has fallen behind Chrome, made by Google, and Firefox, made by Mozilla, a non-...

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