Competition is healthy. Competition is good. Competition is what got mankind to where it is today; sitting in front of your LCD televisions, drinking ice-cold beers, wondering who’s going to be the last person standing on that log.
However, sometimes people can apparently become a little too big for their boots and the competition becomesa monopoly. At least that’s the way that the European Union feels about some of Microsoft’s business practices.
Three years ago, the EU issued an anti-trust ruling against Microsoft for what it said was an illegal abuse of Microsoft’s near-monopoly in the computer operating system market. After lengthy court battles, a half a billion euro fine was levied and Microsoft (surprisingly) appealed against the ruling.
Monday (17th September) sees Bill’s Boys back in Europe in the second highest court in the continent; whom could be delivering ruling that could shape the rules of competition law in the bloc for decades to come.
Truly it is a landmark case, as both parties agree. However, that is where the agreement ends.
The case is generally centred around the packaging of Microsoft’s Windows Media Player, as well as the apparent reluctance of MS to allow competitors access to coding that would let them create software that can run on Windows PCs.
Microsoft claim that they have complied with the previous ruling and provided source code; albeit at the eleventh hour. MS are also unhappy that they should spend $millions developing software and then be forced to handover that research and open up their products to rivals so that the competition can prosper.
I have to say that I can see Microsoft’s point of view on this one.
If I’d spent $1 building something and was then told that I had to show all of my enemies how I built it and how to take it apart and let their inventions work with it, I’d be a little upset.
Multiply that by Microsoft’s research and development budget (circa $7billion in 2004 when this started), and I can completely understand why they’re reluctant to let anyone else play with their toys.
However, I also understand just how frustrating in can be when you want something to work, but can’t use it on your current hardware.
For example – iTunes. iTunes can only be played on an Apple-branded iPod, unless you pay extra to download tracks that are DRM free.
But having said that, I am a UK customer of iTunes. I can access pretty much any website any where in the world and purchase goods and services as I require them. But not with iTunes.
A UK track costs £0.79. A US track costs $0.99 – just over half the price. And if a track that you want is not available in the UK store, iTunes is helpful enough to let you see that it is available in the US. But this is just a tease. Try to purchase the track and iTunes won’t play ball.
With the ruling on Monday going against Microsoft, we could see massive ramifications for other software suppliers to allow access to their code.
iTunes on a WalkMan? At the same price? With no additional DRM-free costing?
Perhaps we’ll have XBox360 games through a PC emulator? Or be able to run PC games on Macs (finally)…
We can only hope. Roll on Monday…