Thursday, June 23, 2005

Stupid Government Tricks . . . European Style

Microsoft Corporation is a company that people either love or hate. On the good side, the company has brought a defacto standard of computing to the masses, making it easier for people to use computers and exchange data. The reverse side of the coin is that the company has used dubious marketing practices to gain near-monopoly status in computer desktop operating systems, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software, and web browsers.

Love it or hate it, Microsoft's products are used by everyone from the shop owner down the street, to grandma; from heads of state to heads of terrorist organizations. This high profile combined with marketing that pushes the envelope has made it the target of government probes and lawsuits around the globe. This brings us to the outcome of the latest bit of nonsensical government intervention against the company.

In 2004, antitrust regulators in the European Union decided that by bundling its Media Player software with Windows XP, Microsoft has effectively blocked competing media software from the marketplace. The remedy imposed was to fine the firm 497-million euros (equivalent to $608-million), and force it to offer a version of Windows sans Media Player.

The new version, Windows XP N, has hit the market with a resounding thud. According to reports, there is little to no interest by consumers in the product. Many stores across Europe are refusing to even order it, based on the lackluster demand. Computer manufacturers are not offering it on their new products. In other words, government has forced a company to manufacture a product that no one wants.

I'm glad to see that the government of the good old U.S.A. isn't the only one to make ridiculous mandates.

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