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Google tipped off EU authorities over Microsoft’s $732M browser boo-boo, report claims

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When Microsoft got fined $732 million by the European Commission on Wednesday for reneging on an agreement to give Windows users a clearer choice of browser, an interesting question in the back of many people’s minds was how on earth no-one noticed the browser choice screen’s omission for more than a year.

After all, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 came out in February 2011 and it was only in mid-2012 that the Commission woke up and realized the fact that it was missing the screen in question. Microsoft(s msft) claimed it was itself unaware of the omission until the Commission brought it up.

Well, we’re still fuzzy on how both Microsoft and the Commission stayed oblivious for so long, but we do now have a better idea of how the company got busted: according to anonymous sources quoted in a Financial Times piece (registration required) that went up a few hours ago, the tip-off came from Google(s goog) and Opera.

Opera is certainly no surprise – the Norwegian browser vendor was after all the original complainant that led the Commission to wring promises of good behavior from Microsoft back in 2009. But Google’s involvement, if the report is correct, shows this to be just one stage in an increasingly bitter war.

Remember that Chrome vendor Google is also embroiled in an EU antitrust investigation, in this case regarding allegations of search result manipulation and various other anticompetitive practices. And who kicked off that investigation? Why, Microsoft of course, along with various others subsequently involved in its faux-grassroots “Fair Search” organization.

Then we have Microsoft’s recent Scroogled anti-Google smear campaign, and Google’s decision to suddenly yank Exchange ActiveSync support for Windows Phone owners who use Gmail services, which threatened a serious hit on that smartphone platform’s usability.

In isolation, each one of these moves can be explained and perhaps justified on its own merits. Together, though, they paint a picture of escalating nastiness. Sure, companies fight all the time — it’s part of healthy competition. But right now the goings-on between Google and Microsoft risk appearing as petty and destructive as those between Apple(s aapl) and Samsung.

This article was updated at 5:45am PT to make it more explicit that Google makes the Chrome browser and therefore has an interest in browser choice.

15 Responses to “Google tipped off EU authorities over Microsoft’s $732M browser boo-boo, report claims”

  1. Garett Rogers

    How long until Apple is accused of being a monopoly? Apple doesn’t give users the option of choosing the default browser on iPhone or iPad. That is worse than what Microsoft did to be deemed a Monopoly.

  2. The point seems to be, not that anything said by the previous commenters is wrong, rather behind these justifiable steps is a strategic shift to increase hostilities. There is a lot at stake for Microsoft as it seems to be failing to gain traction outside of its historic areas of revenue. And a number of Google’s business decisions seem to more directly threaten the profitability of competitors rather than directly contribute to their own profits. The thesis of the article seems well justified. I would like to hear more analysis of the art of war between Microsoft and Google.

  3. Fourthletter58

    “Google’s decision to suddenly yank Exchange ActiveSync support for Windows Phone owners who use Gmail services”

    Not quite their license to use activesync in Gmail expired and they refused to renew it because it cost them money to do so when both Google and Apple support open source alternatives.

  4. David Meyer

    I did say each of the actions I referred to — this tip-off included — can be judged separately on its own merits. As it happens, I would have done what Google did in this case.

    However, I do think there’s an overall picture emerging, and it’s not pretty.

    • Fourthletter58

      An overall picture ? Where have you been for the past 15 years ? Microsoft have been waging a war against Google – Don’t forget the inside MS joke – Bing – Because it’s not Google!

  5. Wow, you are totally overreacting. As Google is the creator of Chrome (a point that you neglected to mention but probably most people would realize instantly), Google stood to benefit in terms of market share from the EC’s original decision. If somebody noticed that Microsoft wasn’t complying with the ruling and then told Google, what the hell is Google supposed to do about it? Obviously Google lacks standing to discuss this one-on-one with Microsoft, since the decision was between the EC and Microsoft. Google would naturally inquire of the commission if the situation was being properly addressed. That is hardly an act of war.

  6. James Wester

    What?! Microsoft was hit with a fine for failure to meet an obligation, an obligation it agreed to because of its antitrust practices. The companies most affected by those practices ARE OBLIGATED BY GOOD SENSE TO ENSURE THAT MICROSOFT FOLLOWED THE RULES. Of course they told the responsible law enforcement agencies. Who else is better suited to know what’s going on than the parties being injured?

    What an utterly ridiculous assertion that it had to do with someone just being “nasty.”

    Can you imagine someone saying, “Gee, Mr. Stalker, so sorry for calling the police on you for disobeying that restraining order. I was just being nasty.”