Anti-Trust is Anti-Consumer

Yes, for those who are counting, this is something like post number 157 on the mismatch between anti-trust myth and reality.  The myth is that it is about protecting the consumer.  The reality is that anti-trust is an opportunity for companies to get the government to sit on their competitors:

In their new version of Windows dubbed "Vista," Microsoft has included a number of useful features that has several companies rattling the anti-trust sabers once again.

For instance, Adobe Inc., creators of the widely used PDF
document standard, object to Microsoft's built-in functionality that
gives users the ability to create PDF files without having to use
Adobe's own software.

Real Networks, per usual, is protesting that Microsoft is integrating media playback capabilities in the form of Windows Media Player 11, which competes directly with Real Player.

And now Symantec, developers of anti-virus software, is complaining that Microsoft will include their own firewall, which could lower sales of Symantec's own solutions.

And as mentioned above, all three of these firms are appealing to regulators to "solve" what they see as anti-competitive business practices to prevent their sales from eroding.

Surely then, it is only a matter of time before software firms that
make calculators or solitaire protest the inclusion of such services
into Windows. Is not the native support of the English language (and
dozens of others) a clear and present danger to third-parties eeking
out a living?

Soon thereafter, perhaps boutique's specializing in steering-wheels
and headlights may begin to sue automobile companies for integrating a
steering-wheel and headlights into cars. And no one should forget about
those built-in cassette and CD players.

It's hard to see how consumers are hurt by getting more free functionality in their operating system.  Of course, the companies above will work very hard to get the government to require that you pay extra for these components. 


  1. Max Lybbert:

    That non-monopolist Apple is doing the same thing. I don't know of any moral obligation Microsoft has to make sure Adobe, RealNetworks, Symantec, etc. can charge for their products.

  2. Greg:

    It's not always an apples to apples comparison. PDF is an Adobe product and they're entitled to licensing fees, if they're willing to license it. That's not the same as offering a media player that plays generic media files. Real Player's complaints would be more plausible if their own products didn't also support all sorts of media file types. Similarly, there's a difference between Microsoft offering firewall functionality for free as opposed to offering Symantec's firewall for free.

    No matter what Microsoft does, it's going to have its detractors. That comes from having a 90% market share.

  3. Matthew Brown:

    It's notable that most of these things are already there on competing operating systems, such as Apple's Mac OS and most consumer versions of Linux. In the case of PDF, Apple has a license (OS X's Aqua is based on PDF), but otherwise most of the same things apply.

    Greg, PDF is a documented open standard, developed by Adobe but as far as I know unencumbered by patents. This has given the format wide adoption. It's a bit cheeky for Adobe to now complain; I doubt that Microsoft's version is based on any Adobe code. More likely, it borrows from open source PDF generators.

    Nobody has a right to customer lock-in. It's notable that these claims about 'microsoft monopoly' are actually about microsoft breaking THEIR monopolies ...

  4. Nosmo:

    As long as Microsoft follows the PDF standards I can see no problem.
    I worry about an 'enhanced' PDF that has macros and all of the associated security holes that would follow.

    Adobe is emulating Microsoft with security holes in Adobe Acrobat Pro, We do not need the possibility of malicious payloads in the documents.

  5. Xmas:

    Your analogy is wrong.

    The software manufacturers are worried that Microsoft's products will be embedded into the operating system, making it impossible to install their products without damaging the workings of the operating system.

    A car based analogy would be car stereo manufacturers complaining because the tires on Ford cars fall off because the original AM and 8-track radio has been replaced, where 80% of all cars sold are Ford cars.

    These software companies aren't fighting to quash a competitor as much as they are fighting to keep the reputation of their core businesses from being sullied by actions of another company.