Microsoft is caving to the EU and unbundling Internet Explorer from Windows 7 in Europe. Arguments over whether bundling a browser with Windows is anti-competitive go back many years of course, and were central to the US Department of Justice case in the late nineties. The DOJ won in court, but too late to save Netscape.
But which other vendors have lost market share when the functionality of their products became a standard part of Windows? There are numerous examples. Trumpet Winsock was a popular TCP/IP implementation for Windows 3.0, for example.
Windows didn’t always come with a built-in firewall. You had to use a 3rd party product such as ZoneAlarm.
Windows now has basic CD/DVD writing built-in, which can’t have helped the market for Nero and the like.
Application runtimes like Java – the .NET runtime comes standard with Windows.
Video editing and authoring: Movie Maker is free with Windows, which can’t help Sony Vegas products, for example.
Zip compression and extraction: building this into Explorer must have been a blow to WinZip.
Email clients – Outlook Express / Windows Mail comes free, which reduces the market for Thunderbird and the like.
Fax clients – remember WinFax? Now we have Windows Fax and Scan built-in.
Hard disk defragmentation – does Diskeeper like having to compete with utilities built into Windows?
What would Windows be like if third-parties insisted on either the removal of the competing functionality, or some sort of equal billing with user choices or OEM bundling deals (to some extent we have the latter already)? Most likely vile. We would all flee to Apple, which seemingly has no problem bundling all this stuff, or to Linux, which in many ways is designed for this kind of free-for-all.
I am no lawyer; but I can’t help wondering which other third-parties are queuing up to say, “You did this for Opera, what about us?” In fact, the EU’s January 2008 press release specifically mentions desktop search and Windows Live as other topics about which complaints were received.
Competition is good; but so too is a rich, stable and complete operating system.