Originally published: October 12, 2010
Last updated: October 12, 2010 - 2:41pm
When Europe settled an antitrust case over Web browsers with Microsoft in December 2009, it hoped to dislodge the world's biggest software maker from its dominant position in that market by requiring it to offer rivals' products. As part of that, Microsoft in March started sending software ballot screens to 200 million Windows users in Europe. The screens ask users to choose a default from a list of 12 browsers including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google's Chrome, Opera and Apple's Safari.
Six months into the process, the initiative appears to be having only a minor influence on consumers, prompting a renewed debate about the effectiveness of such antitrust remedies.
According to StatCounter, Microsoft's leading share of the European browser market fell to 39.8 percent in October from 44.9 percent in January. In 2009, Microsoft's share declined by 5.5 percentage points; in 2008 by 8 points.
Most of the decline has come amid gains by Google, which introduced Chrome in September 2008. Google's share of the European market doubled this year, to 11.9 percent in October from 5.8 percent in January.
But it is impossible, browser makers and market researchers say, to isolate the effect of the ballot from general market trends, and there is no way to measure consumer participation in the balloting or its direct outcome.
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