Microsoft, a convicted monopolist

IKT slide

A couple of week ago I gave a presentation for the Danish Counsel on Information and Communication Technology (IKT-rådet) which has as its chairman the Danish Minister of of Science, Technology and Innovation.

My presentation was about digital infrastructure and the importance of open standards for innovation and competition. One of my key points were that Denmark should seek to secure the use of open standards in all areas of digital infrastructure to support a new vibrant IT industry based on open source software, web applications and so on. I contrasted such an approach to the current policy of the Danish government that seems to highlight as one of the main achievements that Microsoft has established an after Danish measures large research and development unit in Vedbæk, north of Copenhagen, on premises which were previously home to Navision software acquired be Microsoft some years ago.

As part of my presentation one of my slides (the one in the picture above) read in Danish “More development centers for American monopolists?” questioning the current government policy.

After my presentation, which admittedly was provocative, I was approached by Jørgen Bardenfleth, who is the CEO of Microsoft in Denmark and a core member of IKT-rådet. Jørgen Bardenfleth is a very competent and sympathetic person but he made it clear to me that he thought that it was unfair that I had referred to Microsoft as a monopolist.

After the meeting I gave the remarks by Jørgen Bardenleth some second thoughts; maybe it was unfair to refer to Microsoft as a monopolist. Maybe, I had stepped over the line. Then I, however, I recalled a recent Economist leader:


and in particular I remembered the following quote (the italics are mine):

…its market share falls far short of the 90% that Microsoft boasts in desktop operating-systems and office-productivity software; and it is not a convicted monopolist. So to call Google the new Microsoft is, in many ways, unfair…

Then there was also the recent news that European Union regulators on 27 February 2008 fined Microsoft a record 899 million euros, or $1.35 billion, for failing to comply with sanctions. In essence, this huge fine was imposed due to Microsoft’s record of noncompliance with the Commission’s March 2004 decision.

I think that all these facts tells us that we are dealing with a hard core monopolists. And it is important to remind everybody that Microsoft is a monopolist. In particular, governments have to take this very seriously when they are considering the credibility of Microsoft’s constant flow of PR about that it is as a company is committed to openness. Governments should be very sceptical about adopting Microsoft’s OOXML as an open standard to be used in the public sector.

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