Microsoft Server Market Share Gains Irk EU Trustbuster

Nellie Kroes, the top antitrust official in the European Union (EU), told the European Parliament this morning that she is concerned about Microsoft's continued market share gains in the workgroup server market. These gains, she said, are coming three years after the EU determined Microsoft had illegally abused its desktop computer dominance to improve its station in other markets. The issue, apparently, is that the EU's attempts at curbing Microsoft's behavior have been largely unsuccessful.

"Microsoft is constantly gaining market share and that is what is worrying me in the workgroup server operating market," she said. "As a consequence of \[Microsoft's\] abusive behavior, \[the company is\] getting positive results. That's not acceptable in my opinion."

According to Kroes, Microsoft held 35 to 40 percent of the workgroup server market in 1999, when the EU first began investigating claims that the software giant was abusing its desktop OS monopoly. By 2003, Microsoft's market share grew to 60 percent and today it stands at about 70 to 75 percent. These gains, she said, came largely because Microsoft has refused to share technical information about its products to rivals.

This claim is specious in my opinion. While Microsoft has certainly abused its desktop monopoly in various ways over the years, the company has also made enormous strides in the workgroup market, which favors the simpler, low-cost, and more functional types of products that Microsoft produces. Yes, integration with its popular desktop products plays a role in this success, but Microsoft's server products are almost uniformly best-of-breed, and the company is always pushing technology down to broader markets with each release, lowering prices while increasing value. These are not the actions of a malicious abuser.

While I welcome antitrust oversight of any company as large, powerful, and influential as Microsoft, it's becoming increasingly clear that the EU's Microsoft complaints are out of line with the realities of the market and the needs of the customers the EU supposedly represents. Isn't there someone who can probe abuses in the EU's European Commission? It's time to put an end to this ridiculous charade.

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