Will Microsoft Face the Ire of Antitrust Regulators for Windows 8?

Microsoft is undoubtedly hindering third party apps by failing to provide a level playing field. However, Apple has been doing the same thing for ages and has been getting away with it. Sure, a lot of people believe that what Apple is doing is also immoral, but so far it hasn’t faced any sanctions or fines for being anticompetitive. The reason behind that is Apple isn’t a monopoly. When the iPhone was released it was a new entrant in a market with plenty of competition. Even now, the iPhone isn’t a monopoly. While the iPad managed to gain a huge lead in the tablet space, new devices like Amazon Fire have managed to sell quite well. Similarly, in the tablet space, Microsoft currently has no presence. Far from being a monopoly, Windows 8 for ARM is the underdog. As a result, no matter how unfair Microsoft’s restrictions for ARM devices are, they aren’t in any danger of being pulled up by the courts for it. However, there is another issue that might cause Microsoft serious pain.


On Windows 8 for x86, application developers are free to leverage both WinRT and Win32 APIs, and this is preciously what Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are going to do in their Metro editions. In fact, developers can eschew WinRT by sticking to a classic desktop app. Now, while Windows 8 Store will allow desktop apps, Microsoft had earlier stated that “Store policy and various runtime restrictions automatically exclude certain types of apps”. Does this mean that browser apps will be discarded? No one is quite sure yet. However, if it turns out that browsers like Firefox and Chrome can’t be submitted to the Store, then Mozilla and Google will have a potent weapon to attack Microsoft with. The Store is very tightly integrated with Windows 8, and will become the primary avenue for most users to install apps. Barring third party browsers from the Store of Windows 8 for desktop, which is a monopoly, might prompt regulators to take another long and hard look at Microsoft’s policies and practices.

The situation around third-party apps in Windows 8 is far from being clear. There are still quite a few unknowns at play. It will be interesting to see how serious Mozilla and Google are about pressurizing Microsoft. Somewhat surprisingly, when contacted, Opera refused to comment. Historically, they have been one of the most vociferous opponents of Microsoft’s practices. Back in 2010, they forced Microsoft to offer a ballot screen for browsers in Europe. My personal belief is that while Microsoft’s restrictions for ARM are unfair to third-party developers, there isn’t much they can do about it. However, if Windows 8 for desktop also restricts developers directly or indirectly, then Microsoft might land up in trouble.

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Pallab De

Pallab De is a blogger from India who has a soft spot for anything techie. He loves trying out new software and spends most of his day breaking and fixing his PC. Pallab loves participating in the social web; he has been active in technology forums since he was a teenager and is an active user of both twitter (@indyan) and facebook .

  • I suppose Microsoft took offense to IE being labelled as “Chrome , FX download tool” repeatedly, over and over, again and again, in millions of websites, all around the world :P

  • I only hope this is not the browser before the legendary and awesome Browser like longhorns for winXP and Vista to Win7. if they stick to their plans and at this rate they will only end up screwing themselves over again!

  • Unfortunately Microsoft is leaving behind the type of environment that made them the success that they are. Leaving out my personal opinion that Metro UI on Desktops is no step forward and that Microsoft really fumbled with the development of RT(lacking the one feature that would have guaranteed my purchase of one of their new tablets, backwards compatability), I think that they could have developed Windows 8 and made it wildly successful without imposing restrictions. Instead embracing the free level of deveolpment that companies and distributers have enjoyed for decades. They seem to think that they need to fix stuff in areas that don’t need to be fixed, and that they are failing in areas that they are not. Balmer’s statement that they won’t be out innovated anymore is a little confusing because adopting the business practices of your competitor isn’t innovation, it’s adoption; and the wrong direction for Microsoft going forward. They are doing everything that will make it harder for them to get the market share that they are seeking. At least in my opinion anyway. I only know that everything that they have done, doesn’t impress me, and definitely won’t make me purchase any of their devices when they hit the market.

    They are abandoning choice for control and that embodies everything that I don’t want to see in a new product.