Parliamentary questions 4 March 2011 E-002007/2011
Question for written answer to the Commission Rule 117
Jens Rohde (ALDE)
On 8 February 2011 a review of the free software program ‘Ubuntu’ was broadcast on ‘Gratis og helt Ubuntu’ in the programme ‘so ein Ding’ on the Danish TV channel DR2*.
According to the review, the software program Ubuntu was quite satisfactory and considered to be comparable to Windows and Mac OS. But when users buy a computer in the EU, Microsoft is preinstalled. Users therefore have to remove the preinstalled Windows in order to install Ubuntu. This means that they are not free to choose which software program they want to install and use on their computer.
Tying two separate products may have an anti-competitive exclusionary effect on the tied market, because it can reduce the number of potential buyers in the market for the tied product (see TFEU Art. 102(2)(d)). In a related case — T-201/04 of 27 September 2007 — the Commission found that Microsoft had abused its dominant market position in PC operating systems by tying Windows to Windows Media Player.
This leads me to ask the Commission if it believes that, or will consider whether, the sale of computers with preinstalled Windows hinders competition as regards software programs? If so, will the Commission then consider putting an end to the preinstallation of Microsoft Windows on computers?
E-002007/2011 Answer given by Mr Almunia on behalf of the Commission (7.4.2011)
Microsoft’s behaviour could infringe EU competition rules if Microsoft were to implement anticompetitive agreements that foreclose competition or abuse a dominant position on the relevant market(s).
It should be noted that Microsoft is not present on the PC hardware market. It is primarily the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), who act as intermediaries on behalf of end users, and provide them with an “out-of-the-box” product, by combining PC hardware, client PC operating system and applications for which there is demand.
The Commission is aware of the difficulties encountered by consumers who want to purchase a PC with a non-Microsoft operating system or without any operating system at all. At the moment, the Commission is however not in possession of evidence suggesting that this is the result of practices in violation of EU competition rules as laid down in Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The Commission will continue to monitor the developments in this field so as to ensure that competition and a level playing field are preserved amongst all market players.