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22Apr/110

Pre-installed Windows and competition in the European Union

Did you manage to buy a new computer (desktop or most commonly a laptop) and avoid paying for the pre-installed Windows, even if you do not intend to use it? Even if you already have a license (such as with those MS Academic licenses from your school)?

Let's dig some numbers for Europe.

StatCounter statistics for the use of Linux in Europe

StatCounter statistics for the use of Linux in Europe

According to StatCounter, in Europe about 1.15% of the Internet users use GNU/Linux.

According to the Internet World Stats, in 2010 there are about 475 million Internet users in Europe.

Therefore, the Linux users in Europe (EU) amount to 1.15% of 475 million = about 5.2 million Linux users.

Let's assume that 5 million of these Linux users in the EU ended-up buying a computer pre-installed with unneeded Windows software (Windows XP, Vista or 7, and maybe Microsoft Works). In addition, let's assume that the cost of the unneeded software is €50, which is a heavily conservative value since the unsubsidized price for Windows Home Premium 7 is about €70 (ex. tax). These figures bring the minimum cost that the 1.15% of EU consumers probably paid without any need to 5 million users * €50 / user = €250 million and most probably much higher.

What can we do about this?

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure and the French speaking Libre Software Users' Association started an initiative, “Share your operating system bundling tales with the EU”, where consumers can report competition problems that affect them.

Here is the press release,

Berlin, Paris Apr 14th 2011 -- The FFII and AFUL ask consumers affected by operating system bundling or businesses involved in bundling to provide their evidence to the European Competition authority.

My choice is Debian GNU/Linux, explains FFII Vice president René Mages. Why have I been compelled to pay and erase Windows 7 at purchase time?

The European Commission admits it was 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. But they also say they lack evidence suggesting that this is the result of practices in violation of EU competition rules.

We want to crowd source the collection of evidence, says AFUL's President Laurent Séguin. If the EU finds anticompetitive agreements that foreclose competition or abuse a dominant position on the relevant market, that would be a magic bullet.

So, what we can do is visit the European Commission Competition website and report our experiences in buying computers while being forced to get pre-installed Windows although we do not need it.

Let's look at the form,    DISCLAIMER: These are my personal views on how the form could be filled in. If there is a mistake/ommission, please write in the comments and I'll correct.

Fill in your details

Fill in your details

Here just fill in your details. You can also select the appropriate language at the top-right drop-down menu.

About which undertaking or group do you wish to inform?

About which undertaking or group do you wish to inform?

Here you mention that you want to talk about Microsoft, and about one or more computer manufacturers that you where unable to get a computer without pre-installed Windows. It is the lack of choice when buying a new computer. We need choice for the operating system of the computer we plan to buy. For computers, the need of choice for the operating system is critical, as there are viable alternatives such as Linux, which about 5 millions EU citizens already use.

2. To what economic sector is your information related?

2. To what economic sector is your information related?

This is an easy one, select Information technology (computers, softwares).

What is the matter about which you inform? When did it come to your attention?

What is the matter about which you inform? When did it come to your attention?

  1. You can talk about the inability to find a suitable computer for your needs that does not come with pre-installed Windows.You might use another operating system such as GNU Linux or you might already have a Windows license (due to an academic program from your school).
  2. If you have a personal experience to share regarding a computer manufacturer and Microsoft software, you can add it here. If you tried to buy a computer without Windows and you had to pay more, or go into great inconvenience, add it here.
  3. Add examples that show since when you have been faced with this issue.
4. What result do you hope to achieve?

4. What result do you hope to achieve?

Here you can say that you want to be able to buy a computer with a choice for the operating system. There are options for alternative operating systems, such as GNU/Linux or even FreeDOS (sort of a token operating system useful if you already have a Windows license).

You can also add that you would like transparency in the agreements between Microsoft and the manufacturers so that when you “build” your desired computer, you can change the operating system as you can change the type of CPU, RAM, or whether you want Bluetooth, 3G and a webcam.

Moreover, you can stress that you want to de-bundle Windows from the computer. You want transparency for the price of the operating system and ability to switch, as you can switch between service providers.

Finally, there is a special relationship between Microsoft and computer manufacturers, where the manufacturers end up promoting Windows software from their websites and advertising material, in order to receive discounts from Microsoft. This special relationship between Microsoft and the manufacturers is unfair, limits choice and hurts competition. It does not provide a level playing field to other operating systems, and the EU consumer is the victim. You would like the European Commision to investigate these agreements between Microsoft and the computer manufacturers.

Have you already contacted the Directorate-General for Competition or other national competition authorities or national regulators in order to obtain assistance?

Have you already contacted the Directorate-General for Competition or other national competition authorities or national regulators in order to obtain assistance?

Here specify whether you already contacted the EU or national bodies for this competition issue.

Supporting documents

Supporting documents

You can select whether you want the information that you provide to pass to another competition authority if this one is not entitled to deal with it. Apparently this is the competition authority for the bundling problem of Windows, therefore it is up to your discretion if you feel to say no.

If you have supporting documents, such as emails or letters that show the efforts you went through to find a computer without pre-installed Windows, you can add them here. If there are several documents, you can simply ZIP them into one.

   

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