The Microsoft Browser War

Alber & Geiger’s advocacy secures existence for U.S. tech firm in Europe

Alber & Geiger had to deploy its commercial intuition in order to safeguard competitive entrepreneurship, and the effectiveness of the internal market. The firm was faced with the challenge of protecting Flock, a medium sized entity, with a fledgling web-browser, from the overwhelming market influence of Microsoft. In the backdrop of its significant economies of scale, Microsoft was using its market presence to tie its web browser, Internet Explorer to its dominant client PC operating system. This led to accusations by the Commission that it had infringed competition rules.

The compromise that would have blocked the market

Microsoft reacted by proposing a limit on the access of browsers with a market share higher than 0.5% by means of a ‘ballot screen’. The Commission was ready to accept this proposal to close the antitrust case. Flock would not have been part of the ‘ballot screen’ which would only have coverd the “big guys”. Flock was not a party of the antitrust case either. So Flock contacted Alber & Geiger with 2 months notice to block the agreement betwenn the Commission and Microsoft and get them into the ‘ballot screen’. Flock was at risk of being blocked out of the market.

The arguments against the Microsoft solution

ag-wins-map-browserwarThe strategy employed an intricate methodology that encompassed a broad range of interconnected provisions and communications. It utilized the composition of technical and soft law instruments that required Alber & Geiger to speak the Commission’s language. It outlined that Microsoft’s solution would have amounted to an oligopoly. In doing so it demonstrate that, by its very essence the ballot screen proposal was contrary to the Commission’s 2010 goal for open and competitive communications markets. The close co-ordination between our litigation and lobbying departments created a nexus of effective communications and activities that proved to be decisive.

Flock in the ballot screen

Sophisticated and a pleasure to work with
Shawn Hardin- Chairman & CEO, FLOCK Inc
Alber & Geiger was able to keep its clients innovative business services available to consumers. Microsoft consequently, had to revise its ‘ballot screen’. Its new proposed ballot screen would allow consumers to choose from a number of 12 suggested web browsers. These included Flock and other alternatives. At the end of the day, the firm played a crucial role in supporting entrepreneurship and innovation in a market that was witnessing strong forces of standardization. Alber & Geiger’s culture incorporates the current of the digital age into its entrepreneurial values. We try to bring this culture into all of our activities.