Irony alert

Well, if the hunted hasn't become the hunter. Or maybe it's more like the criminal becoming the cop. Or maybe it's just a sign of the shifting balance of power in the tech industry.

Whatever it is, it's funny. You might recall that Microsoft spent much of the 1990s and 2000s embroiled in legal shenanigans with competition authorities. In the 1990s, it was about its bundling its Internet Explorer browser with Windows, which makers of other browsers said was unfair. Then in the 2000s, it was about the bundling of Windows Media Player, which - you guessed it - makers of other media players said was unfair. (The idea that anyone thought there was money to be made in free PC mp3 player software seems a bit ridiculous, but hey, this was pre-Spotify.)

At one point, the browser case got so serious in America that there was rumour of splitting the Windows division of Microsoft into a separate company. But in the last few years it's been Europe which has really been the thorn in Microsoft's side. These twin cases only settled a couple of years ago, with Microsoft paying a boatload of fines, releasing a version of Windows with no media player in (which no-one bought! Great work, EU Competition Commission) and agreeing to install a browser 'ballot screen' on Windows computers in the EU which pops up when you set up your PC and asks you which browser you want. Windows 7 was also the first version where you could completely remove Internet Explorer if you wanted to.

Still, after all that hassle, you'd think the last thing Microsoft would want to do was volunteer for more meetings with the EU Competition Commission, right? Wrong. In a marvellous twist, Microsoft is now the one complaining to the Commission - about Google.

Microsoft has launched a complaint against the web giant accusing them of abusing their dominant position - exactly the same complaint others made of Microsoft - in the area of web search. They say Google have made it hard for Microsoft's Bing search engine to properly index YouTube pages; stopped YouTube from working well on Windows mobile phones; and forced businesses to only use Google search boxes on their pages. Those are all pretty serious, if they're true. They're also complaining about Google's plan to index out-of-copyright books for reading on the web, and its refusal to allow businesses to export information they collect through Google on the success of their advertising campaigns.

It's the usual mixed bag of serious and not-so-serious allegations, and it'l be extremely interesting to see how the EU Commission responds - especially given that its former target is now the complainer. And the stakes are high - the EU Commission has the power to issue eye-watering fines. The Windows Media Player case wound up costing Microsoft nearly £600 million - and that's before legal fees...

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