Once upon a time Europe was a collection of small countries and cultures, with two dozen independent currencies and as many languages, regulatory bodies and plug configurations.
As a result nobody really paid much attention to Europe in the global sense, though economic powers like Germany, the U.K. and France had always demanded a certain amount of respect on the international stage.
Now, more or less united under the European Union, Europe is a force to be reckoned with. The Euro, a single currency for the EU, competes directly with the U.S. dollar, Yen, Yuan, and is doing remarkably well. The EU also represents a combined population of about 460 million — dwarfing the U.S. population — with a unified approach on matters such as trade, agriculture, industrial regulation, and some matters of international law.
It also makes the European Union, whose residents enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world, the world’s largest economy in terms of combined Gross Domestic Product.
With all this going for it, Europe has become one of the world’s leading high tech consumers, and is starting to flex its muscles in that department. When it comes to issues like Microsoft’s antitrust issues, digital rights management, Internet regulation, and corporate management, The 25-nation EU’s position on various issues now carries more weight than any independent country of Europe ever had, and in some cases more weight than the U.S.
One recent example of the EU flexing its muscles was over Microsoft’s soon-to-be-released Vista operating system, with the EU voicing concerns that some bundled elements of the program (namely the built-in security system) will run afoul of antitrust laws. Microsoft has been fined heavily in the past ($357 million) by the EU for bundling programs like Windows XP with programs like Windows Media Player, effectively cutting other players out of the marketplace.
Given the EU’s rising dominance, it was a bit of a blow earlier in the month when Sony announced plans to delay the release of the PS3 in Europe until March of 2007, instead focusing its downsized November launch on the U.S. and Japan. With construction delays, there just weren’t enough consoles to go around.
Of course European gamers were outraged by this development — individual European countries had always waited longer than much of the rest of the world for new consoles and games in the past, which was something people accepted given the range of languages and complex systems of tariffs, taxes and laws.
Now that they’re united under the EU, the world’s leading economic power, gamers are demanding a little more respect.