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Microsoft, EU Reach Antitrust Accord

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the of-gift-horses-and-blind-squirrels dept.

Government 219

alphadogg writes "Microsoft appears to have reached an agreement with the European Commission that concludes an antitrust battle that has lasted a decade, Europe's top competition regulator said today. A proposal the company offered in July to address charges of monopoly abuse were dismissed as insufficient by the Commission, as well as by rivals in the software industry. But the latest iteration appears to have mollified the EC's regulator. 'We believe this is an answer,' said competition commissioner Neelie Kroes in a press conference. 'I think this is a trustful deal we are making. There can't be a misunderstanding because it is the final result of a long discussion between Steve Ballmer and me.' The new settlement offer addresses charges that Microsoft distorted competition in its favor in the market for web browsers, by giving its Internet Explorer browser an unfair advantage over rivals." The Register points out this interesting quote from the materials Microsoft released on the subject: "Microsoft shall ensure that third-party software products can interoperate with Microsoft's Relevant Software Products using the same Interoperability Information on an equal footing as other Microsoft Software Products."

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long conversation with Ballmer? (0, Redundant)

Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669473)

Wonder how many chairs Neelie had to duck before they "reached an agreement".....

It's FAKE!! (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670083)

I was told repeatedly, on slashdot and elsewhere, that offering a choice could never work. The script was to complicated, among other things. You can't download anything until the browser is installed, among other things. That Microsoft couldn't offer browsers which they didn't own, among other things.

After all those highly intelligent individuals convinced me that this browser ballot was impossible, I KNOW it has to be fake! Those screenshots are photoshopped, it's all a figment of some demented Euro's imagination!!

NURSE!! I need another pill, please!

Ahh, to hell with the pill. Screw all the astroturfers who spent all their time with wasted arguements.

Re:It's FAKE!! (2, Interesting)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670127)

don't forget the bias.

Studies and studies and studies have been done which show that placement is important, and having IE in the middle here creates a bias. Basically people will just click center very commonly.

Re:It's FAKE!! (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670347)

don't forget the bias. Studies and studies and studies have been done which show that placement is important, and having IE in the middle here creates a bias. Basically people will just click center very commonly.

It is alphabetical by vendor name, as per the EU requirement.

Re:It's FAKE!! (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670511)

I read that. I wonder if there was a better method or something that could said that would remain impartial.

Re:It's FAKE!! (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671057)

There is a better way, one which is used when conducting multiple-choice electronic surveys all the time: display them in a random order. Each vendor will then be in the optimal position for selection-without-thinking an equal number of times.

Re:It's FAKE!! (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670233)

There are many ways to download things off the internet without a browser. Take FTP for example. or iTunes. Neither is what I would call a browser. Sure iTunes has some browser aspects, but it isn't a browser. It wouldn't take much for MS to program an app that would be able to download the browser of your choice over the internet. Also, you state that "That Microsoft couldn't offer browsers which they didn't own", which is true, but you forgot a few words. Those words are "without the permission of the companies that do own them". I'm sure that Mozilla, Opera et al would love the opportunity to have their browsers in the list of available browsers with a fresh install of windows. Just educating people that there is a choice to be made is half the battle.

Steve Ballmer has little technical knowledge. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670109)

This scares me: "There can't be a misunderstanding because it is the final result of a long discussion between Steve Ballmer and me."

Steve Ballmer apparently has little technical knowledge. How can he contribute to a technological company except by deliberately making "misunderstandings". Sometimes sales is just a kind of dishonesty.

I'll believe it when I see it... (4, Insightful)

danaris (525051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669525)

If this actually happens, it will be a Very Good Thing for the world in general, as Microsoft will no longer be legally able to keep changing their protocols to break access by non-Microsoft software.

Given their track record, though, I don't believe for a minute that Microsoft will actually make all the information available in a clear and usable format. More likely they'll release some information that looks nice, to show what good boys they're being, then release some more information terribly scrambled, and keep most of the information to themselves, because by that point the EU will be paying less attention to them and they'll have to take them back to court to get them to do anything more.

Same old story.

And yes, I am a terminal cynic. Why do you ask? ;-)

Dan Aris

Re:I'll believe it when I see it... (2, Informative)

BlackSash (1420967) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669597)

That is possible, if not for the fact that if they do so, not only can the EU fire the ol' AT war machine right back up (they have lots of lovely documentation from this one just lying about they could scrutinize some more...), AND Microsoft would be breaking an actual law in plain sight. After all, it doesn't have to take a Kroes to get the word out: any lawsuit in any European country that could be connected to this anti-trust legislation and the FA mentioned 'new laws' would get instant attention from Mrs. Kroes in a heartbeat.

Microsoft will have to tread very lightly for the next 5 years to come over on the European side of the pond.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it... (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669635)

Microsoft will no longer be legally able to keep changing their protocols to break access by non-Microsoft software.

How do you get that? The quote doesn't mention anything about stability or legacy.

"Microsoft shall ensure that third-party software products can interoperate with Microsoft's Relevant Software Products using the same Interoperability Information on an equal footing as other Microsoft Software Products."

Which means "Hey - sorry we broke your apps with SP1. Here's the new API. Have fun."

Re:I'll believe it when I see it... (1)

nberardi (199555) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669767)

Agreed. The agreement between the EU and Microsoft states that they just have to provide all the same API's publically that they use internally. There is nothing about legacy support.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it... (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670013)

Agreed. The agreement between the EU and Microsoft states that they just have to provide all the same API's publically that they use internally. There is nothing about legacy support.

It doesn't even go that far. They just drew up a "template" contract that MS can use when working with other companies that would grant them the rights to use the same APIs as some MS application, for a non-specified subset of the applications MS creates. Basically, it is a "we're not breaking this antitrust law with this product to disadvantage this competitor" contract designed to speed up civil lawsuits if MS does sign it and break it, but which will not be applied in any instances where MS has wiggle room to fight in court. They'll probably sign a version of it with Opera for the Web browser market where they're already pretty screwed, but when it comes to office suites or media players, who knows.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it... (1)

drbinofski (1650115) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669887)

If this actually happens, it will be a Very Good Thing for the world in general, as Microsoft will no longer be legally able to keep changing their protocols to break access by non-Microsoft software.

Given their track record, though, I don't believe for a minute that Microsoft will actually make all the information available in a clear and usable format. More likely they'll release some information that looks nice, to show what good boys they're being, then release some more information terribly scrambled, and keep most of the information to themselves, because by that point the EU will be paying less attention to them and they'll have to take them back to court to get them to do anything more.

Same old story.

And yes, I am a terminal cynic. Why do you ask? ;-)

Dan Aris

They can't seem to produce their software in "a clear and usable format" so I fail to see why information about their software should do anything but follow suit :)

Re:I'll believe it when I see it... (4, Interesting)

Tom (822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669943)

Actually, I'm not too sure.

The EU antitrust body is a beast with teeth, and a lot more difficult to buy out than the US equivalent. Their power comes in large part by their demonstrated ability to battle and win against even the largest multinational corporations. They will not risk losing that reputation, and their fight with MS is being watched by players outside the software industry.

I don't think they'll allow MS to play them for fools. If Balmer tries (and yes, I'm as certain as you that he will), they will smack him up fast and hard, because they know everyone they'll have to fight in the next 10 years is watching.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it... (2, Interesting)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670595)

Currently I never attribute to incompetence alone what is their brilliant mix of incompetent malice. I place more faith in MS's ability to be evil than the patience of even the EU commission.

The EU thinks it has at least a Draw. MS will Shatnerize the Kobyashi Maru and announce it is playing some other game entirely. "Why yes, we'll support all relevant software. However, since we officially are ending support for XP on (___ date), then XP is no longer relevant, so we won't bother to make that interoperable."

Re:I'll believe it when I see it... (4, Informative)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669985)

"Microsoft shall ensure that third-party software products can interoperate with Microsoft's Relevant Software Products using the same Interoperability Information on an equal footing as other Microsoft Software Products."

This is similar to the terms of the US settlement from a while back. The promised to document all protocols and interfaces. So we can already see if they would live up to the new promise.

Before the US settlement they didn't publicly document all of their protocols. After the settlement they published many Word documents online, but for most you had to agree to incredibly restrictive terms to download them. IIRC they also charged money for some. And back then you had to purchase Word (or Windows and download a free Word viewer) to read the specifications.

Then, as expected, they continued to change their protocols and interfaces. So even if you did keep up with all the documents you couldn't possibly keep up with Microsoft's own interoperability.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it... (2, Informative)

ciderVisor (1318765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670105)

And back then you had to purchase Word (or Windows and download a free Word viewer) to read the specifications.

Couldn't you open it in OpenOffice.org under Linux ?

Re:I'll believe it when I see it... (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671203)

And then they implemented .docx and .pptx. And then the free software world adapted. And then they will implement something else. And so on.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it... (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670145)

"Microsoft shall ensure that third-party software products can interoperate with Microsoft's Relevant Software Products using the same Interoperability Information on an equal footing as other Microsoft Software Products."

This is similar to the terms of the US settlement from a while back. The promised to document all protocols and interfaces. So we can already see if they would live up to the new promise.

Well sort of. The US settlement applied only to APIs for interaction between Windows server and desktop versions and only for a limited time. A group was appointed to check on this and if MS was in non-compliance (as they have been several times) the courts had the power to keep watching them while doing nothing even longer.

The EU agreement just created a template contract for MS and a competitor to sign, where MS will agree to provide the same APIs to a competitor that it uses itself. MS, of course, gets to decide when it will sign such a contract and what modifications it will make for a given case. It's more of a guideline MS can use to promise not to break antitrust law for a specific competitor in order to "prove" compliance with antitrust law in that specific instance and speed along a civil case if they are breaking antirust law there.

Both are pretty worthless in the general case.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it... (3, Informative)

jonwil (467024) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671143)

According to the SAMBA team, Microsoft has actually been fairly open (both in terms of providing docs and in terms of providing info/answers/clarification) when it comes to the protocols SAMBA deals with.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29671163)

Being a terminal cynic isn't good for you. This is a good deal, possibly even comparable to the way Microsoft was reined in by the DOJ some years ago.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29671269)

If you're not a cynic, you're not paying attention

You've got to be kidding! (5, Interesting)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669535)

'I think this is a trustful deal we are making. There can't be a misunderstanding because it is the final result of a long discussion between Steve Ballmer and me.'

I don't know what's worse - the possibility that he could be so naive, or the probability that this is a backroom deal, and we are never going to know the whole story.

Re:You've got to be kidding! (3, Informative)

psYchotic87 (1455927) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669585)

I don't know what's worse - the possibility that he could be so naive...

This is as good a time as ever to let you know that Neelie Kroes is a woman

Re:You've got to be kidding! (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669693)

Whoops - somehow thought Neelie was a last name.

Probably a dyke anyway.

[/ducks]

Re:You've got to be kidding! (2, Funny)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669893)

Well, she *is* Dutch. They have something with dykes.

Re:You've got to be kidding! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670537)

Please. Everybody knows that Dutch boys have no trouble plugging holes in dykes.

I trust Steve Ballmer . . . (0, Troll)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669817)

There can't be a misunderstanding because it is the final result of a long discussion between Steve Ballmer and me.

. . . as far as I could throw him.

Re:You've got to be kidding! (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669851)

Well, it's nicely symmetric since we don't know the whole story on how this all started either.

Good timing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29669557)

Now that the new competition commissioner is about to be chosen, I am sure that closing the case for all appearances is exactly what they want, for the moment. In particular, lobbying for the choice of an friendly competition commissioner is a lot easier if you don't have any open competition cases pending. Once they have a more agreeable competition commissioner in place their tune will change.

still can't uninstall Iexplorer (4, Insightful)

viralMeme (1461143) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669571)

'This proposed measure ensures that PC manufacturers will continue to be able to install any browser on top of Windows and make any browser the default. It also ensures that PC manufacturers and users will be able to turn Internet Explorer on and off [microsoft.com] '

And with 'search' going to be directly embedded into the applications, the 'choice' of browser is going to become moot.

That will never be possible though (1)

KlaasVaak (1613053) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669633)

Microsoft would have to restructure a part of their OS to make that possible but with 'turning IE off' you can effectivly hide IE from the user completely so it's not a bad deal, the average user will never know it's still there.

Re:That will never be possible though (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670151)

Microsoft would have to restructure a part of their OS to make that possible but with 'turning IE off' you can effectivly hide IE from the user completely so it's not a bad deal, the average user will never know it's still there.

Also, and please correct me if I'm wrong, but don't Microsoft Update and Windows Update require the use of IE?

Re:That will never be possible though (1)

clarkn0va (807617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670313)

Microsoft would have to restructure a part of their OS

So Vista was just a tweak?

Re:That will never be possible though (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671299)

Unless they try to use MSN Messenger. I locked down my activex and scripting functionality for IE, and installed a Javascript debugger. I get no end to the messages from MSN Messenger, because it is trying to run some script, or display some active x control, or run some buggy javascript, because it's trying to use IE to do so.

Re:still can't uninstall Iexplorer (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670943)

But who cares? So what if the internal OS functions use IE to do internal OS stuff, like browsing folders or what have you?

If the issue is *web browser* stuff, then that should be confined to *browsing the web* - right? And if they turn off IE to *browse the web* - thus allowing FF, Chrome, or what have you - isn't that what they asked for? They're not complaining that Microsoft can't use any of it's own applications for doing stuff within it's own OS. They're complaining that about the web browsing bit.

Forcing Microsoft to somehow completely remove any part of their OS that can interpret HTML because then it could be construed as a "web browser" - and thus have their own "browser" built-in - is silly. May as well decide notepad shouldn't be allowed to ship with Windows or something.

I'm all for being able to turn IE off, as a web browser. That seems relatively reasonable. But forcing them to take out all traces of HTML/"webpage" interpreting functionality seems a bit extreme.

Re:still can't uninstall Iexplorer (2, Interesting)

viralMeme (1461143) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671393)

"If the issue is *web browser* stuff, then that should be confined to *browsing the web* - right?"

As I pointed out, the choice of browser is becoming moot, which is why MS is prepared to concede room to the others on their desktop. The next big-thing is with cloud applications, software as a service .. er renting the software. So it won't matter what browser you use, you still get to pay the Microsoft tax.

"Forcing Microsoft to somehow completely remove any part of their OS that can interpret HTML because then it could be construed as a "web browser" - and thus have their own "browser" built-in - is silly. May as well decide notepad shouldn't be allowed to ship with Windows or something"

I'm not in favour of forcing Microsoft to do anything. What I am in favour of is having control of my own computer. That it takes the EU Commission to get this concession out of Microsoft quite frankly beggars belief.

Re:still can't uninstall Iexplorer (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671093)

And with 'search' going to be directly embedded into the applications, the 'choice' of browser is going to become moot.

Not necessarily, if you can replace the IE Active-X components that Windows apps use by another dll -- e.g. http://www.iol.ie/~locka/mozilla/mozilla.htm [www.iol.ie].
I doubt though that Mozilla will pull themselves together to release such a DLL, Google/Opera seem more likely (to me).

Either way, I read the 'Register'-quote from the summary as exactly that: Search has to be replaceable with other browsers. Another way is to always call the browser, and not use in-application results.

monopoly abuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29669575)

Sorry, but it's not a monopoly as long as I can buy one of these [apple.com], one of these [sun.com], or even one of these [dell.com].

Re:monopoly abuse (2, Informative)

lordandmaker (960504) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669647)

Not by your definition of 'monopoly', no. But it is by the EU's, and since they also write the laws, that's the one MS have to work to, too.

Re:monopoly abuse (2, Interesting)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669915)

Sorry, but it's not a monopoly as long as I can buy one of these [apple.com], one of these [sun.com], or even one of these [dell.com].

Believe it or not, the world does not revolve around you. The end user is not the one with no power in MS's antitrust issues here. The question is, "can Dell license OS X for inclusion on their computer systems aimed at the home and corporate markets? Can Dell install Solaris or Ubuntu replacing Windows on the systems they ship, without going out of business? No they can't, except for a few niche markets, so MS has them over a barrel. That isn't even illegal, but screwing over other markets by using the fact that they have Dell over a barrel and using that influence to control Dell to the detriment of other markets is.

Re:monopoly abuse (1)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670351)

Dell has been selling redhat on their business computers for a few years now. I would like to see more choices for the home line. The end user IS the one with no power. The end user does not decide which computers dell, hp, or anyone else sells. Those companies do. Unless that company sells no computers and all their research points to the os as the reason, nothing will change. Remember that if you buy a dell computer and have issues with it who do you call first? Most non computer people call dell first.

I would like to see as many os options available from a hardware vendor. This would tell me that their hardware is good and works well. Home level or non computer tech customer support is going to be an issue. Getting people to switch off of something they are used to is a pain.

Re:monopoly abuse (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670663)

Dell has been selling redhat on their business computers for a few years now.

Sure, for a very small, niche segment of their business customers. They cannot, however, replace Windows as the OS component on all their business PC's the way they can replace the soundcard component in all their business PC's, because if they do they will go out of business.

The end user IS the one with no power.

Not as a direct result of MS's market influence. MS sells Windows primarily to OEMs and enterprises. They sell very few boxed copies to end users. OEMs and site licensees define the market and are the ones who MS has huge influence over.

I would like to see as many os options available from a hardware vendor.

I'd like a solid gold beagle. What's your point? Is there some law you think should or does make our wishes law?

Re:monopoly abuse (1)

sifi (170630) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671409)

The only problems is lack of choice of hardware and paying a premium for another OS:

From Dell (in the UK) if you want Linux, you are limited to exactly 1 laptop; and if you spec it the same as the equivalent Windows offering it works out exactly the same price (£249).

Which kind of begs the question:
Are Dell making more money on the Linux version? Or do they have to pay Microsoft for this laptop anyway?

"There can't be a misunderstanding" (5, Interesting)

bheer (633842) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669591)

'I think this is a trustful deal we are making. There can't be a misunderstanding because it is the final result of a long discussion between Steve Ballmer and me.'

"This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine [...] We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again." --Neville Chamberlain, September 1938.

Re:"There can't be a misunderstanding" (5, Insightful)

lordandmaker (960504) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669625)

Sometimes it's appropriate to invoke Godwin.

Re:"There can't be a misunderstanding" (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671129)

Technically, Godwin requires one of the participants in the discussion to be compared to the Nazis. Comparing Microsoft to the Nazis is okay.

Re:"There can't be a misunderstanding" (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671249)

what did you expect? Someone talks about an agreement with Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates, or Microsoft and the similarities of deception, double-speak, blind followers, and wrong doings just pour out on the floor. El Diablo quite often gets brought up too but Goodwin's got the rule.

That was darn quick though, and could be a record for application of Goodwin's Law. What is the shortest thread length which was applicable? It took only the 4th comment in this case but this is /. and Mr ( El Diable ) Ballmer is well known for his sulfur aftershave lotion.

There should be a rule regarding discussions of Microsoft and Steve Ballmer and how long before "Monkey Boy" gets mentioned. That video and the pie'ing of Gates still crack me up.

LoB

Re:"There can't be a misunderstanding" (1)

diefuchsjagden (835254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671013)

this would have been a more Valid comparison if Gates still ran the show, though it is still Valid, I think Ballmer is doing the best with the hand he was dealt hes trying to turn around ~35 years of monopolistic behavior!

Re:"There can't be a misunderstanding" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29671373)

Ballmer is clearly Göring

Stupid, short-sighted decision (3, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669611)

This only affects the browser market where Microsoft is steadily losing ground anyway. The fact of the matter is that the operating system itself is still untouched and Microsoft still has no penalty for pulling more and more functionality into the OS itself.

The problem has never been just browsers or messaging utilities or office suites or default home pages. It is about how Microsoft uses its monopoly power on the desktop to stifle competitors. This could have been handled years ago except the American judge couldn't stay awake long enough to do anything but parrot the prosecuting attorney's notes.

MS should have been broken into an OS company and an apps company long ago. But it didn't happen, and we're all still the worse off for it. Trying to change anything by half-assed measures like forcing the user to choose a browser is just not going to work.

Re:Stupid, short-sighted decision (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669677)

Or maybe it's the first step towards that ultimate goal. Since MS have had to offer this ballot screen for browsers, other companies in other markets may push for the same e.g. Nullsoft pushing for a media player ballot screen.

Re:Stupid, short-sighted decision (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29669753)

Funny, i was expecting a bad analogy here but this was neither an analogy or bad: in fact this is spot on.

Unfortunately even though Microsoft has big buildings over here in Ye Olde World, it is not in fact incorporated here... I rather suspect that Mrs. Kroes would drool at the idea of getting Microsoft to split up (now there's your name in the history books!), but this is simply not something the EU Commission can do. At most it can mandate that Microsoft could no longer do business here... Which would be a very stupid decision indeed.

So this is basically as far as the Commision can go without shooting itself in the foot.

The only ones who can exert the power neccesary to get MS to break up is over on your side (yes, I'm European). Have your judges get their act together (glwt) and go spank em!
(Oh and please bring some _real_ examples of collusion and illegal trade practices... The IE debacle is soooo 1996).

Re:Stupid, short-sighted decision (1)

arethuza (737069) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669873)

Microsoft almost certainly has wholly owned subsidiaries incorporated in most countries. For example there is a "Microsoft UK Ltd". Microsoft has large teams in Dublin and various other places in Europe (e.g. aren't some of Dynamics packages written in Denmark?).

Re:Stupid, short-sighted decision (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29669849)

this is stupid. microsoft should have every right to add or remove functionality from it OS as it wants to. all monopoly legislation is is handcuffing a big company that has succeeded at its buisness and letting little companies who make inferior products(usually) take a swing at it. when microsoft adds functionality to there OS it allows me the consumer to have that with my standard software package. if you want an OS with NO functionality you should just stick with linux. oH and by the way all the other OS companies bundle different functionality with there OS its just they don't have a good enought product to compete.

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29669953)

Really. Why MUST Microsoft have that right?

Could equally say I MUST have the right to microsoft's source code.

The law says I can't. That's all.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670159)

Because it's their software, and if they want to fuck the consumer over then they should be able to! Because apparently the parent loves getting fucked over, or he's just a child who doesn't yet understand the implications of such insane actions. Self loathing consumers are the best.

Re:Stupid, short-sighted decision- ignorant poster (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671433)

right, that's why Microsoft had to go out and purchase Netscape contracts ISP's had and then pay those ISP's to ship Internet Explorer and when the browser was not purposefully scattered throughout the OS's DLL's, they use threats and coercion to get hardware OEM's to load Internet Explorer instead of Netscape Navigator.

anti-trust laws are to protect businesses from monsters like Microsoft who leverage their position to block other companies from new markets.

And FYI, anti-trust laws to not apply to companies who do not have a monopoly position and therefore do not have the power to stifle competition. So any OS has the right to do what they want as long as they are doing so legally but they don't have to worry about anit-trust laws. Those laws are so competition has a level playing field and the big bad guys can't just keep playing whack-a-mole flattening every new idea and company out there.

So unless Microsoft can actually invent something and get it onto their OS first, when they go off and start throwing other things into their OS, they have to allow other companies with similar products continue to play on that platform. Microsoft hasn't really invented much of anything on Windows and instead follows what others have done and shoves that onto preloaded computers so as long as they continue this and continue their marketshare, they will continue to be held to anti-trust laws.

LoB

Re:Stupid, short-sighted decision (2, Insightful)

sifi (170630) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670161)

I totally agree with your comment.

And why can't they sort something out about the bigger problem, namely that it is near impossible to buy a computer without any OS installed at all; so you get to choose whatever OS you want.

Just use Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29669657)

No really. I think that all legal action against Microsoft should be created using only Linux and open source software. If there are really viable alternatives to Microsoft for the vast majority of home and small business users then there should be no problem for the governments, law firms and every other MS hater to divorce themselves of Microsoft products.

The issue isn't unfair competition. Its the failure to understand that the free market has chosen Microsoft...because no has a more compelling offering for the vast majority of people. Build a better, more compelling "Windows" (availability, compatibility, supportability, pricing) and people will buy it. It hasn't happened yet and beating up Microsoft is like lynching the World Cup champions because not everyone can be that good.

Re:Just use Linux (1)

lordandmaker (960504) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669729)

No really. I think that all legal action against Microsoft should be created using only Linux and open source software. If there are really viable alternatives to Microsoft for the vast majority of home and small business users then there should be no problem for the governments, law firms and every other MS hater to divorce themselves of Microsoft products.

I imagine it'd be doable for Linux, but even if I'm wrong there, I'd suggest it's perfectly possible on OSX.

The issue isn't unfair competition.

It is. The issue is MS finding itself in a dominant market position[0], and then abusing that position. It's the abuse that's angering people, not the market dominance. The problem with abusing the dominant position is it acts to stifle competition, which slows innovation. As long as MS is seen as the only viable option, and allowed to continue to strengthen it's position as such, there is no need for MS to put any effort into being the best option. [0] Which proably was through having best-of-breed. Some would say this infers less than complimentary things about who was defining 'best' at the time. I'm not going to comment, I wasn't paying attention at the time.

Re:Just use Linux (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669779)

"The issue isn't unfair competition. Its the failure to understand that the free market has chosen Microsoft...because no has a more compelling offering for the vast majority of people."

In operating systems, you are correct. Aside from some licensing shenanigans with PC manufacturers, MS came to dominates OS's the same way Google came to dominate search - people chose it more than the competition.

Which is wholly beside the point. Having gained a monopoly in one field (nominally) legally, they then used that monopoly to eliminate competition in other areas. That is the issue here.

Re:Just use Linux (3, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670395)

"The issue isn't unfair competition. Its the failure to understand that the free market has chosen Microsoft...because no has a more compelling offering for the vast majority of people."

In operating systems, you are correct. Aside from some licensing shenanigans with PC manufacturers, MS came to dominates OS's the same way Google came to dominate search - people chose it more than the competition.

Actually, no. They became the dominant OS because IBM used MS' OS for its PC and XT. In business, "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" so IBM's PCs became dominant. By the time Compaq cloned an IBM, DOS was the standard office OS, and hardware manufacturers used MS's OS because then their machine would be "IBM compatible".

People used MS' OSes at home because 1) that's what they had a work and 2) that's what came pre-installed on their computer.

If the CP/M guy hadn't missed that meeting, and Billl Gates' parents weren't both lawyers who worked for Microsoft, chances are your PC wouldn't be running Windows now. Microsoft owes everything to IBM.

Re:Just use Linux (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670471)

"Which is wholly beside the point. Having gained a monopoly in one field (nominally) legally, they then used that monopoly to eliminate competition in other areas."

OK, so they are dominant in one area - the desktop OS market. Now which competitors have they eliminated and what specific MS actions caused that elimination?

Re:Just use Linux (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671007)

OK, so they are dominant in one area - the desktop OS market. Now which competitors have they eliminated and what specific MS actions caused that elimination?

The previous poster said they eliminated competition, not competitors. It's the same as eliminating competition by sabotaging a rival athlete's car so they can't get to the track meet or cutting their hamstring or rubbing grease on their shoes. You don't actually have to kill the rival in order to eliminate competition.

MS has dominance in the desktop OS market as you said. They have used that to gain an advantage in the web browser, media jukebox software, server OS, and several other markets. The method they used was tying, and for web browsers the specific method was bundling, the most common form of tying. Now to preclude any uninformed but common concepts you might bring up in reply: markets don't have to be direct exchanges of cash for laws or economic principals to apply; "free" is a marketing term, rather than an economics term in this case; the law applies to separate, existing markets at the time of the abuse regardless of how they are related; tying is defined in terms of markets, not of any other arbitrary grouping; tying is only detrimental and illegal when the tying is between a market with dominance and a separate market so it does not apply to OS X and Safari or Ubuntu and Firefox.

If you want more in depth discussion please make sure you understand what antitrust laws are, why we have them (historically and economically), and why markets are defined the way they are. These are basic facts you should know and understand before making arguments about specific antitrust cases.

Re:Just use Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29669923)

Linux fucking sucks.

Never had problems... (1, Redundant)

petronije (1650685) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669743)

installing Firefox on windows. What is all the fuss about?

Re:Never had problems... (1, Informative)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669811)

Never had problems... installing Firefox on windows. What is all the fuss about?

This is about antitrust tying/bundling. If you don't know what that is, I suggest you look it up or simply ignore this article as over your head.

a little too late (4, Interesting)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669771)

Microsoft's ActiveSync is already on 50 million and growing Apple devices, the Palm Pre and Google has licensed it for it's online sync service. IE is old news and MS doesn't seem to care about it anymore. Now MS owns the technology that transfers documents and email over the internet between devices.

Moonlight (2, Interesting)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669789)

This sounds like it could provide strong legal protection for anyone that wants to use Moonlight should Microsoft start to invoke patents on non-Novell users.

I don't care about IE anymore (0)

camcorder (759720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669791)

I actually don't care about IE anymore. Because it's an old story. Now only if we can get rid of ill-formed OpenXML documents and office format dominance of Microsoft, than we can declare year of Linux on desktop.

Re:I don't care about IE anymore (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670033)

You've raised an interesting point there. OOo is changing their behaviour to be more compatible with Excel - in that text cells containing values that can be interpreted as numbers can be used in calculations - and this is one of the key reasons (or excuses) why Microsoft put their formulae into a different namespace. I wonder if they will change that when the OOo change is released, and what excuse they will use if they don't.

I wonder if the real harm was ever recognized (0)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29669889)

Standards for information interchange have been a critical aspect of computing and computing devices since the very first days. ASCII was the standard for text encoding for many devices that won out over others such as EBCDIC. (Yes, I know EBCDIC still exists) but generally speaking, you could expect that there was support for ASCII for printers and terminals in the earliest pre-web days. Things were better when standards were followed, and more difficult when they weren't. Thankfully there weren't too many problems with too many patents and restricted information in those days when it came to implementing compatibility with standards.

Today it is different.

We still rely on and require standards for information interchange, but adherence to those standards are less common and cause a great many problems. Microsoft's wilful non-compliance with standards combined with wilful inclusion of methods, techniques and technologies that could or would not be duplicated by others for reasons including patents among others caused deep, long lasting, time consuming and expensive damage to an industry that would hope to rely on standards for information interchange. Why is this a problem exactly? It is a problem because the public perception is that "everything but MSIE is broken on the internet."

Some would argue that "Microsoft can write whatever software it wants!" I would argue that they can't and shouldn't be allowed because of the harm it causes the industry in general. Microsoft has used its position as the effective monopoly on the desktop to undermine the standards for information interchange and derailed the the industries that relied on them.

The remedies proposed are insufficient to remedy the problem that exists now and into the near future and does not reverse or compensate for the harm they have caused for all these years. An effective remedy should compensate for the damage caused as well as removing potential for future harm.

Microsoft should be forced to halt any further support for non-standards compliant browsers and should not be allowed to create extensions and addons that could be further used to damage compatibility with W3C standards.

If they wish to create a proprietary client for server applications, they should not be allowed to call it a web browser and should not permit it to run over the public internet and especially not over port 80/443 as it creates confusion as to whether or not standards compliant browsers are "broken" when compared to the Microsoft browser.

Further, Microsoft should be forced to pay claims against the cost of migrating the web sites that were effectively forced to deploy web design and programming based on Microsoft's broken web standards. It is not enough for the government to "fine" Microsoft. The people and entities harmed by Microsoft will never be compensated for the harm they caused which is a very important part of any remedy.

Re:I wonder if the real harm was ever recognized (1)

daid303 (843777) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670279)

Other browsers don't comply with the W3C standards and have there own extensions as well, so those should be kicked off port 80 as well then. And who judges what is compliant and what is not?

Re:I wonder if the real harm was ever recognized (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670411)

Different rules apply when you are ruled to be an abusive monopoly. When/if others out there in the market get big enough to cause harm to others by breaking standards and using means and methods that others cannot, you can expect similar responses. Market regulators (which are absolutely essential to maintaining the health of the market) say quite clearly that one should not leverage your monopoly position in one market to gain monopolies in other markets especially when it harms other players existing in that market. In this case, it is their desktop OS monopoly being used to damage the web client/server market.

Re:I wonder if the real harm was ever recognized (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670293)

Microsoft should be forced to halt any further support for non-standards compliant browsers and should not be allowed to create extensions and addons that could be further used to damage compatibility with W3C standards.

I get your point, but an absolute ban goes too far. For example, if Microsoft wanted to implement Firefox's "layerX" and "layerY" JavaScript elements for compatability, they would not be allowed to because that is a non-standard extension of JavaScript? Or, if JavaScript is a bad example, how about the Blink element? Firefox supports it, but should Microsoft be banned from doing so?

Re:I wonder if the real harm was ever recognized (0, Troll)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670483)

Frankly, yes!

If Microsoft wants to continue using their broken MSIE, they should not be allowed to use and service http. They should use a different protocol identification. There are other applications on the web that begin with things other than "http" in the URL. The same should apply to MSIE as it is not close enough to compliance. As a rule, I don't think MS browsers should be allowed to service http client or server activities unless they score at least 90/100 on the current Acid test.

Re:I wonder if the real harm was ever recognized (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671195)

You seem to be confusing HTTP and HTML. Aside from the ugly hack between IE and IIS a few years back where it skipped parts of the TCP handshake, IE conforms to the relevant HTTP standards. If it didn't, you wouldn't be able to get files from Apache with IE. HTTP is used to transfer a lot of things that are not web pages. The protocol identifier in the URL is exactly that; a protocol identifier. It does not identify the payload, nor what will be done with the payload.

Today, there's a Deal. Tomorrow? (2, Insightful)

mpapet (761907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670263)

Will anyone else be surprised when Microsoft backs out on today's agreement when they take exception to some fuzzy detail?

This is a classic delay tactic. Meanwhile the EU is conditioned to accept their misbehavior thus paving the way for more abuse.

Installing 3rd-party browsers on Windows (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670379)

Was there something in the OEM licenses that prevented PC vendors from installing 3rd-party browsers? The "settlement" spends a lot of time talking about the ballot screen for selecting browsers. But I'm not sure why another vendor could not have made their own ballot screen if they wanted. Or just install whatever browser they like.

Re:Installing 3rd-party browsers on Windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29670493)

Was there something in the OEM licenses that prevented PC vendors from installing 3rd-party browsers?

No.

Re:Installing 3rd-party browsers on Windows (3, Interesting)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670529)

Was there something in the OEM licenses that prevented PC vendors from installing 3rd-party browsers? The "settlement" spends a lot of time talking about the ballot screen for selecting browsers. But I'm not sure why another vendor could not have made their own ballot screen if they wanted. Or just install whatever browser they like.

In the past there were but that is no longer necessary. The EU did poll OEMs and ask if they were being pressured by MS before they implemented this solution. Do OEMs feel they will be discriminated against in bulk licensing if they make a different browser the default or offer their own ballot? The results of this poll were not made public, but we can infer the response based upon the EU's solution. However, even if MS does nothing at this point market forces resulting from their previous abuses will push OEMs to install IE as the default browser. This is because MS's intentional breaking of standards ala the famous "embrace, extent, extinguish" memos have resulted in a significant number of Web pages that only function properly in IE. Further, previous findings of fact in other jurisdictions have concluded this was intentional and not an accidental result of MS's actions. As a result, the state of the Web itself motivates OEMs to make IE the default and that state is the result of previous crimes.

The EU chose to make the ballot the default to minimize MS's ability to retaliate against OEMs. Until Web standards become the norm, however, any remedy from the EU will be only partially effective in restoring real competition and allowing that competition to drive innovation as it would in a capitalist, competitive free market.

Tired of the bundling argument against MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29671033)

How many years are we going to hear the whining. Back in the mid-90's, I used Netscape because it was better than IE. Then IE got better and I liked ActiveX and downloading the plug-ins directly from the webpage. Always having to go download a plugin for netscape at a different site and having to close then open then go back to the web page that I wanted to view was a pain in the ass. I know ActiveX turned out to be a curse more than a blessing but it did make life easier to surf the web.

I feel that complaining about a bundled app is stupid. Every NOS has a browser supplied with it. Linux has firefox, Mac has safari, MS has IE. If IE was written to run in linux natively and licensed with GPL, it would not be included with any major linux distro. And not because firefox is better, because browser preference is just that, a preference. You are allowed to install any browser that is available for your OS. I have heard people complain about the FF bugs caused by MS updates making it unfair. I say that the linux kernel is what's keeping my IE from running natively in my Ubuntu, Fedora, Knoppix, Suse and every other version of linux. Why not force Linux kernel dev team to support interoperabilty by modifying the kernel to support IE. Every PC manufacturer in the world seems to want to bundle their systems with apps of their choice. I know MS gave discounts and other tactics to keep netscape off the Out-Of-Box setups but they didn't stop the consumer. The consumer makes the final decision. I'm going to stop now because I am just ranting.

p.s. I was hoping that the whole linux is more secure than MS argument would die down a little bit after that 8 year old kernel bug was found. Oh well, I guess I could be wrong about other things.

Re:Tired of the bundling argument against MS (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671335)

Microsoft coercing of OEM's is one of the main reasons IE has the market share it has, in this day and age very few people have the necessary skills (or courage) to install another browser.

In the days of Netscape the average computer user was much closer to the system than we see today, and he was rewarded because the next generation browser had genuine improvements.

It is quite scary to hear how today's computer users don't see or comprehend a difference between an application and it's purpose.
IE is the internet, Outlook is mail.

I recently removed IE 8 from a computer that had ground to a crawl because of it and installed Firefox instead.
Initially the owner of the computer was absolutely convinced I had removed The Internet from his machine.

can't be a misunderstanding? that's never happened (2, Insightful)

Locutus (9039) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671051)

<b>'I think this is a trustful deal we are making. There can't be a misunderstanding because it is the final result of a long discussion between Steve Ballmer and me.'<b><br><p>

This sentence sent the hairs on the back of my neck on edge. How many times have we seen people, companies, legal systems make agreements with Microsoft only to find out that what Microsoft decided the meaning meant was completely different from what the other parties, and common sense, believed the agreement meant? The Novell / Microsoft agreement of recent which was made public the day after the signing of the agreement. Microsoft said it was about patents and Novell said it was about interoperability. To top if off, Novell people said that the patent stuff was thrown in at the 11th hour so you know this bait and switch was planned from the start at One Microsoft Way( FYI, that's the name of the street their headquarters are on ).

Good to see others are feeling the same way about this too. This does go to show yet again that legal systems are not going to protect the public from Microsoft's attack on small startup businesses, new ideas and... wait for it.... innovation. A decade of playing cat and mouse with Microsoft? Even SCO is still around so forget about the legal systems doing a thing to change Microsoft's way of doing business.

LoB

Proprietary formats (2, Insightful)

Teun (17872) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671159)

Weird, or not so weird, save for a few pdf most documents on the Microsoft site are in proprietary formats like silverlight and MS Office.

Is that how they plan to advance interoperability without hindrance?

The Usual Rubberstamp (1)

occam (20826) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671379)

The regulator is not naive. He knows he's rubberstamping, and giving a lame excuse.

If I were debugging a program and I said:

'I think this is a trustful design change we are making. There can't be a design fault because it is the final result of a long debugging session between the application and me.'

You would probably think I was crocked in the head. Long sessions usually indicate deep faults, not easy design fixes. Long negotiations don't suddenly become "trustful" just because the two parties couldn't get close enough for amicable agreement. This negotiator knows that. He's part of a scam.

In other words, he's not naive, but we would be naive to believe that this agreement is anything but a hoax, or that he's innocent of this hoax.

This agreement is not the usual rubberstamp you are looking for. Move along.

Typical European Protectionism (0, Troll)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671411)

The Browser Ballot screen is really just free advertising for Opera. Opera isn't good enough to generate buzz like the way FireFox does, so they whine to regulators... "we're europeans ...." So now they get free advertising from Microsoft. Must be nice.

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