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'No Alternative' To Microsoft Fine

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the pay-up dept.

394

An anonymous reader writes "News.com is running an interview with Neelie Kroes, the competition commissioner for the EU. She confirms that the massive fines to Microsoft are absolutely necessary, and goes into some of the commissions reasons for slapping the giant down." From the article: "Microsoft has claimed that its obligations in the decision are not clear, or that the obligations have changed. I cannot accept this characterization--Microsoft's obligations are clearly outlined in the 2004 decision and have remained constant since then. Indeed, the monitoring trustee appointed in October 2005, from a shortlist put forward by Microsoft, believes that the decision clearly outlines what Microsoft is required to do. I must say that I find it difficult to imagine that a company like Microsoft does not understand the principles of how to document protocols in order to achieve interoperability. "

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Oh boy... (5, Funny)

PixelPirate (984935) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728725)

"I must say that I find it difficult to imagine that a company like Microsoft does not understand the principles of how to document protocols in order to achieve interoperability."

You must be new here...

Re:Oh boy... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728749)

Are you sure she's a boy?

They DON'T want to be interoperable.. (3, Insightful)

giorgosts (920092) | more than 7 years ago | (#15729015)

I think interoperability will hurt the bottom line more than the fines, cause they are a multinational that operates all over the world and not just in EU. Full interoperability would obviously hurt sales of Windows licences, esp in the enterprise. And its just what the fine is about, that they are using their market share on the desktop to monopolize the enterprise sector too. Its not about security, which is a technicality and can be improved. Its all about revenue..

so... (-1, Troll)

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"There's words in this, I can't understand words!" (5, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728727)

[Microsoft's] obligations in the decision are not clear, or that the obligations have changed
to imagine that a company like Microsoft does not understand the principles of how to document protocols in order to achieve interoperability.

What's so hard to understand about this? This is a company which regards their software as "most secure ever" just before a several years of gaping security flaws are revealed and exploited. Many of the security flaws are in the gaps between divisions, where one division sees the appropriate way to validate passed paremeters is to trust everything is just peachy.

It's a cultural thing, sieze markets today, and bluff your way past the carnage tomorrow. e.g. revealing Windows security flaws should be halted by the Department of Homeland Security as it represents a threat to businesses which use the software (no liability is expressed or implied by the jokers who make billions selling it, however)

Microsoft should license rights to use those egg-headed Precious Moments figurines and release one each time they're caught bullshitting on trying to quash other markets with bundled give-aways or why some open standard isn't for the best. "Me sowwy!" It always has been and always will be about promoting Microsoft, to keep it relevent and necessary to guarantee the gravy train never ends. Thanks EU for having some balls, which the US DoJ doesn't.

Re:"There's words in this, I can't understand word (4, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728770)

The Department of Justice did at one point (I mean, they did win the antitrust case against Microsoft you know) but when the regime change occurred their priority system got readjusted. At least, that's how it appeared to me at the time.

Re:"There's words in this, I can't understand word (5, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728789)

The Department of Justice did at one point (I mean, they did win the antitrust case against Microsoft you know) but when the regime change occurred their priority system got readjusted. At least, that's how it appeared to me at the time.

Oh, obviously. It's like Bush hung out the shingle "Open for Business with Business" when the greatly watered down justice was finally meted out, and astoundingly Microsoft continues to violate even those terms with seeming impunity.

Re:"There's words in this, I can't understand word (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728855)

At least, that's how it appeared to me at the time.

Only if you ignored the appeals court ruling, which Microsoft mostly won. Bush probably did go easy on MS, but the government did not have the court rulings to impose EU-style penalties. This would have been true if Gore was elected also.

Re:"There's words in this, I can't understand word (2, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#15729017)

True, but they still managed to get themselves ruled an illegal monopoly ... it was the penalties phase that was largely altered by the appeals court.

Re:"There's words in this, I can't understand word (4, Interesting)

Tim C (15259) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728804)

This is a company which regards their software as "most secure ever" just before a several years of gaping security flaws are revealed and exploited.

They said that it was the most secure Windows so far; are you disputing this?

revealing Windows security flaws should be halted by the Department of Homeland Security as it represents a threat to businesses which use the software

I can actually see the logic in that. I do not agree with it (if one person has found an exploitable flaw, chances are someone else has or will), but it's not an entirely stupid idea on the face of it (you have to think about it to realise how dangerous it is).

no liability is expressed or implied by the jokers who make billions selling it, however

Very very few software licences do not disclaim liability, the GPL included. It's extremely hard (and time consuming, and so expensive) to create software that can be guaranteed exploit-free, and this difficulty increases as the complexity of the software increases.

Thanks EU for having some balls, which the US DoJ doesn't.

Well there's one thing we can agree on. I personally think that MS's software often gets too raw a deal here, but some of their business practices are deplorable. It's nice to see that someone finally has the guts to stand up to them and actually impose the punishment they threatened them with for a change.

How does that go? (4, Insightful)

symbolic (11752) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728729)


Something about "old dogs" and "new tricks."

At least this is a bit more than the wrist tap Microsoft received for its anti-trust violations in the US.

280m Euros (3, Insightful)

Durrok (912509) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728734)

Great, they slapped Microsoft hands for this but who is getting all this money and what are they gonna do with it?

Re:280m Euros (2, Interesting)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728778)

but who is getting all this money and what are they gonna do with it?

The problem with the EU is that they will let Microsoft drag this out indefinitely, their "diplomatic" process allows for it. The likelihood of Microsoft forking over this money is nil.

Re:280m Euros (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728824)

The problem with the EU is that they will let Microsoft drag this out indefinitely, their "diplomatic" process allows for it.

Yeah, it's too bad the US doesn't have a shot at making them comply...

Re:280m Euros (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728795)

Great, they slapped Microsoft hands for this but who is getting all this money and what are they gonna do with it?

And MS WILL find a way to recoup the money from ALL of us, their customers. That's what pisses me off about politicans, they think the fines are paid by the "executives" or the evil rich shareholders, when most of the shareholders are folks that have their retirement funds invested with the company or are just trying to make a better life for themselves. And then the politicians will use that money to buy more votes.

God! I envy such a cushy job! No wonder so many European kids want to work for the Government - plus that's the only place to to get guaranteed employment forever!

Re:280m Euros (4, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 7 years ago | (#15729005)

And MS WILL find a way to recoup the money from ALL of us, their customers. ...unless we decide not to be their customers anymore.

And exactly what's in it for "us", their customers? We get to pay a little more to cover Microsofts illegal activities? That's hardly a "critical feature" worth a premium to me.

1) This is bad press for Microsoft. Shareholders KNOW the price of products will have to go up to cover this, and they won't see any return on that increase. Prices and sales will have to rise much higher than otherwise for them to see a return. Companies KNOW they will ultimately pay the price for this, and they have better things to do with their money than pay higher prices to pay microsofts fines.

2) As the price goes up customers get more annoyed, their is no value increase, and microsoft doesn't even see a profit from it. (Even if microsoft does bundle new features in with the price increase, the value increase will still be diluted.)

3) If customers are sufficiently annoyed they will look to alternatives, and reduce their commitment to microsoft.

4) Meanwhile, competition is given a bit of a wedge. The tremendous advantage Microsoft has thanks to its entrenched monopoly is countered slightly by the burden the fines place on the company. When bidding against a microsoft burdened by heavy fines, the competition stands to profit more on any deal at a given price (or break even when microsoft would lose money, etc...) It doesn't level the playing field by any means, but its slightly more level than it was.

Re:280m Euros (4, Insightful)

xigxag (167441) | more than 7 years ago | (#15729033)

Oh, now it's the politicians' fault MS is breaking the law.

Let's say you are an MS shareholder. A company you hold stock in breaks the law, but, unconcerned, you keep your shares. After years of open non-compliance they finally get fined, a decision which was seen coming from a mi- um, kilometre away. Yet you still don't see how you have any choice or responsibility for your losses? GMAFB.

1) Consumers can choose not to buy MS products.
2) Businesses can choose not to use them.
3) Powerful shareholders can influence the board to do the right thing
4) Powerless shareholders can divest their MS stock for a company that doesn't flaut the law.

And to top it off, MS stock hasn't been doing well anyway for the past few years. Probably because major funds have already discounted the value of the long-anticipated decision in their calculations.

So bottom line, you get no sympathy.

Re:280m Euros (2, Insightful)

flacco (324089) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728839)

Great, they slapped Microsoft hands for this but who is getting all this money and what are they gonna do with it?


is that even remotely as significant as the fact that someone is finally standing up to microsoft? imagine the precendent set if large corporations could thumb their noses at the law at will in the manner microsoft is doing. (yes, i know, i know.)

insight my ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728856)


yeah and who gets the Hynix RAM price fixing money ? or the Elliot Spitzer Spyware settlements (even though the world is affected) or the Music price fixing settlements or the Music Payola fines or the Sony rootkit settlements or just about any other anti-trust/corruption filing in the USA ?

im still waiting for my cash are you ?

Re:280m Euros (2)

dabadab (126782) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728885)

Jesus, does it have to be asked in every story related to the EU vs MS saga?

It will simply go into the EU budget. The budget's size will remain the same, the member states have to pay less.

Re:280m Euros (2, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728925)

The budget's size will remain the same . . .

I see you took the blue pill.

KFG

Re:280m Euros (4, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728975)

who is getting all this money

The EU, of course.

and what are they gonna do with it?

Hookers and beer, just like always.

The more important question is where is the money going to come from?

Got a mirror?

KFG

Re:280m Euros (1)

jZnat (793348) | more than 7 years ago | (#15729036)

I don't buy anything from Microsoft (Linux user), so I'm definitely not paying for it. I build my own computers (or buy Macs), so I don't get hit with the Microsoft tax anyhow.

Good luck Microsoft (-1, Flamebait)

Bartmoss (16109) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728746)

Good luck trying to "reason" with the EU comission. Better men than you have tried. But don't worry: The EU comission is as corrupt as your next favorite politician. Although it might be too late now. The EU is also money-hungry, a sentiment you should know, and with European countries' budgets being what they are, such a fine is something they might not willingly forgoe.

Re:Good luck Microsoft (4, Insightful)

Angostura (703910) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728801)

Spendid bit of ad hominem flame baiting/trolling there. To be clear. Are you saying that the EU Commission is being "corrupt" in some way here? I'm not a fan of much of the Commission's work and its inability to get it's budget through audit for (how many?) years is ludicrous. In this case though, it appears ti have been transparent and straightforward.

Re:Good luck Microsoft (2, Informative)

LubosD (909058) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728842)

and with European countries' budgets being what they are, such a fine is something they might not willingly forgoe.
That's a lie. EU's budget is very very big, this is not a big deal for EU.

Re:Good luck Microsoft (-1, Troll)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728843)

Mod parent up! Like ANY typical government body, the EU is greedy and practices the golden rule quite frequently: those who make the rules get the gold. So, Microsoft pays out a little money and boosts prices (passing it on to the consumer) while the Euro bureacrats get richer. How does this help the computer users? Not at all. Imagine instead if they had punished Microsoft by forcing it in some way to be better to its consumers. Or imagine if they had forced Microsoft to pay this money DIRECTLY to computer users. Nope, never going to happen. The main interest of the EU is in enriching itself, not helping anyone. No way the victims of Microsoft, however they are defined, are going to see justice however it is defined.

Re:Good luck Microsoft (1)

linguae (763922) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728862)

those who make the rules get the gold

I thought the golden rule was those who has the gold makes the rules. There is a difference in meaning.

Re:Good luck Microsoft (1, Interesting)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728887)

"I thought the golden rule was those who has the gold makes the rules. There is a difference in meaning."

Your statement is also correct, and the meanings are different. Knowing both meanings, both wordings is important. It works both ways. "Those who have the gold make the rules" recognizes the reality that the rich use their influence to influence law and policy. "Those who make the rules get the gold" recognizes the reality that those in government use its unrivaled power to enrich and empower themselves. If you deny the reality of both, you aren't a civically-aware person and should really stay away from the voting booth or else you might cause some real damage.

Re:Good luck Microsoft (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728930)

But those two sayings are contradictory. Either MS has the gold and make their own rules, or the EU government makes the rules, and takes the gold from Microsoft. You can't have it both ways. Unless you have a situation like you do in the US where the people in government are often the people in control of large corporations. As far as I know, Bill Gates and Steve Balmer aren't at the head of the EU.

Re:Good luck Microsoft (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728945)

"But those two sayings are contradictory"

I said they were two different meanings. However, they do not contradict. It merely identifies two different groups which can abuse power. Too often, you get both working at the same time: the rich influencing government to act on their behalf with their money and at the same time government uses its power to enrich itself. The only way to reduce both problems, it would seem, to be to reduce the power and size of government itself.

Re:Good luck Microsoft (1)

madcow_bg (969477) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728979)

> Mod parent up! Look! The troll has a girlfriend!!! > Like ANY typical government body, the EU is greedy and practices the golden rule quite frequently: those who make the rules get the gold. So, Microsoft pays out a little money and boosts prices (passing it on to the consumer) while the Euro bureacrats get richer. O suuuuuuure... OMG ROLF DUD!!! Monopolists do not fix prices based on supply and demand. They are already at the maximum the market can pay, so they CAN'T charge more, because they will get LESS. More high-sea plundering and such... Besides, you imply that MS will NOT charge more if they don't pay the fine. Such a good idea... let's leave murderers out of jail, because they feel more inclined to kill eyewitnesses that can provide proof. I am sure the EU beurocrats care soooo much for the 230 million US$ MS will pay, that they will ignore their own anual budget of 121 billion Euros. And EU has GDP of about 12 100 billion Euros. > How does this help the computer users? Not at all. Imagine instead if they had punished Microsoft by forcing it in some way to be better to its consumers. Providing chance for the competition is the best way to ensure lower prices. If you haven't noticed, the price of the software has been rising, and for the hardware has been falling. Noooo, it is not the monopoly that gives them the chance to charge such money for the OS. > Or imagine if they had forced Microsoft to pay this money DIRECTLY to computer users. Now that is a neat idea. More than 90% of EU citizens have computers, so I suppose the money ARE going to computer users. > Nope, never going to happen. The main interest of the EU is in enriching itself, not helping anyone. No way the victims of Microsoft, however they are defined, are going to see justice however it is defined. Yes, EU's main interest is to enrich itself? Who is supposed to argue that. Just beacuse europeans prefer to be rich, not to have rich corporations doesn't mean they are stupid. Of cource, if you want another Enron to drag people (this time it may be you) down to financial death, go on. Nobody's stoping you.

Re:Good luck Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728848)

such a fine is something they might not willingly forgoe.

Well... unless, you know, Microsoft had actually just obeyed the law, or obeyed the court decision to begin with.

Then there never would have been any fine.

But, of course, that's ridiculous, since expecting Microsoft to obey the law is evil anti-capitalist statist communism.

Re:Good luck Microsoft (4, Insightful)

flacco (324089) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728850)

But don't worry: The EU comission is as corrupt as your next favorite politician. Although it might be too late now.

i see government trying to foster competition in the market. what do you see that i don't?

Re:Good luck Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728937)

i see government trying to foster competition in the market. what do you see that i don't?

That the government is evil!! Don't you see? Governments are evil! Governments are evil!! Governments are evil!!! The government just wants your money!!! Why don't you see how evil the government is??? Why do you want the government to take your money???

Re:Good luck Microsoft (4, Insightful)

d_strand (674412) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728986)

and with European countries' budgets being what they are, such a fine is something they might not willingly forgoe.

While I agree completely that the EU is just as corrupt as any other government, I would not go so far as to say they are as corrupt as the US government. I'd like to point out that while the (total) fine of around 1 billion dollars, is very large, it is ridiculous to suggest that the EU is in it for the money. The projected EU GDP for 2006 is 13888 billion USD, and 1 measly billion more is hardly gonna make the commission salivate.

Re:Good luck Microsoft (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15729022)

Two versions of 'reasoning':

EU - company found in breach of law, company fined, company chased for the money
US - company found in breach of the law, company convicted, company asked to 'play nice' and nothing else done

I'll take the EU version thanks.

If I were Microsoft... (2, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728751)

...Yes, if I were Microsoft, I'd simply have a so called "news leak" to the press suggeting that we, as Microsoft, are considering withdrawing our offending products from the European Union market. This would allow us "test" the waters and make EU officials think twice about their actions.

How about that?

Re:If I were Microsoft... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728774)

See to the answers that were given the last eleventy times that was suggested.

Re:If I were Microsoft... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728779)

Given the size of the EU market for Microsoft software nobody in their right mind would believe such a story. Besides, Microsoft has used that particular tactic so many times in the past that nobody takes it seriously anymore.

Re:If I were Microsoft... (4, Insightful)

pfdietz (33112) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728782)

If you were Microsoft, and you tried that, you might see your copyrights voided in Europe. Oops.

Re:If I were Microsoft... (4, Insightful)

Hrunting (2191) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728784)

If you were Microsoft ... you'd be stupid.

Wow, I'm trying to think of a better way to make a continent that's already antagonistic towards you migrate even faster to other alternatives like Linux. I can't do it. You're going to threaten to pull out of a multi-BILLION dollar market over some fines, alienating your customers and moving them to consider non-Microsoft solutions.

No, the good idea for Microsoft is to publicly bluster and privately strike a deal with the EU to come into compliance and pay a reduced fine. Microsoft essentially made a gamble and lost and will now minimize its losses.

Re:If I were Microsoft... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728788)

How about that? And then we can sit and watch as Microsoft's share price drops off the edge of a cliff as investors contemplate the company possibly *voluntarily* loosing a very large and profitable market. The MS share price has already taken a big beating in the last few years with Balmer in control - I don't think a total collapse would help things.

Re:If I were Microsoft... (1)

Angostura (703910) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728825)

I'd like to see MS cope with all the refunds it would have to pay out in order to remove its customers licenses. Or did you mean that Microsoft would threaten to stop selling any new products into the EU? Hmmm, I can just see that one "Yes everyone in Europe will have to continue to use XP, we won't sell Vista, or new versions of office". That certainly sounds palatable to MS, I don't think.

Re:If I were Microsoft... (4, Insightful)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728844)

..Yes, if I were Microsoft, I'd simply have a so called "news leak" to the press suggeting that we, as Microsoft, are considering withdrawing our offending products from the European Union market

Some idiot suggests this every time this case is mentioned. No matter how big a company you are, you can't fuck with sovereign governements. They can unilaterally write their own contracts, and enforce them with the full power of the state (i.e., all the way to lethal force). If they want MS software, they can take it and pay whatever they like.

In any case, they could use existing software indefinitely, while assessing the several alternatives begging for a chance to take the market. And that would be the end of MS's monopoly everywhere.

Re:If I were Microsoft... (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728873)

"And that would be the end of MS's monopoly everywhere."

No need to end that which does not exist. I've searched high and low for a place where Microsoft is the only company that offers OS, "office software", etc. I have not found it yet. Such places might exist, but they are likely very rare. Everywhere else, there is no monopoly as long anyone can and will use Linux, *BSD, OS-X, OS-9, "Open Office", etc in large numbers.

Re:If I were Microsoft... (1)

newt0311 (973957) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728962)

Mod parent up. he brings up a very good point, namely that governments are untouchable to corporations (except through the lobying/bribes of course). It would be funny but not very practical for a group of M$ engineers led by Gates/Balmer to try to stand up to a group of marines armed with machine guns, gunships and tanks.

Re:If I were Microsoft... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15729008)

...Yes, if I were Microsoft, I'd simply have a so called "news leak" to the press suggeting that we, as Microsoft, are considering withdrawing our offending products from the European Union market. This would allow us "test" the waters and make EU officials think twice about their actions.

How about that?


I would love to see it but I am biased.

You truly have no idea how quickly and thoroughly that would kill Microsoft. Put yourself in the shoes of the CTO of a large organization. Suppose you are planning on rolling out a $200M system. One vendor states outright that they intend to abrogate your contract depending on circumstances that are mostly out of your control. Do you buy from them?

Suppose the organization concludes that, despite the risk, they have no choice but to go with MS. Any organization facing that kind of risk will immediately start mitigating it. They may well, as you intimate, lobby their government to reduce the short term risk but once the issue has been raised, it is nearly 100% likely that they will be looking at medium and long term approaches such as second sourcing and in-house development. Do you think that MS really wants their customers running unsupervised bake-offs between Samba and Windows Server de jour? Do they want the customers to get smart and start writing interoperability and quality requirements into the contract with a clearly defined plan B?

I'm not saying that the companies shouldn't be doing this now just that a blatant threat will give even the most willfully dense board a kick in the pants and if it doesn't the shareholders will have every reason to sue.

Re:If I were Microsoft... (1)

madcow_bg (969477) | more than 7 years ago | (#15729012)

I have one word for you:

Shareholders.

Imagine a meeting:

the almighty shareholders: WTF happened? We lost 1/4 of our revenue, we are in the red? We won't have dividents, and the prices of the shares have plumeted 10 times?

bill or steve or another unlucky chap: But... but...

***Lightning strikes and only smoking shoes remain.***

Re:If I were Microsoft... (5, Insightful)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 7 years ago | (#15729014)

'' ...Yes, if I were Microsoft, I'd simply have a so called "news leak" to the press suggeting that we, as Microsoft, are considering withdrawing our offending products from the European Union market. This would allow us "test" the waters and make EU officials think twice about their actions.
How about that? ''

Excellent idea. The next time some government agency in Europe has to decide whether to use open source software or Microsoft software, we can just point out that Microsoft is considering withdrawing their products from Europe, so clearly Microsoft software has to be avoided at all cost to be future proof.

What? (0)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728754)

"I must say that I find it difficult to imagine that a company like Microsoft does not understand the principles of how to document protocols in order to achieve interoperability."

Said in a funny European / Clouseau accent

Legal circles? (2, Interesting)

Guanine (883175) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728762)

When does this become more than a case of he-said she-said? Microsoft claims its obligations were not clear, others claim they were. Isn't that the ideal situation for keeping this in the courts indefinitely? I have to think that we would have seen this all across the usual news channels (TV, newspaper, magazines) if this fine was really going to have teeth this time around. The whole case seems destined to simmer beneath the surface. I hope that the fine actually will be paid, but can anyone outline how that could happen?

Re:Legal circles? (2, Insightful)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728805)

MSFT paid the earlier fine on time (which they are appealing now) so I suspect they will pay this one as well but appeal the decision. So they could run the legal game but they will not profit directly from it and I suspect there is a very finite types of appeals they can file.

About the unclear obligations I think that Microsoft has one really major hurdle to overcome: their non-compliance wasn't decided by EU appointees but the person was choses from a shortlist provided by Microsoft.

Re:Legal circles? (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728861)

sn't that the ideal situation for keeping this in the courts indefinitely?

MS can appeal, but they have to pay anyway. If their appeal is successful, they'll get a refund.

Really? (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728904)

MS can appeal, but they have to pay anyway. If their appeal is successful, they'll get a refund.

Do they? Do they really have to pay? Is the EU really in a position to block sales of the worlds most "popular" OS for business? I think while it would not endure Microsoft to the EU, they would be politically unable to ban Microsoft from selling their product to Europeans.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728988)

They don't have to pay. Neither do EU courts have to recognize copyrights, patents, and other intellectual property of illegal entities. They can just decide all Microsoft software is now public domain, end-of-Microsoft in Europe.

M$ isn't a sovereign country (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728932)

When a sovereign country (or the legal representative of something like a dozen or more sovereign countries....) says you're wrong, you're WRONG.

Your characterization is the equivalent of Charles Manson saying the reason for his prison term was that he didn't understand his obligations.

Microsoft knows damn well what's expected of it, they just don't want to do it because they won't survive in an open market. Too damn bad they're fighting against the commodization of software - a type of fight no one in the history of business has ever won.

My heart bleeds.

She doesn't get it (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728763)

Neelie Kroes doesn't seem to understand the fundamentals of business. If the EU fines MS $357M, MS can simply raise the price of their European software by $357M. The net effect is that the European consumers pay the fine rather than MS itself.

Competition? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728830)

And have you heard about competition? It is out there and if Microsoft suddenly increased their prices - woohoo! On the other hand you do know that the EU commission can take action against such measures by Microsoft? You really need to do better research before you post - or at least know something on the subject before you reply.

Doesn't she? (2, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728838)

If the EU fines MS $357M, MS can simply raise the price of their European software by $357M.

They could (if the EU does not prevent them), but that would only serve to deter sales, which for large "enterprise" organizations always involve heavy discounts from the "list" price anyway. Unlikely.

But even if that happened, would it be a bad thing? Wouldn't that make Linux or other Windows alternatives look that much better?

Re:Doesn't she? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728869)

I thought Microsoft was a monopoly? How could raising prices drive their customers to the competition? Isn't that impossible in a monopoly situation? Wasn't the whole reason for the trial based on the fact that Microsoft is a monopoly and customers can't go to other competitors?

Re:Doesn't she? (1)

professionalfurryele (877225) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728977)

I think you got the GP point without realising it. Microsoft have a monopoly, and can retain it, at this price. If they raise prices they will weaken their monopoly. Having the monopoly is probably worth more to Microsoft medium and long term than retaining profitability short term. However shareholders will demand better short term performance again and again. The result being that Microsoft has to do what the EU tells it to do on account of being between a rock and a hard place. If it doesn't do what the EU says and just pays the fine, shareholders will cry blue murder. If it raises prices to offset the effects of the fine and keep shareholders happy, then it risks its monopoly position. If it does what the EU says, it risks it's monopoly, but will placate shareholders in the short term.

Re:She doesn't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728865)

If the EU fines MS $357M, MS can simply raise the price of their European software by $357M. The net effect is that the European consumers pay the fine rather than MS itself.

No, not "the European consumers," but rather "Microsoft's European customers." Yes, unfortunately Microsoft is a monopoly of sorts, so many, many people cannot easily switch to a different seller. However, "simply" raising the price of its software will hurt Microsoft's business nonetheless, and benefit the competition.

Re:She doesn't get it (4, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728867)

If the EU fines MS $357M, MS can simply raise the price of their European software by $357M.

MS has been a monopoly for a long time. When a monopoly sets prices, they do it based on supply and demand (not competition). MS could have set the price of Office at $10, which would have increased the number of copies sold, but would have still led to a net loss of revenue because the revenue per copy was so small. MS could have set the price of Office at $10,000, which would have meant more revenue per copy, but much lower sales, and again lower total revenue. Somewhere in between $10 and $10,000 is where they decided was the optimal figure. Even though MS is a monopoly, the number of sales does depend on price. At lower prices, they would make more sales in countries like Greece and Argentina, where a lot of people could afford a license, but use illegal copies instead in order to save some money. At lower prices, they would also make more sales to people who would otherwise have been willing switch to (or keep using) competing products like MacOS, WordPerfect, and OOo. At very high prices, they would retain a lot of Fortune 500 companies, but lose a lot of home users.

Since MS has already set the price of Windows and Office at what it thinks is the optimal level in order to maximize profit, it's not true that they can just raise the price in order to cover the fine, without having it cut into their bottom line. Higher prices would be less optimal for them, which is why they didn't set their prices higher before and simply reap additional profits.

Re:She doesn't get it (2, Interesting)

durandal42 (881756) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728871)

I'm not sure who here is lacking an understanding of the fundamentals of business.

Microsoft is surely already selling at prices which maximize their profit. If they were selling at a lower price, they wouldn't need a fine from the EU to convince them to raise it; they just would, because they'd make more money that way. Since they haven't done so pre-fine, what makes you think they would do so post-fine?

Of course this would be more complicated if they were being fined per copy, or per customer, or some other strange scheme, but they're being fined *per day*. The only thing MS can do to reduce their fine is to somehow operate during fewer days (?) or comply with the EU's demands and end the fine entirely. Irrationally raising prices (and thus *hurting* their bottom line) does neither of those things.

"She doesn't get it"... which of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728880)

Which of course makes her decision wrong, or what do you mean? What else could she do? On a free market you can't really prevent a company from doing that (raising prices to compensate); there are no laws against it unless it's excess (perhaps, but IANAL and not a business person either).

M$ will certainly distribute the leak troughout the product line to compensate, but what counts is not only the money they are being charged, but also the fact that they *ARE* being charged and it's public and well known and with reason. Furthermore, don't think they're going to uphold this forever, nor do i think they are willing to uphold whatever compensation they might be executing as a response forever.

If MICROS~1 isn't goint to comly SOMEtime, then EU will dig even deeper in their pockets until this really ugly evil stuff inside Microsoft sees the day of light and then we'll be talking, to use a figure of speech here.

Right now, they are still pretty naive (EU), and yes, they sure need money, but even if their agenda isn't straight-only to give M$ a kick in the butt and they have other interests there like perhaps the money itself, they are nevertheless on the right course since if, as i've already said, Microsoft won't comply sometime, they'll going to push evefn more, and might it be for the money, but M$ *will* get to feel the push either way.

Re:She doesn't get it (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728893)

So what's stopping MS from raising their prices so they make another $375 million anyway? They set their prices to maximise profits. If prices go up, number of sales go down. This means they'd make less money.

Re:She doesn't get it (1)

KitesWorld (901626) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728898)

Your assuming, of course, that raising their prices won't cause businesses to reevaluate their hardware/software solutions. Remember, Microsoft has a very real monolopy - it cannot make a saturated market more profitable, so it has to maintain good relations with its customers. If raising prices forces even a handful of customers into a competing product or products, then Microsoft has a problem. How long before those customers, or their employees, start using those products outside of that business? Before they introduce _other_ customers to that competing product? Therein lies the problem. When your market share can only go down, you have to do everything you can to retain it. Microsoft could raise the prices in the EU, but it runs the risk of reducing its monopoly within and without by doing so.

Re:She doesn't get it (1)

flacco (324089) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728905)

Neelie Kroes doesn't seem to understand the fundamentals of business. If the EU fines MS $357M, MS can simply raise the price of their European software by $357M. The net effect is that the European consumers pay the fine rather than MS itself.

if that were true, it would be a de facto admission of microsoft's monopoly power. how many other companies could simply raise their prices, arbitrarily and at will, without suffering consequences in the marketplace?

however, the fact is that microsoft has a monopoly only within a certain price range. if they were to increase their prices, say, five-fold, their market share in europe would dwindle precipitously, and linux would get the lion's share of that difference.

that would be an even greater threat to microsoft: their position is so strong because their software is almost universal world-wide. people using alternatives still elicit rolling eyes and sighs from the technologically ignorant when they encounter the odd person or three who require documents in a non-microsoft format. if that number jumped to 30% of the people they deal with on a daily basis, they wouldn't be so ignorant after awhile.

and microsoft thrives on the inertia and ignorance if its customers.

Re:She doesn't get it (0, Troll)

Jinjuku (762364) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728995)

their position is so strong because their software is almost universal world-wide. people using alternatives still elicit rolling eyes and sighs from the technologically ignorant when they encounter the odd person or three who require documents in a non-microsoft format. if that number jumped to 30% of the people they deal with on a daily basis, they wouldn't be so ignorant after awhile.


I am technically literate. I roll my eyes when some one sends me something from some 1% market share application like they are making a statement. I have a job to do, wife and kids to see. A life outside of work. Save the idealism for religion and esoteric college courses. To call ppl ignorant because they have something better to do than worry about which format is used is, well, ignorant.

Re:She doesn't get it (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 7 years ago | (#15729003)

Neelie Kroes doesn't seem to understand the fundamentals of business. If the EU fines MS $357M, MS can simply raise the price of their European software by $357M. The net effect is that the European consumers pay the fine rather than MS itself.
Likely that is what Microsoft would do. However, this isn't a smart business practice, it's short run thinking. Although Microsoft has little competition in the world of business software, such actions will affect their brand strength and will encourage customers to think deeply about alternatives. It will cost MS a few customers immediately and even more in the longer term. That's a fundamental of business too.

What do you think the EU should do instead of a fine?

And remember many many US Corporations have divisions in the EU, so this means that US citizens will be paying the fine indirectly too.

Re:She doesn't get it (1)

Bambi Dee (611786) | more than 7 years ago | (#15729032)

If the EU fines MS $357M, MS can simply raise the price of their European software by $357M.
Just wondering - why, then, haven't they "optimised" their prices for profit already?

no really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728764)

why should it be easier for a company to actually implement an interface with microsoft's software, than it is for microsoft to only document the interface with that same software?

i don't see what the issue is here. why is this even being discussed here every single time that the EU lawsuit comes up?

Is the money a big deal for Microsoft? (5, Insightful)

gluecode (950306) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728814)

I do not agree that paying up the money is a big deal for M$. It will not change it's behavior. I was at M$ one day presenting them a Field Service system. The first quest the program manager of that group asked me point blank was - "How much is it going to cost us so that you do not do this on the Palm?" This is their attitude. Money no matter. The best method to cut this monster to size is to seperate it into parts - OS and development platforms, Office apps, Business Apps.

Re:Is the money a big deal for Microsoft? (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728877)

What about the 3 million euros per day fine if they don't comply after July 31st? Will that make them blink?

What I'm wondering is how do they make them pay. MS is a US-based company so it's difficult for the UK to shut them down if they don't comply.

Re:Is the money a big deal for Microsoft? (1)

gluecode (950306) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728931)

As per my conversation with a M$ employee, M$ plans to settle for 80% of the fined amount. M$ has enough clout with individual European Union members - at the end of the day it's a matter of better paying local jobs for the EU members. Ballmer is supposedly spending most of his time on conference calls with EU members.

Re:Is the money a big deal for Microsoft? (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728959)

What about the 3 million euros per day fine if they don't comply after July 31st? Will that make them blink?

If you fine Microsoft 3 million euros a day they will run out of money in. . .never; even if they never sell another piece of software. Money already in the bank is power.

MS is a US-based company so it's difficult for the UK to shut them down if they don't comply.

Microsoft UK is based in Reading.

KFG

Re:Is the money a big deal for Microsoft? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728969)


>If you fine Microsoft 3 million euros a day they will run out of money in. . .never;

It's not about running out of money.

The fines aren't the end of law. You cannot simply pay fines as an alternative to staying out of
compliance with the law. There's a next level, where governments start arresting and jailing people
who *should be* responsible for that compliance, stripping of them of their personal assets, and maybe
even, ultimately, taking away a corporation's rights to do business within the jurisdiction of their law.

Re:Is the money a big deal for Microsoft? (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728997)

The fines aren't the end of law. You cannot simply pay fines as an alternative to staying out of compliance with the law. There's a next level, where governments start arresting and jailing people who *should be* responsible for that compliance, stripping of them of their personal assets, and maybe even, ultimately, taking away a corporation's rights to do business within the jurisdiction of their law.
How could the UK actually do any of that to a US-based company?

Re:Is the money a big deal for Microsoft? (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15729021)

How could the UK actually do any of that to a US-based company?

By sending the cops to Microsoft's base in Reading. Is it really such a difficult concept that multinational corporations have international bases?

KFG

Re:Is the money a big deal for Microsoft? (1, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728998)

I do not agree that paying up the money is a big deal for M$.

It's not about money. It's about power. A territorial pissing contest to determine who the alpha dog really is.

KFG

No Alternative for MS either (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15728820)

NO INTEROPERABILITY: This is their established mode of business.

Even this fine is nothing. Equivalent to ten days profits.

All this is is a simple tariff on doing buisiness in the EU.

Paying the fine is the most economic alternative for MS.

The Microsoft Protocol (3, Interesting)

Mutatis Mutandis (921530) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728864)

Obviously, Neelie is not a programmer and has never tried to write a program in a Microsoft environment, or even tried to figure out what their documentation is supposed to mean... If anything.

The example below is my favourite piece of Microsoftism, from the "I cannot believe that I am actually writing this" department:

IXMLDOMDocumentPtr pXML = NULL;
HRESULT hr = pXML.CreateInstance(_uuidof(DomDocument40));
pXML->async = VARIANT_FALSE;
pXML->validateOnParse = VARIANT_FALSE;
...
pXML.Release();

And yes, this compiles and works. Surely there must be other gems of Microsoft protocols out there. Any other proposals?

I believe the Comission is wrong, and the companies that are lobbying the commission to get access to these protocols are even more wrong. We should not want more software that relies on more Microsoftisms. Au contraire.

I wish I had a list of the companies that are sueing for these protocols being made public. Then I would at least know whose software I certainly do not want to buy.

Re:The Microsoft Protocol (2, Insightful)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728882)

Obviously, Neelie is not a programmer and has never tried to write a program in a Microsoft environment, or even tried to figure out what their documentation is supposed to mean... If anything.

Nope, that she isn't. She only takes the word from the person appointed to decide if Microsoft is compliant or not.

And, oh, that person was selected from a shortlist provided by Microsoft.

Re:The Microsoft Protocol (1)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728999)

Phehehe, so what you're saying is that writing that documentation is impossible, because said protocols are so abhorrently wroten that they are undocummentable?

Well, well, in this case we're seeing a nice phenomenon when a big company is being fined for writing bad code?

So... (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728876)

I don't see what everyone is getting all worked up over.

This isn't all that much more than the EU fined the company I work for... That didn't really change things for the other divisions so I expect MS won't change much either.

What does she know about the software industry? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728881)

Engineers hate writing documentation. I rarely see decent docs even for published APIs that people are encouraged to use. The EU is demanding detailed documentation for ones that aredeveloped in an ad-hoc manner, and changed arbitrarily. Most of the coders probably worked out whatthe software does by looking at the code.

Sure, not all software developers are like this, but I'll bet MS are.

corporate entities 'think' differently (4, Insightful)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728886)

There is a big difference between the people at microsoft knowing how to document protocols and microsoft the corporate entity knowing how to document a protocol.

The main difference is that a corporate entity of the size of microsoft is represented by Lawyers, not engineers.

If they say say they cannot comply, and the lawyers provide lots of reasons which keep the facts in dispute, then they get to pay a nothing fine and maintain their advantage.

Losing their monopoly position would potentially mean the collapse of their major product lines, in terms of market share.

I'd be willing to bet that if microsoft the corporate entity felt this was something they desperatelly needed, they'd throw the engineers at it.

Only €280m? (1)

Ethan Allison (904983) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728909)

For a company in which just one member of it is worth at least 100 times that, how is this going to do anything?

Re:Only €280m? (2, Informative)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728944)

For a company in which just one member of it is worth at least 100 times that, how is this going to do anything?

Look at as a shot across the bow. Maximum anti-competetive fines are 10% of worldwide turnover. And as "aggrevating circumstances" they give examples like:

- repeated infringement of the same type by the same undertaking(s);

- refusal to cooperate with or attempts to obstruct the Commission in carrying out its investigations;

Source: http://ec.europa.eu/comm/competition/antitrust/leg islation/98c9_en.html [europa.eu]

Liquid Assets. (3, Insightful)

KitesWorld (901626) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728996)

Because there's a difference between a companies value and the amount of cash it can afford to spend. How much of that 'worth' is tied up in property, IP, bonds, etc. and how much of it is available as cold hard cash?

The whole point of a fine is to be a punishment, severe enough to bring it into line, but not severe enough to break it altogether. MS Europe's liquid assets also have to pay its day to day running costs, as well as any fines. With that in mind, the EC would be nuts to fine it too heavily.

At least, right now. If MS doesn't come into line, then it's likely that the EC will up the ante and approach the problem from the bottom up - keep raising the fines until they're big enough to make MS come into compliance, as opposed to aiming high and striking the heart with the first shot.

My proposal (4, Funny)

ElephanTS (624421) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728934)

Great, they slapped Microsoft hands for this but who is getting all this money and what are they gonna do with it?

I propose that there's some fund so that every time you have to spend 3 hours 'weeding' Windows for your parents or Auntie Doris or whoever you can bill the fund at $100 p/h for your time. Collectively this would make /.ers tens of millions wouldn't it? Oh yes, VOTE FOR ME!

As much as I hate microsoft product... (0, Flamebait)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728953)

...this is nothing short of extorsion.

Re:As much as I hate microsoft product... (2, Interesting)

Thorsten Timberlake (935871) | more than 7 years ago | (#15729026)

Indeed. Comply to our laws, or else...

If Microsoft wants to play on our playground, they will have to play by our rules. Do you think that is unfair?

Costs? (1)

drinkmorejava (909433) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728957)

What I'd like to know is how much it would actually cost them to go back into everything and document it all, probably a significant portion of the fine. I'm pretty sure the loss of market share alone would be substantially more than the fine anyway.

Cash or gift vouchers? (3, Interesting)

Tango42 (662363) | more than 7 years ago | (#15728989)

Do we know how this fine will be paid? In the past, MS has always tried to pay in gift vouchers, as far as I know - will they be allowed to do so this time? The mention of a blocked account would seem to imply cash, but does anyone know for sure?

MSFT's side of things... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15729013)

Found this at
http://msftee.spaces.msn.com/blog/cns!9886B42853C0 71E0!461.entry [msn.com]?

In our view, the issue here is not about a lack of compliance, it's about a lack of clarity about what the Commission's expectations were for "complete and accurate technical specifications." We began work on the technical documentation immediately upon receiving the Commission decision, and delivered more than 10,000 pages of documentation in December 2004. We did not receive substantive feedback until last September, nine months later. When it became clear that the Commission had different expectations over how the technical documents should be written, we repeatedly pressed for greater clarity. Then we delivered revisions promptly, offered unlimited technical assistance, and even made our source code available to competitors in an effort to resolve the impasse. In short, I truly believe the company responded quickly and in good faith to a government order that was unclear and undefined - and that we have complied with our obligations.

Despite all this effort, we've had a very hard time trying to get a clear statement from the Commission on how they want the technical documents to be written. This spring, we finally made a breakthrough after a group of engineers from Microsoft met with Professor Neil Barrett, the trustee appointed last fall by the Commission. A great deal of progress was made during these face-to-face meetings and an aggressive work plan was put in place to deliver revised documentation through a series of seven milestones, beginning in April and ending on July 18.

To meet the demands of the schedule, a team of more than 300 employees was assembled, including some of the company's most senior engineers. Many of those involved played a central role in writing the protocols covered by the documentation. This team has worked around the clock to successfully meet each of the six previous milestones. Their tireless and persistent efforts and the high quality of their work is a testament to the great things people can accomplish when they pull together in a time of need.
During the last few months, we've been encouraged by positive feedback we've received from EU's trustee. We had hoped that this effort would demonstrate to the Commission that we would be fully in compliance by their July deadline. The fact that the Commission decided to fine us despite our massive compliance efforts is disappointing. And it's hard to understand why the Commission is imposing this large fine when the process is finally working well and the agreed-upon finish line is still nearly two weeks away.

So what's next? First, we will push ahead to finish the technical documentation work later this month to meet the deadline established by the Commission. We are 100 percent committed to compliance, and we will not allow this fine to distract us from meeting our responsibilities.

Second, we will appeal this fine. We have great respect for the Commission, but we do not believe any fine - let alone a fine of this magnitude - is warranted given the lack of clarity in the Commission's original decision and our diligent, good-faith efforts to comply over the past two years.

Third, we will maintain our commitment to Europe. We will not allow this fine to affect our important relationship with the European Commission. We will continue to partner with the Commission on important issues like education, innovation, and economic development in Europe.

Finally, we will continue to move forward with our plans for breakthrough products and services. A lot of people are wondering what this fine means for Windows Vista and other future products. The answer is that we have worked hard to ensure that Windows Vista is consistent with the requirements of European law. We began sharing early versions of Windows Vista code with the Commission more than a year ago, and we are working to ensure that any questions they have about Vista get answered and any concerns are addressed.

In closing, I want to convey my admiration and my thanks to the engineering and documentation teams that have worked so hard throughout this entire process to meet the Commission's demands and the trustee's schedule. I know that you have sacrificed weekends and holidays, and worked through many long nights. Regardless of the Commission's decision, Steve, Bill, and the entire senior leadership team at Microsoft deeply appreciates your hard work. I thank you very much.
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