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Microsoft Under Third EU Investigation for OOXML

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the back-in-trouble-again dept.

The Courts 194

The Wall Street Journal and Information Week reported this morning that EU regulators have announced a third investigation into Microsoft's conduct on the desktop. This latest action demonstrates that while the EU has settled the case against Microsoft that ran for almost a decade, it remains as suspicious as ever regarding the software vendor's conduct, notwithstanding Microsoft's less combative stance in recent years. The news can be found in a story reported by Charles Forelle bylined in Brussells this morning. According to the Journal, the investigation will focus on whether Microsoft 'violated antitrust laws during a struggle last year to ratify its Office software file format as an international standard.' The article also says that the regulators are 'stepping up scrutiny of the issue.'

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194 comments

Silly Europeans (5, Funny)

Miguel de Icaza (660439) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355136)

MSOOXML.NET is the future

Here's something to investigate (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22355150)

First post in my message board thread? It's more likely than you think.

Compassion (5, Funny)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355152)

Poor Microsoft, always under attack from all sides. How is the poor little thing to survive? Won't someone please think of the corporation?

Re:Compassion (0, Redundant)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355416)

See? if you had used my sarcastic punctuation(~) you would have gotten so many stupid replies!

Re:Compassion (-1, Troll)

Yaa 101 (664725) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355426)

This has become that way because BushCo pressured to blew off a trial against MS while we all know that he should not have done that, administrators in europe saw the impeding power gap and dove into that and are slowly taking over authority about important international questions.

That's the price for MS that BushCo sees the world as a collection of unilateral treaties while most world players prefer a multilateral environment, in short, despite the big army they blew it and underestimated economic power compared to militairy power.

Re:Compassion (0, Troll)

fosterNutrition (953798) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355602)

What does "BushCo" mean?

Actually, don't tell me. Using phrases likes that makes me think you are an idiot and I don't want to hear your opinion.

Re:Compassion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22355822)

I think he is alluding that the Bush presidency has been influenced more by private (corporate) interests more than public (citizen) ones.

Re:Compassion (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356034)

From the context of the post I would guess it means that the Bush administration is operating as an unaccountable corporate shill rather than a 'for the people' government. Bush Corporation... BushCo.

Re:Compassion (4, Interesting)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355630)

administrators in europe saw the impeding power gap and dove into that and are slowly taking over authority about important international questions.
I like the sound of that.

Let's hope some day, not too far in the future, we get to a point where the US and Europe work together in important international matters. Together, without trying to be identical. Rather, each having its own strong points, and filling in for each other as appropriate. Working in different ways toward a shared goal of democracy and peace.

Maybe I sound very dreamy, but I really don't think it's necessarily unrealistic, if a new US administration introduces a vision where the US is more multilaterally cooperative rather than bullying, willing to lead where leading is called for, and willing to cooperate where cooperation is called for.

(Presumably Europe has to modify its ways too, but I find it more difficult to pinpoint how.)

Re:Compassion (1)

Kinnaird (851535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355746)

"This has become that way because BushCo pressured to blew off a trial against MS while we all know that he should not have done that, administrators in europe saw the impeding power gap and dove into that and are slowly taking over authority about important international questions. That's the price for MS that BushCo sees the world as a collection of unilateral treaties while most world players prefer a multilateral environment, in short, despite the big army they blew it and underestimated economic power compared to militairy power." Good point Yaa. The courts should define these issues and not the ability of one company or individual to lobby and manipulate the government.

The EU can go to hell (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22355230)

According to the EU, capitalism=anti-trust while communism=trust. The EU will go after any business for extra revenue much like welfare recipients find ways of taking money from others.

Re:The EU can go to hell (4, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355254)

Yeah, we should allow abusive monopolies to corrupt absolutely everything. That's true capitalism, fucking over the consumer at every opportunity.

Re:The EU can go to hell (4, Insightful)

Kinnaird (851535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355376)

Microsoft is like a roadhog that won't let anyone pass...jamming up the highway so no one gets infront of them! Control seems to be a great way earn.

Re:The EU can go to hell (2, Insightful)

erick99 (743982) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355468)

A lot of this is a nuisance for them and well within what they probably consider the cost of doing business. If you get sued for millions over a practice that brings in many more millions then I guess you pay the millions, cosmetically change your practice and carry on. They are a moving target in that sense and they can wait out or tire out just about anybody or any organization. They are quite the 800lb gorilla.

-erick

http://www.yourfavoritegadgets.com/ [yourfavoritegadgets.com]

The EU needs to go somewhere (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355682)

A reasonable savings account should let them invest their loose change and pay fines of $2,100,000,000 a year without touching the principal. (I'm using December 2007's total cash, and reckoning a decent account gives 10% interest.) Let's say that grassroots action paralyzed Microsoft completely. How long would they survive, maintaining their current level of activity, property and staff, just burning their free cash reserves? About two and a half years. That is how long they could endure a total boycott of their products and a freeze on all license renewal.

It is not sensible to impose punishments that are completely invisible to the corporation and which Microsoft might never pay anyway. Why should they? They own most of the EU's financial computers and could easily out-last the EU itself if it ever came to a standoff.

I don't know what the EU could do to impose the rule of law on Microsoft - suspending business licenses there might be the only thing Microsoft would really notice, and even then, that's not remotely guaranteed.

Re:The EU needs to go somewhere (4, Interesting)

Darth (29071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355844)

They own most of the EU's financial computers and could easily out-last the EU itself if it ever came to a standoff.

no matter how much money you have, it is never a good idea to get into a standoff with a sovereign nation (unless you are also a sovereign nation, and then it's only a good idea sometimes).

I don't know what the EU could do to impose the rule of law on Microsoft - suspending business licenses there might be the only thing Microsoft would really notice, and even then, that's not remotely guaranteed.

The EU could invalidate all intellectual property protections for microsoft products in the EU.

Remember that the right of the corporation to even exist as an entity in the EU is at the sufferance of the government.

Re:The EU needs to go somewhere (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355864)

Perhaps if fines were made a percentage of earnings or assets, it might make REdmond sit up and take notice. For instance, if they were fined 30% of last years gross earnings within the EU, you might find them a little more willing to play nice.

Re:The EU can go to hell (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355778)

Yeah, we should allow abusive monopolies to corrupt absolutely everything. That's true capitalism, fucking over the consumer at every opportunity.
To say that a monopoly is capitalism is like saying that a one-party state is democracy. You can vote (with or without your wallet) or not vote but nothing will change.

Re:The EU can go to hell (1)

TheUnknown (90519) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356026)

Whoosh!

Re:The EU can go to hell (0, Troll)

chihowa (366380) | more than 6 years ago | (#22357218)

No, this is a completely legitimate response that should be brought up every time a (n abusive) monopoly is held up as the end result of, or a typical manifestation of, capitalism. All too often predatory or government-mandated monopolies are used as an example of why capitalism is an undesirable system. The premise (that monopolies exist in a healthy capitalistic system) is false and continually repeating it just discourages rational thought about different economic systems. The same thing continually happens when the Soviet Union is held up as a functional socialist system. In fact, the Soviet Union example has led to the term "socialism" being a pejorative in the United States, even though the US is very socialist in many ways (eg granting unnatural monopolies).

Re:The EU can go to hell (4, Interesting)

fbjon (692006) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356606)

Relax, it's just the Microsoft trolls coming out of the woodwork. Every time there's a story on the EU versus Microsoft, they come out with the same lines: "MS getting picked on", "EU grabbing for pocket money", "EU is a sheeple/socialist/communist [expletive]-place". It's really getting old by now.

Re:The EU can go to hell (3, Insightful)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356952)

Monopoly is the opposite of capitalism. It is so predictable that whenever some complains about capitalism, they are actually complaining about the lack of capitalism.

Only if it promises to take MS with it (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355294)

Or maybe you could step beyond the anonymity to describe how
being dictated to by a monopolist substantially differs from
being dictated to by a nanny-state:
in either case, you're told exactly how much cash to kiss goodbye, at exactly what frequency.
There simply isn't a good case, technical or otherwise, against ODF.
Some find the vampire-on-vampire action strangely...interesting.

Re:The EU can go to hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22355440)

According to you, Not letting companies do whatever the hell they want (even if it's illegal) == communism. Sucking Microsoft's dick == trust

Re:The EU can go to hell (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22355442)

According to the EU, capitalism=anti-trust while communism=trust.
IIRC some early 20th century Marxists thought this (monopolies) is exactly why capitalism inevitably leads to communism: It all slowly aggregates, eventually into one big company, so in the end you are left with a single entity on the market which through revolution or whatever is easy prey.

Of course, the capitalists read these theories as well and were convinced that such aggregation is a real threat and is bad - thus the anti-trust laws were born out of a truly capitalist spirit.

Re:The EU can go to hell (1)

jbr439 (214107) | more than 6 years ago | (#22357052)

I agree. MSFT should just pick up its marbles and go home. That'd teach those commies. Oh wait ....

Somebody investigate the EU (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22355232)

This is getting silly. It's either corruption (bribes from MS rivals) or protectionism (let's f**k the USA).

Why don't European taxpayers do something? Are they ALL surrender monkeys?

Re:Somebody investigate the EU (4, Insightful)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355330)

So you're saying the company that bought votes in the international standards organisation shouldn't be under investigation?

Re:Somebody investigate the EU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22355410)

> Why don't European taxpayers do something? Are they ALL surrender monkeys?

No, they ARE doing something. As it happens, the American taxpayers happened to be the surrender monkeys (due to the toothless DoJ under the current administration).

Re:Somebody investigate the EU (3, Insightful)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355704)

Any sensible government would do what the EU is doing.

The question is why is the US government letting Microsoft do anything they want?

Pythonic (5, Funny)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355236)

No one expects the Flemish Inquisition!

Our two weapons are surprise, chocolate, and sprouts!

Re:Pythonic (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355358)

Our two weapons are surprise, chocolate, and sprouts!
I am rather fond of both.

Three! (5, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355446)

Are three weapons are surprise, chocolate, sprouts, and Van Damme!

Re:Three! (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356064)

All three things from Belgium. You forgot the beer.

Re:Three! (1)

redcaboodle (622288) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356412)

All three things from Belgium. You forgot the beer.
Yes. Flanders is a part of Belgium. The flemish part, actually. However Sprouts come from Brussels, which is not in Flanders.

Re:Three! (2, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356098)

I see your Van Damme and raise you a Vin Diesel.

Ow! I think I damaged my brain.

Re:Pythonic (1)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355500)

Three, three, our three weapons are surprise, chocolate, sprouts, and our fanatical battle cry of "Vlaenderen die Leu!"

Ahh, can we go out and come back in?

Among our many weapons...

Re:Pythonic (1)

Yaa 101 (664725) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355502)

Uhm... Drs. N Kroes is actually Dutch.

Re:Pythonic (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356808)

Our three main weapons are surprise, chocolate, sprouts, and waffles!

Close To 20 Billion Dollars A Year At Stake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22355276)

Even if Microsoft only lost a moderate share of their office software if would be a gigantic blow to the company and send the stock plunging. Microsoft will fight open office documents like their very existence depends on it. And it also shows how desperate Microsoft is in finding new revenue streams beyond Windows and Office.

Re:Close To 20 Billion Dollars A Year At Stake (2, Insightful)

gotzero (1177159) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355968)

The E.U. needs to figure out how much money it takes to make a fine that the company cannot easily choose to pay after a 5 second profit/loss analysis to get them in line. The investigations and fine outcomes seem laughable half the time.

LESS COMBATIVE? (2, Insightful)

toby (759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355422)

Has somebody not been paying attention?

Or do they mean, "less combative, more abhorrent"?

How, exactly, has MS been "less combative"...? (3, Insightful)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355460)

If anything, it seems (at least to me) that Microsoft is more brazen today about flouting its monopoly position than it was ten or fifteen years ago...

Re:How, exactly, has MS been "less combative"...? (1)

MickDownUnder (627418) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356116)

What monopoly position?

You been asleep the last 5 years?

Re:How, exactly, has MS been "less combative"...? (1)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356910)

Microsoft has learned that it will never be punished.

no sarcasm intended. (0, Troll)

moogied (1175879) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355490)

Seriously. Microsoft is getting picked on. They are using standard buisiness practices to ensure market share. We don't yell at GM for not making its On-star open to everyone. So why do we get pissed at microsoft for not opening its formats to us? They would have to be idiots to agree to it. As much as this will be modded to -1 billion idiot or something, its true. I for one salute microsoft for its steadfest dedication to not caving in.

And as a slashdot fan, this will eventually screw them over. When I can share my spreadsheet from desktop, to laptop, to PDA, to amazon reader with no issues... I will be using that spreadsheet all the time. Not the microsoft closed source.

Re:no sarcasm intended. (1)

alphasubzero949 (945598) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355550)

They are using standard buisiness practices to ensure market share.

If by "standard" you mean leveraging their dominance in order to crush the competition and force their way into other avenues...

Re:no sarcasm intended. (4, Insightful)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355582)

They are using standard buisiness practices to ensure market share.

After all the crap they pulled over trying to get OOXML standardised don't sit here and tell me they're using "standard practices". They used practically every dirty trick in the book!

Re:no sarcasm intended. (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355880)

Hmmm, "ISO and OOXML: Dirty tricks from MS" would make a good book.

(I wouldn't write it, though, I suck at English.)

Re:no sarcasm intended. (4, Funny)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355884)

They are using standard buisiness practices (...)
They used practically every dirty trick in the book!
<cynic>I fail to see the contradiction...</cynic>

Re:no sarcasm intended. (1)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356276)

don't sit here and tell me they're using "standard practices". They used practically every dirty trick in the book!
But the name of the book is "ISO 31337bis: Specifications for Bribing a Standards Body"

Re:no sarcasm intended. (0)

MickDownUnder (627418) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356336)

Dirty tricks like...

Creating a competing "open standard" with backwards compatibility for MS docs to an "open standard" with no backwards compatibility for MS docs.

And the dirtiest trick of all!!! They supplied an easy to use free SDK to create, alter and extract info from those docs.

My god!! The depths they'll sink to!! Those bastards!!

Sarcasm aside what has happened is actually all very standard practices...

There's nothing noble about Star Office/ODF, it came about as result of very standard business practices. Sun acquired a german company Star AG, giving bith to StarOffice, which gave birth to ODF. Sun has spent 100-200million on this, and they didn't do it out of charity, or because they had any hopes of making money directly out of the venture. Their sole purpose was to inflict billions of dollars of damange on a company they are competing fiercly with.

So what rational explanation can anyone possibly give as to why Microsoft is not allowed to compete back?

Re:no sarcasm intended. (1)

Joren (312641) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356600)

Sarcasm aside what has happened is actually all very standard practices...
Perhaps you missed this dirty trick? "Microsoft Bought Sweden's ISO Vote on OOXML? [slashdot.org] " Eh, well, I guess that probably is "standard" practice by now for a company of their size. Doesn't make it right...

Re:no sarcasm intended. (1)

eldepeche (854916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356618)

Seems to me open standards ought not to have markup such as "render this like Office 98."

Just sayin'.

Re:no sarcasm intended. (2, Insightful)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355640)

Well, you actually have a real option of alternatives to a GM car... when is the last time you went to *insert local computer friendly store here* and you saw a real alternative on sale for Windows/Office?

Re:no sarcasm intended. (5, Insightful)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355658)

GM wields influence over... what, 20-30% of the cars sold in the US? (Hey, I was right... 26.9% in 2004 [carofthecentury.com] .) 24% is in no way a monopoly, and as such, they're perfectly fine not interoperating with other car companies, as long as they operate on the agreed-upon standards of our roads and highways, street legal laws, emissions, etc.

Microsoft on the other hand has 90% of desktops and a large number of servers under it's sway. If they make a unilateral move, they feel NO pain because of it, even if it hurts the consumers. If GM said "Screw this, we're going to force everyone to use kerosene as their fuel!", people would buy other cars. When Microsoft says the same thing, people have to do it, or not be able to share documents, etc. THAT, my friend, is the difference.

Re:no sarcasm intended. (1)

egr (932620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356484)

I can imagine running Windows on kerosene....

Just doing their much-needed job ... (4, Insightful)

golodh (893453) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355760)

Seriously. Microsoft is getting picked on.

No, it is not. It is simply faced with a single-minded regulator which takes its job seriously and isn't fazed by the fact that Microsoft is a brazen repeat-offender.

We don't yell at GM for not making its On-star open to everyone.
GM does not have an 80% market share in the car market. Microsoft does have such a market share in the desktop OS market. That's a big difference.

What Microsoft is currently doing with OOXML is a thoroughly unethical (paying companies PR contributions to vote in favour of OOXML, offering small countries rebates to vote in favour of OOCML, and suddenly stuffing ISO standards committees with pro-microsoft members who never before had an interest in ISO procedures in their lives) attempt to continue its lock-in, which regrettably seems to have a chance or working. (see e.g. http://www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/article.php?story=20080208082501776 [consortiuminfo.org] and http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02/08/ooxml_eu_probe_iso/ [theregister.co.uk] )

I see absolutely nothing to salute Microsoft about regarding its determination to disregard fair-competition and anti-trust regulations and I support the EU in this matter. Why don't we see any US regulators step up to the plate?

Re:no sarcasm intended. (3, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355836)

Lots of corrupt and nasty things are considered "standard" business practices. I mean, insider trading goes on a bit, so does that mean if we catch some CEO in the act, we shouldn't prosecute because it's a "standard business practice".

Microsoft holds a monopoly position in two key areas; desktop operating systems and office integration software. It's attempt to buy itself ISO certification was a damned dirty trick, and an attempt to leverage its monopoly to maintain market dominance. It's being picked on because a monopoly is held up to a different standard than another company.

And the EU certainly isn't picking on Microsoft alone. Both Apple and Google seem to be in its sights as well.

Re:no sarcasm intended. (3, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355850)

Most people here want the world to become a better place. And we talk about Microsoft instead of GM because this is a computer geek forum, not a car geek forum. It may be standard business practice that MS is using, it is bad anyway. It makes a perfect sense for them to do that in order to maximize their profit, it makes a perfect sense for users to oppose it.

Re:no sarcasm intended. (1)

husker_man (473297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355872)

We don't yell at GM for not making its On-star open to everyone.

I work at the factory where the Onstar modules are built. BMW, among other auto manufacturers, also have the same Onstar modules for their cars. It may be a different name, but it's the same product - I know. The only difference is the STIDs and some different flash programming, but under the hood it's the same product.

Please be specific about the details wrt Microsoft (1)

jbn-o (555068) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356030)

You should address your complaints about how Microsoft isn't violating antitrust by addressing the specific provisions leveraged against the multinational Microsoft corporation. Even in the apparently (given the punishment phase) Microsoft-friendly United States Judge Jackson's findings of fact haven't been seriously questioned. It stands to reason that with such findings on the books, other countries have good reason to at least launch investigations into Microsoft's behavior and see if it comports with their laws; the very action being discussed in this /. thread.

Orange, meet Apple (1)

_ivy_ivy_ (1081273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22357060)

We don't yell at GM for not making its On-star open to everyone.
GM's not a monopoly, and other automakers use OnStar's service, namely Honda on its Acura vehicles.

3rd (1)

HeavensFire (1161917) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355542)

third time is a charm. ...for who is yet to be seen.

EU is mafia (0, Flamebait)

n1_111 (597775) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355566)

that shakes down American corporatons. But Slashdot is ever so happy.

The THIRD investigation? (3, Funny)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355568)

They must be absolutely TERRIFIED now!

 

Re:The THIRD investigation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22355976)

They should be. Microsoft is not the only one whose products works well after the third version. The EU's Investigation v3.0 promises to be user friendly with some eye candies minus BSoD.

How does that work? (0, Flamebait)

reemul (1554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355594)

Can someone please explain how submitting a standard to a standards board is anti-competitive? Even if OOXML is accepted as a standard, no-one is obliged to use/support it. I know that folks hate Microsoft, but this is just silly. Yes, they gamed the voting. Of course they did, it was in their interest to do so. Did that show magical monopolist powers? No. Every other software vendor or customer in the world is still perfectly free to ignore OOXML, just as MS is free to ignore anyone else's standard when writing their software. The US still uses a standardized foot for measurements, but the rest of the world is permitted to use a meter if they so desire, despite the big mean American's power.

I'd be much more impressed with EU anti-trust efforts if they weren't pretty much aimed at non-EU companies. They're mostly a trade barrier rather than a legitimate regulatory body.

Re:How does that work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22355706)

Yes, they gamed the voting. Of course they did, it was in their interest to do so.
If you can't do the time then don't do the crime. They did wrong before and even after all the EU regulations they're still playing their dirty games.

Re:How does that work? (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355740)

The problem with the standard is that it is not complete as written. It leaves big gaping holes which point to closed doors; closed-source Microsoft products. And the purpose of submitting it as a standard is to have it used in places in which actual open standards should be mandatory, such as when interfacing with government. To require a closed standard (however open it pretends to be) to work with a government is to grant a monopoly. Why should the people of any nation ever pay for such a thing?

Microsoft is not a "non-EU" company. They are multinational. They operate in the EU. If they choose to stop operating in the EU, then the EU will have no power over them and they can do whatever they want - somewhere else.

Microsoft has no god-given right to profits or even to do business in the EU. They are permitted to do so because it is believed that it is beneficial to trade. When they are no longer a beneficial influence on the market, why should they be permitted to participate? Because of some standard of justice? If the market cannot sustain their influence, then their influence should be eliminated or at the least mitigated to permit the market to continue to function, or the market should be superseded by the monopoly in question. Un(?)fortunately, Microsoft cannot provide the needs of the entire UK software market (although they would like you to believe that they can) and so this is not a solution.

Re:How does that work? (1)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356994)

The problem with the standard is that it is not complete as written.

Another problem is that most of what is written is garbage.

Re:How does that work? (5, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355768)

Oh come on. You can't possibly be that naive.

Here's the facts:

1. Many organizations, in particular governments, are beginning to mandate the use of open file formats.
2. A potential competitor to one of Microsoft's core product lines (read: profit center), OpenOffice.org, uses ISO open file formats; ODF, and is thus of some great interest to these government agencies.
3. Microsoft cannot afford to have its Office profit center undermined either by a competing product or by a competing, open standard like ODF.
4. Microsoft creates OOXML, a document standard so enormous and so riddled with proprietary references that it would be impossible for anyone not privy to Microsoft's older formats (which are not published) to actually produce their own OOXML-compliant product.
5. Microsoft then attempts to subvert the ISO by trying to buy votes. The purpose of this is to get OOXML ISO certification, so that when a government agency mandates an open document format, Microsoft can maneuver OOXML, which can only really be utilized by Microsoft Office, by trumpeting its "open" designation.

In short, OOXML is a rather elaborate scam, involving an unimplentable format, subverting the ISO and using it to maintain its all-important Office product line from meaningful competition.

Re:How does that work? (3, Insightful)

TheLinuxSRC (683475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356326)

Excellent post. I would also like to point out that Microsoft could at any time implement ODF in MSOffice. I think this is important to note because MS has constantly berated governments that have adopted (or have plans to adopt) ODF. MS claims that opting for ODF excludes MS from the bidding for contracts while this is absolutely not true; MS could use the ISO standard (ODF) rather than milking what is left of a dying lock-in strategy (file formats that are impossible for someone other than MS to implement 100% correctly be they *.doc or OOXML).

Re:How does that work? (4, Interesting)

jhol13 (1087781) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356388)

Besides point 4 does not matter. It REALLY does not matter what is ratified at ISO: Microsoft is not going to use it. They will use their own "interpretation" and "extension" of it.

So were there a software fully compatible with the OOXML standard it would be completely useless in practice. And were it to follow Microsoft extensions it would need to follow, i.e. play catch-up giving Microsoft a huge advantage.

Still Microsoft could (and would) claim "ISO standard" in sales material (as you say in your point 5).

Re:How does that work? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356534)

How does OOXML in any way even have an effect on the ability of an organization to adopt ODF?

I guess you could argue that people outside the organization preferring to use some other format would make it more difficult for the organization to use the standard they had chosen, but the whole 'available at no cost on multiple platforms' aspect of OO.org limits the difficulty of saying, "No, use ODF". I mean, the people who want to use something other than ODF can't argue financial hardship, or incompatibility, so they are left grasping at things that sound an awful lot like "But I don't wanna". So there goes point 1.

The idea that they attempted to subvert the standards process is the important part, not the idea that they submitted a bad standard(or even, a standard that you, and many others, don't like), so there goes points 2,3, and 4.

That leaves point 5, which is valid. Of course, there are people given to bragging that OO.org has better support for some Office documents than Office itself, so I'm not real sure how far you can take the part about only Microsoft really being able to utilize OOXML(certainly, it will be less effort for Microsoft than anybody else).

I doubt anybody at Microsoft would argue against the idea that they are acting to protect their interests, but the notion that they are doing so in bad faith would likely raise some hackles; they are simply responding to increased interest in open standards in a way that is compatible with their investment in Office and interest in supporting their legacy formats. The response of ISO, to not fast track the standard, and the widespread rejection of OOXML as being open in a way that is useful to other people are the proper way to handle the issue, not litigation against the company.

Re:How does that work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22356966)

The thing with standards is not that they're standards, but rather what is assumed from the approbation. Non-corrupt governments have the habit of requiring standards in tenders because they *assume* that this leads to competition and therefore lower bids. They don't take it on themselves to judge whether that's true. There's one bad reason, and two good reasons for it to be that way. That bad one is that it's just less hassle. The good ones are, first, that if they were to decide what is and isn't open or competitive, it would open the way to bribes and short-termism, and second, that they don't *know* how to do it, and neither should they, it's just not their business. They manage schools, defense, hospitals, catastrophes, whatever, not software development.

That's why 2,3 and 4 are very relevant. People go "lineBreaksLikeWord95, what a joke" or something. That's not the problem. The problem is that Microsoft is using OOXML to ramrod through quite a few undocumented formats that they developed internally specifically because they didn't want to go with an existing standard. Sure, they're all "deprecated", but what matters is that the only app that can, or will be able to, read OOXML files correctly is their own app.

And that means there won't be any competition.

And there goes the rationale to require a standard to begin with.

Re:How does that work? (0, Flamebait)

Vapula (14703) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356768)

Their way of "gaming the voting" is called bribery... and, as far as I know, it's a criminal offense in most countries (including USA and most european countries).

So, basically, they are criminal (it's not about anti-trust, patent violation or other business-related misdeed anymore but about something that would lead you to prison in most democratic countries).

The reason why they care so much about getting OOXML an ISO standard is quite easy to understand :

Now that there is a document standard defined in ISO, many governments (and school, companies, ...) will be or feel compelled to switch to that standard (with a phase in period). If OOXML don't get the ISO certification, it means that the lock-in will disappear. In other word, the monopoly over Office application would be dead and Microsoft will have to follow the market laws (which means lower prices, no more worldwide version change every second year, and lots of other compatible applications available).

To go further, if they lose their Office monopoly, their OS monopoly would also be in a bad condition. Right now, companies have to buy MS Windows to be able to run MS Office... Should Office application be available with other (cheaper) OS, companies would be able to switch away from MS windows... At least, every computer which is only used for Office application, Java application (no wonder MS tried to kill JAVA), Web applications (plain HTML, DHTML or AJAX) and other cross-platform programs.

>>> "I'd be much more impressed with EU anti-trust efforts if they weren't pretty much aimed at non-EU companies."
Well, if the US had been caring more about trust problems creating by US companies, EU would not have to care so much about US companies... US courts have found Microsoft guilty of misusing their monopoly... But the reactions were more a slap on the wrist than something that would stop the infringement.

Re:How does that work? (1)

MtHuurne (602934) | more than 6 years ago | (#22357026)

I'd be much more impressed with EU anti-trust efforts if they weren't pretty much aimed at non-EU companies. They're mostly a trade barrier rather than a legitimate regulatory body.
There are plenty of cases in which EU companies are fined. For example, companies producing elevators [iht.com] and beer [europa.eu] . Those cases are not likely to get much attention in US news, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

The EU takes on everyone (3, Informative)

andersh (229403) | more than 6 years ago | (#22357162)

I'd be much more impressed with EU anti-trust efforts if they weren't pretty much aimed at non-EU companies

That's just bullshit, the EU regularly goes after European companies you just don't hear or read about it because they're not American companies. Typical American complaints.

EU only getting half of it (1, Insightful)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355600)

Has Microsoft abused its monopoly position? Absolutely, categorically, yes.

Is the EU upset because an American company so thoroughly dominates the European market? Yes.

Is there anything remotely like real competition for Microsoft in the desktop coming from any European companies? No.

Regulating Microsoft is fine, but at what point does it simply become regulation for the sake of regulation? If the goal is to develop a competitive landscape, what else is the EU doing, other than punishing Microsoft, to create that competitive landscape? Seems the EU knows how to use the stick to punish American software companies, but hasn't figured out how to use the carrot to get European companies to go up against Microsoft.

And yes, I know about SAP. I know about SuSE. I'm talking about serious competition for the desktop market.

Re:EU only getting half of it (1)

rewt66 (738525) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355756)

You have to restrict the monopolist before there is (viable) competition to be harmed, because otherwise there is no chance for there to be competition, ever.

Re:EU only getting half of it (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355808)

And yes, I know about SAP. I know about SuSE. I'm talking about serious competition for the desktop market.

Point the first: Microsoft does not provide adequate product lines for the desktop market. They are discontinuing Windows XP (the third service pack is already what, a year late?) and Vista is a gigantic step backwards in many respects, especially performance -- even with the new service pack, as reported here yesterday.

Point the second: Microsoft's continuing abuse of their monopoly position has a chilling effect on innovation. When a new technology comes out, Microsoft either purchases and ruins it, or poorly emulates it and thus marginalizes it. Microsoft has in the past even gone so far as to wrap their functions in other functions with delay loops, and not document the originals, reserving them for their own use, so that competitors' software runs artificially poorly on their operating system! Seriously, Microsoft has done more damage to computing than all the accidentally sloppy programming ever executed.

And speaking of executed, BillyG has parlayed his theft and betrayal into a position atop the Gates Foundation pyramid. He's in control of big boatloads of money cruising around the globe. He gives with one hand and takes with the other ("Dark cloud over good works of gates foundation", title of a lovely article IIRC) and just whose pocket is he in, anyway? Certainly the USDOJ had him dead to rights when they patted him on the back and sent him off to play with all that money. No matter how you look at the situation - from a technical standpoint, or a human one - the whole damned thing is just a collection of tragedies.

The point of the previous paragraph is to point out that if you think that Microsoft is holding the world of computing together, you are fucking hallucinating, because in reality if anything gets accomplished in computing it is in spite of Microsoft, not because of it.

Re:EU only getting half of it (1)

daniel23 (605413) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356482)

Is there anything remotely like real competition for Microsoft in the desktop coming from any European

We are talking about office software, and yes, openOffice is still seen by many as a project with European roots as it was oiginally developped by StarDivision [wikipedia.org] in Hamburg and it was quite popular. I knew and used it long before Sun bought the source.

Re:EU only getting half of it (3, Insightful)

Njovich (553857) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356736)

Well, I'm not going to enumerate European Microsoft competitors for you. You may have heard of these little things called Linux, KDE, etc.

What I do like to ask you is to stop projecting your own nationalistic feelings onto others. This is not action against the US, this is action against abusive monopolists. How do you feel that taking very little action is working out for the US in the telecom sector?

In the EU we have a Commissioner for Competition [wikipedia.org] . She takes action against abusive behaviour by large companies. This affects companies like telcos and banks in the EU, but also companies like Microsoft. I think that the actions taken by this organization are generally effective and taken in the eye of consumer interest. I find it hard to believe that there would be much nationalism working against the US.

What you should also take into account is that the EU is not a nation, and nationalistic feelings about it are pretty rare. Typically people in the EU feel more strongly about competition with their neighbouring member states than about US companies.

Re:EU only getting half of it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22357152)

The EU is NOT punishing microsoft, it's putting on a show to keep the geeks quiet.

There would be a simple way to break microsoft's monopoly: stop granting them (and everybody else) free-market-destroying patent and copyright monopolies. Microsoft's monopoly position would quickly be corrected in a free market.

Somewhat ironic (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355618)

This comment about less combative comes at an interesting time. Reminders of Zimbra's likely end of commercial support from Yahoo. Reminders that outlook's web client sucks balls in anything other than MSIE. And right now, XP is asking me to install some updates, but apparently won't do so unless I allow it to install the Genuine Advantage Notification tool... whose name at least doesn't imply that it is a critical piece of the operating system. At least my copy of Windows XP is legal.

Re:Somewhat ironic (1)

GreatDrok (684119) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355832)

"At least my copy of Windows XP is legal."

So is mine but WGA doesn't think so.

MS abuses its monopoly, that is the problem. OOXML is just another example of them trying to force everyone to do things their way and if that means breaking a few rules so be it. If the ISO actually controlled OOXML then they would be able to fix some of the more hideous problems with OOXML but MS has publicly stated that they will retain control of the 'standard'. Basically, they just want OOXML to be an ISO standard so they can say it is an ISO standard but in reality it will be an MS standard, controlled by MS and won't even document the shipping version used by Office. Bribing the members of ISO to vote for OOXML is what has got them in hot water but to them the risk that OOXML isn't a standard is far worse than anything the EU might do to them so it is worth it.

Microsoft won't be much affected (1)

Elite_Warrior (1118745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355646)

As we have already seen, other Microsoft antitrust cases have resulted in the release of Windows N and some other consequences, which haven't caused any big trouble to Microsoft.We can guess/expect Microsoft wont be affected. The big brother will find out/create a escape route for itself .

It was the EU that suggested MS submit OOXML! (3, Informative)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355690)

It was the EU, in 2004, along with some other governments, that asked Microsoft to submit their formats for standardization. So now they don't like this?

uh-huh (4, Funny)

RelliK (4466) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355754)

EU suggested that microsoft bribe standards bodies to buy votes in favour of OOXML?

uh-uh (2, Informative)

rewt66 (738525) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355796)

No, IIRC the EU asked Microsoft to document (not submit for standardization) MS's existing file formats, not to create a new, badly-documented one.

Re:It was the EU that suggested MS submit OOXML! (1)

neonsignal (890658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355982)

That's a bit specious isn't it? Microsoft pulled out of cooperating with other companies to come up with a document standard. They were given the opportunity to submit their own proposal. Instead of coming up with a standard that other people could work with, it appears that they submitted a crufty XML reworking of their binary formats, and then allegedly stacked the committee to get it through. This doesn't seem to me to fit with the spirit of interoperability. Regardless, the EU is not taking issue with Microsoft having submitted a poor standard. Instead, it is that their dealings with the committee might not have been totally above board (and might instead have been driven by "commercial imperatives" rather than ethical/legal ones).

Re:It was the EU that suggested MS submit OOXML! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22356100)

YEs they did, they are still waiting for MS to submit a standard worthy of being ISO aproved

ie fully open and fully handed over

Yes (2, Informative)

aepervius (535155) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356240)

They are the one which can define what a standard is and what is not acceptable. In the pure spirit of capitalism if MS thinks EU is out of bound they can go out of EU and stop selling there (fat chance in Hell). Furthermore I don't recall EU requiring MS to buy vote in to make their own cooked stuff forcefully becoming a standard. That last part is even more damning than making a bad document format with all the trapping of a standard without the spirit of one.

Re:It was the EU that suggested MS submit OOXML! (1)

dabadab (126782) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356330)

Care to prove that by linking something relevant?...

However, submitting a format for standardization and running around buying votes and playing dirty tricks all the way are two rather distinct things and MS is being investigated for the latter (which, sure as hell, was not suggested to it by the EU).

Learning by doing (2, Interesting)

Ralof (760869) | more than 6 years ago | (#22355800)

If EU spend 1% of the time they spend on meaningless quarrels with Microsoft on presenting a plan for he use of software that DO following international standards and DO have open source code that each states security people can scrutinize for Trojans and whatnot, then maybe Microsoft would conform to whatever EU wants by their own free will. Currently enormous amounts of money is spent on Microsoft licenses in schools and public offices that could be better spent elsewhere. Such an initiative from EU would also automatically strengthen the Linux world and maybe even create an opportunity for a completely new type of OS to be developed. A OS that is designed with todays knowledge and todays needs. Mr José Manuel Barroso - we do not actually need MS Office. Just tell your colleagues to use a software that does not threaten the economic balance and does not make you paranoid. Try Open Office. You will be surprised. Microsofts Office is not Open, and quite frankly, I do not understand why someone expect it to be. Bill & the other bosses at Microsoft has a responsibility towards their company and the shareholders of that company, not towards EU.

Guys, quit mocking Ballmer (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356124)

As we've all learned a few weeks ago, Ballmer suffers from an A1 genetic mutation [slashdot.org] . And how fucking dare anyone make fun of Steve, after all he's been through! He lost his hair, he went through a divorce*?, he had two fucking kids*? All you people care about is readers and making money off of him!

*? Source unknown, so validity is questionable.

require more than one complete implementation (3, Insightful)

jbr439 (214107) | more than 6 years ago | (#22356628)

What ever happened to the notion of second sourcing? Shouldn't any self-respecting government require that there be more than one complete implementation of whatever standard it decides upon? As such, even if OOXML becomes an ISO standard, as is likely, it would seem to me that the next battle should for the requirement of 2nd sourcing. Given the fact that MSFT seems to have made the OOXML standard unimplementable, it would seem unlikely that there will be a 2nd source for a OOXML office suite (not to mention the fact that no company will waste its time trying to compete with MSFT in this manner). This is in contrast to ODF, which has several competing implementations.

Should OpenOffice.org not have a definite advantage here?
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