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Microsoft Government The Courts News

Microsoft and EU Talks End 1028

Posted by michael
from the should-have-used-bootlicking-skill dept.
Paul Longford writes "Microsoft talks with the EC have collapsed. The competition commisioner Mario Monti just made this statement in which he said: 'I'd just like to inform you that a settlement on the Microsoft case has not been possible. I therefore intend to propose to my colleagues in the Commission next Wednesday to adopt a decision, which has already received the unanimous backing of Member States.' This is bad news for Microsoft - it looking at a considerable fine and possibly being forced to open up Windows. It looks like it will be a harsh decision too. Monti says: 'In the end, I had to decide what was best for competition and consumers in Europe. I believe they will be better served with a decision that creates a strong precedent.'"
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Microsoft and EU Talks End

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  • It's about time. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jaywalk (94910) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:18AM (#8597979) Homepage
    I'm glad to see that at least Europe still has some functioning antitrust laws, unlike the US where antitrust laws were effectively gutted [metrolink.net] by the judiciary.
    • Re:It's about time. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rigor Morty (149783) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:20AM (#8597999) Journal
      Oddly, I think that forcing Microsoft into the open source, (open whatever) world might actually be a better business decision for the company.

      Time will tell.

      Rigor Morty
      • by Peden (753161) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:34AM (#8598153) Homepage
        And sadly, that will make slashdot redundant.
      • by southpolesammy (150094) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:45AM (#8598281) Journal
        It may very well be better for their products, but it probably will not be better for the shareholders. Microsoft's stock holders benefit greatly from MS's unfair advantage and if that is stripped away, the stock will suffer, and that can cause a cascade effect.

        For example, if revenue dries up but expenses stay the same, something is going to get cut back. This could be as minimal as the stoppage of contributions to MS's $50B piggy bank or it could mean cutbacks in developer jobs, but rest assured, something will get cut. So overall, this probably doesn't bode well for Microsoft, even if they do open up their sources or API's.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          If revenue starts drying up, then perhaps they will be forced to stop such excesses as funding SCO.
    • Re:It's about time. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:42AM (#8598243) Homepage Journal
      I'm glad to see that at least Europe still has some functioning antitrust laws, unlike the US where antitrust laws were effectively gutted by the judiciary.

      IIRC the judiciary pursues what the head of law enforcement wants it to. The head of law enforcement is the cheif executive. The president.

      If the president doesn't want to enforce a law or wants to enforce it only with a wink and a nod, that's their discretion.

      Now, it's nice to see that, once again Europe is showing some balls. I really expect there's some phone calling between Washington DC and Europe trying to weasel some leniency in this matter. You and I won't be privy to these calls, but in the wake of the Spanish Election, this is another instance of that disorganized herd of sheep standing up for their own beliefs. Another blow, really, for the current administration (which went all limp-wristed on Microsoft.)

      By this time we should be getting used to the rest of the world questioning the US goverment stands and going their own way. As the economies of Europe and China approach their full potential, so grow their clout. Too bad we've been wasting some checks over the years, now they're going to be in shorter supply.

  • by Space cowboy (13680) * on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:19AM (#8597983) Journal

    It is essential to have a precedent which will establish clear principles for the future conduct of a company with such a strong dominant position in the market.


    Steve Balmer rushed over in a last-ditch attempt to try and come to a deal, but the commissioner apparently demanded even-tougher remedies if a negative precedent was not to be set...

    The fine is expected to be between 67 million UK pounds, and 670 million UK pounds . Ouch. That's a fair old amount of latitude in the range, but even MS would presumably rather not pay a billion-dollar fine. I know their cash reserves are up in the 40 billion dollar range, but even so it has to hurt. I'd expect the commission to fine them again if they don't do as they're told, as well....

    Simon
    • by Mateito (746185) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:25AM (#8598053) Homepage

      even MS would presumably rather not pay a billion-dollar fine. I know their cash reserves are up in the 40 billion dollar range

      Quick! Short Microsoft!

      This sound investment advice bought to you by slashdot.

      • by mapmaker (140036) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @12:22PM (#8600241)
        Anyone following investment advice on Slashdot would have to be insane. Case in point: SCO.

        Huh? SCO's stock (SCOX) has fallen more than 50% in the last 3 months. Everyone here on Slashdot knew long ago that SCO's claims were bogus and were likely a pump-n-dump scheme by SCO execs. The investing public took much longer to figure that out. Anyone who followed the advice given here has made a very tidy profit on SCOX.

        Additionally, the parent post's comment (which has been modded as funny) about shorting MSFT was also sound. MSFT is down almost 2% today.

        The best place to find insightful information about tech companies is places where tech-knowledgable people talk. Like Slashdot.

    • by MrIrwin (761231) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:29AM (#8598096) Journal
      The biggest penalty is not the fine but the "requirements", such as shipping non MS media players and opening up some proprietry standards to competitors.
    • by D-Cypell (446534) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @10:47AM (#8599011)
      Steve Balmer rushed over in a last-ditch attempt to try and come to a deal

      That is probably what made things collapse. I can see the EU report now...

      "After negotiations broke down between us and Microsoft, the current CEO, Steve Ballmer, decided to get personally involved. However, he simply arrived, and jumped up and down chanting like a prick".

  • by Amiga Lover (708890) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:20AM (#8598001)
    OK so they get fined and told how to distribute windows.

    Who thinks this will REALLY change anything? That MS will go a little bit more restricted in how media stuff is installed from a start, but they'll keep on doing the same old crap in every other part of their dealings with the EU
    • Who thinks this will REALLY change anything? That MS will go a little bit more restricted in how media stuff is installed from a start, but they'll keep on doing the same old crap in every other part of their dealings with the EU

      that's why they want the strong precident so they go after MS again and again until they play fair (or they go bankrupt wwhich lets face it is more likley than them playing fair)

      • by gfxguy (98788) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @10:28AM (#8598802)
        I'm not an MS fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm curious as to what people here think is "fair" in a realistic sense.

        Open Source is nice, for example, but does that mean proprietary software is "unfair?"

        So we can come to the car analogy again, for example, if someone starts putting proprietary air filters or even a proprietary stereo (where you can't figure out the connections, for example - you'd have to rip out all the old speakers and everything and completely replace it to put a new one in). Those things would really suck, and make me not want to buy that car, but would it really be "unfair?" Should the government step in and say that car manufacturer can no longer install stock stereo systems?

        I realize we can go around in circles about what consumers are "forced" to buy when they buy a new computer, but the fact is that now, more than there has been in the past 20 years, there is a choice. So we can rag on all the losers that don't know a bit from a byte or what an OS even is, but if they are the majority and they want their "free" media player/browser/whatever installed when they buy the computer, is it "fair" to tell them they can't have that? Isn't this just making things difficult for the vast majority of the people involved?

        I suppose we can look at future rewards from current hardships, but we have to ask if it's really necessary.

        For the record, I don't buy MS software, I won't even buy an X-Box even though I love games, I just can't bear the thought of giving my money to MS. However, I'm not such an idiot that I don't understand why other people do it, and they should be free to do it if they want. People should start taking personal responsibility, if they put up with that crap, the manufacturers will abuse them - the same as we are being abused by the RIAA and MPAA and keep going back for more. If enough people abandon MS, they will get the picture.

        A subscription to Mandrake, for example, is a good start... so is not buying cheapbytes discs, but buying them from the actual distributers. Macinstosh, for many, is also a fine solution, although I have no doubt that given the market share they'd be just as bad, if not worse, than MS.

        Let's assume there's 500,000 slashdot subscribers. Let's assume 80% are open source advocates who use Linux. Let's assume they all did the $60/year Mandrake subscription. That's 400,000 * 60 = $24,000,000 that goes to Mandrake Linux. Let's say Mandrake is supporting a number of OpenSource projects. All those projects improve (not necessarily) and create more demand. After two years, 800,000 people subscribe. That's how it's supposed to happen, not by crying to the government to impose restrictions on your competition so that everything is "fair" - that's like a Harrison Bergeron world.

        I'm really beginning to hate the word "fair", because I don't think most people actually understand what it means.

        BTW, cheers to the people in the EU who fought this fight and made it happen. I don't know about any of your constitutions as much as I'd certainly like to, but the U.S. constition has no provision that life will be "fair".

        This is not to say I don't agree with laws banning some monopoly tactics (like dumping and tying), just that I think it's not as clear cut as a lot of people think (is MS dumping their product by giving it for free with the OS when other companies don't charge for their media players or browsers?) Even the tying claims are difficult because it does give better performance to integrate some things with the OS, even if we all disagree that the performance gains outweight the problems that can cause.

        I guess my biggest problem with all this is that it is not going to make MS go away, or even lose marketshare. As such, it's not going to cause third party developers to support linux or open standards (which is what we really want, isn't it?). We can't rely on the government to do that.

        MS cannot "beat" OpenSource software, but it can keep us b

        • So we can come to the car analogy again, for example, if someone starts putting proprietary air filters or even a proprietary stereo (where you can't figure out the connections, for example - you'd have to rip out all the old speakers and everything and completely replace it to put a new one in). Those things would really suck, and make me not want to buy that car, but would it really be "unfair?" Should the government step in and say that car manufacturer can no longer install stock stereo systems?


          If you couldn't get your car without the Stereo, the multiple cd changer. Sure, it's free, wink wink, nudge, nudge.

          Do you remember that Netscape wanted and needed to change for their browser? And Bill Gates said in a public forum that MS still had OS revenue and they could "compete" in the "free" browser market while he didn't see how Netscape could.

          After MS included the browser for free, loaded on the machine, and excluded any other browsers, Netscape was forced to enter the "Free" browser market and simply make money on server products. (They're not free, Netscape had to try to leverage it's server market products market-share to support the "free" browser.) I can't find quotes, as they're old but some of the statements by Gates are pretty damning.

          It's been said many times before, but once you reach monopoly status, you can't use the same tactics to force people out of your markets. The power and ability to do so, the theory goes is too great and the results always ultimately hurt consumers.

          So, no, I don't think this is unjustified. Sure, it's way late and probably will only serve to increase the rising tide against MS, rather than early on where it could have turned the tide. That's too bad, but we shouldn't give up on prosecuting the murderer simply because it was 20 years ago and he's in jail on bank fraud. (Not to mention, we don't know where things will go tomorrow and having a judgement in the bank will go a long ways to prevent abuse as much as possible as MS either reforms or dies.)

          Anyway...

          Cheers,
          Greg
        • by WNight (23683) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @11:10AM (#8599304) Homepage
          The trial is actually about what Microsoft did, not what they are doing. There are various cases of them outright lying about competitors products and coding their own product (great to control the OS) to break the competition's products. They did use unfair influence to tie their prices not to the number of units bought, but the the number of competitor's units bought.

          Currently they've only written about trying to embrace and extend certain necessary protocols to kill Linux, they've had close dealing with SCO, etc.

          While at any one time there may not be enough to say MS should be shut down for, the company has had a history of outright criminal actions.

          This isn't an MS thing, this is an accountability thing. If you harm your competitors though criminal actions you NEED to be punished. Otherwise we're simply saying to everyone that if you want to succeed you need to break the law, and that you won't be punished for doing so. Not if you break really big laws at any rate. Rob a 7-11 and go to jail for life. Steal billions and we'll let you keep your ill-gotten gains.

          I couldn't care less if MS made a complete reversal and was now sponsoring needy children in Africa, they need to be smacked around for their past transgresions that put them where they are today. The fact they haven't stopped just makes it worse.
    • by DF5JT (589002) <slashdot@bloatware.de> on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:50AM (#8598337) Homepage
      "Who thinks this will REALLY change anything?"

      It will change the consumers' perception of what Microsoft actually is: An anti-competitive monopolist with questionable business practices.

  • by madfgurtbn (321041) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:20AM (#8598003)
    Sounds like the EU is going to show some spine and actually ENFORCE their antitrust laws. What a concept.
  • Harsh?!? Opening? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by leandrod (17766) <l.dutras@org> on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:22AM (#8598021) Homepage Journal
    How harsh? A fine and opening MS Windows to Real, Quicktime and the like?

    This is next to nothing. Nothing short of breaking up MS and demanding published, open APIs, protocols and file formats will do.
    • by TiggsPanther (611974) <.tiggs. .at. .m-void.co.uk.> on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:33AM (#8598142) Journal

      I have to say that much as I am anti-Microsoft and think they've got a monopoly that needs dealing with, I am rather worried about what this will mean.

      Well, slightly worried, anyway.

      If Windows is deemed anticompetitive in the media-stakes, well all that can really be done is to force MS to allow WIndows to come with alternatives installed. That's not really gonna affect them. It sure ain't gonna affect me, as should I ever buy another Windows PC then the first thing I'll do (like with my current one) is to repartition and reinstall to my tastes. So if Real & Quicktime are included, they won't be for long.
      And there's no easy way they can force MS to include them on an installation disc, at least not wtihout clearing the licensing with Apple and Real.

      And in all honesty, I can't see MS being forced to break up and open up any time soon. It just isn't going to happen.

      Tiggs
      • by nickco3 (220146) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @10:12AM (#8598633)
        You are thinking Microsoft sells windows directly to the public, and it doesn't. The missing component in this vision are the OEMs. The real outcome here is not that MS will be forced to bundle these other apps with Windows, but that they will no longer be able to prevent (European) OEMs from doing so.

        So think OEMs, these are the companies that actually distribute Windows, not Microsoft.

  • Careful.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:23AM (#8598032)

    MS contributes a lot of money to both US political parties.. Europe may need "liberating" soon..
  • by MrIrwin (761231) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:23AM (#8598034) Journal
    This is not an outspoken opinion either. Member states have been unanimous on this and Monty has tried all ways to come to a comprise. The EU know what they are up against and have bullet proofed thier position against drawn out appeals.

    This could be more fun than the SCO fiasco....Bill, open the file marked JudgementDay.pif :-)

  • And now... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by devnullkac (223246) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:24AM (#8598040) Homepage
    And now begins the lengthy foot-dragging and political manipulations to elect someone(s) who will direct the competition commission to decide MS has suffered enough and we should all go back to our Windows desktops.
    • The EU commision is composed by people suggested by the national governments, and approved as a whole by the EU parliament. Most of the national governments are elected by the national parliaments, which is mostly composed by people elected on party lists in a propertional system, rather than directly by the voters.

      It is an extremely indirect form for democracy, at best, and it is easy to influence by lobbyism and somewhat prone to corruptions. And it is damn slow. However, it is much harder to influe
    • Re:And now... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tom (822)
      Read up on EU political workings.

      The commission is not elected, and is in fact more powerful than the parliament. Not very democratic, but on the other hand also not subject to the kind of manipulation that you point out (and that is so common in the US).

  • Reignite Competition (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thenextpresident (559469) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:25AM (#8598044) Homepage Journal
    Hopefully this will allow for a more competitive marketplace, where standards are adopted across the board. Open source could really do well because of this. Only a small portion of the world lives in the US, and with the EU nations taking a firm hand in putting down Microsoft.

    For those not sure if this will help the US adoption of alternate products, it will. Businesses aren't just local, they import products, export products, and deal in Europe all the time. When Europeans move to other products, the US will make the move, or force Microsoft to adopt the standards the EU companies do.

    This doesn't spell the end for Microsoft, but rather, it helps to open up a standards based computing environment. One where if your product is closed and completely proprietary, and threatens vendor lock-in, it won't be well appreciated, nor will it really be possible.
  • I want to know... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lga (172042) * on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:25AM (#8598045) Homepage Journal
    ...how they will enforce this. What reason has Microsoft got to give in and pay up? It's not like the EU can ban sales of Windows, too many computer purchasers would be terrified of the alternatives. Even if Windows was banned in Europe, the people wouldn't buy computers with Linux on, they would buy Macs.

    Sad but true.
    • by The Lynxpro (657990) <`lynxpro' `at' `gmail.com'> on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:46AM (#8598288)
      "Even if Windows was banned in Europe, the people wouldn't buy computers with Linux on, they would buy Macs."

      You make it sound like Europeans buying Macs is a bad thing... I beg to differ. Giving a larger infusion into Apple means more useful R&D. Microsoft spends a lot on R&D and still cannot make its products immune from script kiddies or crashes and the like. Getting more Macs (and hopefully G5 Macs) means giving a larger stake of the industry over to IBM and the PPC architecture, which is good for competition. Look at Intel; footdragging on 64 bit consumer chips, running hotter with each model, and power consumption is getting out of hand. Perhaps such a shift in an important market like Europe would return their focus back to their design centers and start taking a serious look at power consumption.

      And as for the open source side, the last time I checked, Apple's Safari is based upon KHTML, and that comes from the Linux side. An operating system based upon BSD. Those are some credentials when compared to the current standard (Microsoft). So why are you complaining?

      And just as a note, just because Best Buy (here in the US) is dropping Macs from their stores does not mean people aren't switching to Macs; it just means that Best Buy employees do not know how to successfully sell them. You can get some deals on eMacs and PowerMac G4's right now there. They haven't cut the prices on the iBooks or PowerBooks yet though...

    • The answer are two things called "seizure of assets" and "incarceration", governments, contrary to popular belief, have the authority to seize assets in order to cover fines, and beyond that, they can toss those in charge's asses in jail. That means any money and securities in european banks, properties in europe, etc. Beyond that, next time Billy or Stevie land on the continent, they can look forward to spending some time visiting with Milosevic. Microsoft may act like they're above the law but they most c
    • by Cooper_007 (688308) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:49AM (#8598330)
      The EU's goal isn't to promote Linux. Their goal is to prevent Microsoft from abusing its monopoly.

      Plus, what's so bad about people running Macs these days?

      Cooper
      --
      Don't you just love the sound of nature?
      - Ginger Snaps II -

    • by Gorath99 (746654)
      The reason they got to give in is simply that they got too much to lose. Why would Microsoft want to operate outside the law? Don't you think that would hurt their reputation so much that many companies, government divisions and home users that are now perfectly happy to use MS products would then think twice about continuing to do so? And I'm not just talking about companies etc. in the EU.

      And besides, it's not like there isn't a lot of MS property in the EU that can be dispossessed (there are probably a
  • Appeals? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Crazy Man on Fire (153457) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:25AM (#8598051) Homepage
    Great. They are going to fine and impose these restrictions on Microsoft. How long before it actually happens? Will Microsoft just be able to tie this up with endless appeals and draw it out for another five years?
  • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:26AM (#8598063)
    The way I see it is if this "fine" is more than the hassle of doing business with Europe, I'd pull out.

    I'd also rip support of all European languages unless you paid mucho..
    I'd also invalidate ALL licenes in Europe..
    I'd also go cry to Bush to have them treat ol' MS like a picked on kid....

    Course, if they do pull out of Europe, it means Linux would be on the rise, and fast.
  • by way2trivial (601132) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:26AM (#8598067) Homepage Journal
    or stop selling..
    tell me, what6's the solution if a monopoly takes on a government, by closing up shop? closes all offices in EU member countries, and no longer licenses it's products for use in those countries..

    Hmm, people will import it, and microsoft won't have to support it... hmmm...

  • by LittleLebowskiUrbanA (619114) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:26AM (#8598070) Homepage Journal
    I doubt this will take place w/out a long drawn out fight. Microsoft will drag this out as long as possible.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:27AM (#8598079)
    So does this mean that Windows will eventually become a pure OS, with no usable applications? I mean, there are commercial "competitors" in every arena.

    No Web Browser (Netscape)
    No Media Player (Real)
    No Word/Wordpad (Wordperfect)
    No Imaging (ACDSee)
    No Defrag (Notron Works)
    No Zip support (WinZip)
    No Solitaire (...)

    Seems pretty useless to Joe Average, who just wants to turn on his new PC and play his MP3s and check his email.
    • by Decaff (42676) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:32AM (#8598134)
      Its not useless at all. Things would be back to where they were before Microsoft started cramming everything in the OS. PC sellers could give the customer a choice about what browser, mail client, media player etc. was preinstalled.
    • by ejaw5 (570071) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:48AM (#8598311)
      During the install it should give you the options:

      Web Browser
      [ ] IE
      [ ] Mozilla

      Media Player
      [ ] WMP
      [ ] Real
      [ ] WinAmp

      Text Editing
      [ ] Wordpad
      [ ] Notepad
      [ ] OpenOffice

      Imaging
      [ ] ACDSee
      [ ] MS Imaging
      [ ] Gimp
      [ ] MS Paint ...and so on instead of forcing IE/OE and others in the default install
  • by holy_smoke (694875) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:33AM (#8598146)
    http://money.cnn.com/2004/03/18/news/international /microsoft_eu.reut/index.htm

    "The company is certain to appeal against a Commission decision in the European courts. Litigation could take several years."

    At which time any verdict will be pretty much irrelevant.

    Wonder how this affects Longhorn planning. Anyone with insight on this?

  • by lildogie (54998) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:42AM (#8598245)
    If the Bush administration had been tougher on Microsoft, maybe they would have solved these problems before Europe stomped on them.

    When Microsoft is forced to behave everywhere _except_ the United States, then they will end up having to behave in the USA as well.

    Getting an easy sentence from the US Anti-Trust conviction may not have been as favorable as it looked originally.
  • by Przepla (637674) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:46AM (#8598287)
    The linked Techworld article says something insightfull, but yet overlooked by posters:
    To waive the ruling, Monti asked Microsoft to commit not to distort competition by bundling peripheral software programs to Windows in the future. Microsoft, it would appear, declined.
    It seems that real problem was not about including WMP in Windows, but Microsoft refusing to stop doing similar things in the future.
  • by PetoskeyGuy (648788) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @09:52AM (#8598357)
    It is nice to see laws being applied as if they were real laws. Here in the US being found guilty of being a monopoly seems to be an academic exercise. That still scared Microsoft enough to put their own man on the Bar Association's Antitrust group [detnews.com] that decides how Antitrust lawsuits should be handled.

    I wonder if it's just easier for the EU to do this type of thing to an outsider to Europe as opposed to an already entrenched monopoly that started in Europe. Is this just protectionism, or will the EU actually stand up to all Monopolies, foreign and domestic?

  • US involvement? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DamienMcKenna (181101) <damien.mc-kenna@com> on Thursday March 18, 2004 @10:01AM (#8598460)
    I'm expecting Microsoft to next try using their US politicians to cause problems for the EU over this.
  • by frozenray (308282) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @10:09AM (#8598589)
    Let's hope it will have a little more impact on Microsoft's business practices than the last judgment [msn.com]
  • Transcript (Score:4, Funny)

    by TALlama (462873) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @11:13AM (#8599340) Homepage
    It's no surprise that the talks ended. Here's a rough transcript of the proceedings that I was able to smuggle out of Brussels:

    Monty: Microsoft, we're going to levy heavy penalties for your past behavior.
    MS: Now, wait here: let's compromise.
    Monty: Okay, let's here it.
    MS: How about you don't levy heavy penalties for our past behavior.
    Monty: [silence]
    MS: Well?
    Monty: Heavier fines.
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Thursday March 18, 2004 @11:20AM (#8599412)
    Assuming that your place of work has some form of MS product license, can you honestly say that you run legitimately licensed Microsoft products at home or do you borrow CDs from work? It's just that in my experience, Windows users get so used to the notion of never having to openly buy any Microsoft products that they seem to forget that they would probably feel a lot differently if they had to pay the full cost of those products.

    Remember, Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player are not free products. They are given away freely by Microsoft provided that you run Windows by which MS assume that you have paid for the development of those products within the cost of purchasing your Windows OS or other MS products. After all, the developers of WMP and MS need to paid somehow... It just means that MS have to do a bit of work separating out the "application" from the "operating system", exactly the same as every other developer of Windows products has to do - in the EU, we call that "a level playing field".

    It seems that the best solution, with the EU ruling in place, is for MS to cut the price of each Windows OS and drop the "extra" products from Windows onto a separate purchased CD, similar to what the "Plus Pack" was but maybe call it the "Desktop Pack". After all, why would anyone running Windows in a server environment necessarily need to install IE or WMP on that machine? On the other hand, Joe Sixpack can go buy a CDs with IE and WMP on if he wants them or have the freedom of choice to go buy other products of even use Open Source ones. (Yes, dear Windows users, it may shock you to learn that there are a very large number of Open Source apps for Windows also!)

    Microsoft need to be made to realise that they cannot "have their cake and eat it". On one hand, they encourage developers to create applications for Windows and hand out developer tools but, on the other hand, they integrate IE and WMP so tightly into Windows that they make it difficult for developers to create integrated media and browser apps of their own.

    Finally, I'm pretty certain that most of the Windows users on here probably make and play MP3s and DivX/MPEG movies. So how do those same people feel about DRM being brought in with WMP to ultimately stop them doing that in the future. How are those people going to feel in 2-3 years time when they're forced to go with WMA & WMV formats that have to be licensed from MS first?

    Maybe the EU has been hard on MS but, let's face it, MS have been pretty damn hard on a lot of other companies over the years so I personally am not going to feel sorry for them.

    ...and if the EU decision means I stand a better chance of keeping my rights to "fair usage" then even better.

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