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Microsoft Set To Be Fined $2.4M a Day 777

Posted by Zonk
from the microsoft's-rocky-holiday dept.
Nexum writes "The BBC is reporting on a European Union threat to fine Microsoft up to $2.4m a day for their non-compliance with the European Commission's demand that Windows be opened up. Back in March 2004 Microsoft was ordered to open up its Windows operating system by way of making documentation available that would assist work on interoperability with other systems, specifically: 'non-Microsoft work group servers [should be able to] achieve full interoperability with Windows PCs and servers'. According to the article, Brussels has found MS to have not complied with the ruling, and, sounding somewhat exasperated, EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has given MS a 5 week deadline before the $2.4m/a day fines begin."
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Microsoft Set To Be Fined $2.4M a Day

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  • Bam! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Bet you wish it was just another pie now, dontcha' Gates!
  • Just a question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jdwest (760759) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @10:50AM (#14317249)
    Would MS even feel a $2.4M/day pinch?
    • Re:Just a question (Score:5, Insightful)

      by leonmergen (807379) <lmergen&gmail,com> on Thursday December 22, 2005 @10:54AM (#14317294) Homepage

      I think the question should rather be, would MS think not opening up Windows is worth $2.4M/day?

      ... I think it is...

    • Yes, that is ~876 mil per year. I don't even think Microsoft would be able to afford almost a billion a year very long.
      --
      Get your Free MacMini here [freepay.com]
      • Re:Just a question (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mordors9 (665662) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @11:11AM (#14317484)
        Not just that $1 B. If they continued to ignore it very long incurring the fines, it may make them subject to shareholder suits. With the additional legal costs from those, you could run into serious money.
        • Couldn't giving up a competitive advantage also open them up to shareholder suits?
    • Re:Just a question (Score:5, Informative)

      by WebCrapper (667046) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @10:59AM (#14317340)
      Well, considering the article mentions that the fine will be dackbated to Dec 15th, that would mean that if they waited this thing out and the EuroUnion decided to fine them, as of 25 Jan (last chance day), they would owe $100,800,000... Don't know about you, but I'd certainly feel that.
      • What hurts... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fm6 (162816) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @01:44PM (#14319149) Homepage Journal
        No offense, but I suspect you don't even have $100 million. By contrast, Microsoft is valued at $282 billion, with annual revenue of $40 billion. So the backdated fines amount to 0.25% of their annual income. The equivalent for someone with an average middle-class income (say $50K) is $125. Not enough to cover one speeding ticket.

        Obligatory Simpsons ref: Mr. Burns is hauled into court for dumping nuclear waste in the city park. He's fined $3 million. He whips out his checkbook and says, "I'll take that statue of justice too!"

    • by hey! (33014) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @11:06AM (#14317417) Homepage Journal
      Sure. I bet they have an intern right now looking underneath the cushions in the executive boardroom.
  • drop in the ocean (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phil246 (803464) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @10:52AM (#14317270)
    Imo a fixed number for fines is all wrong. large companies can afford to pay it because actually playing by the rules is more expensive for them :/
    it should be % based on their global income, that way it would "hurt" both large and small companies equally in terms of how badly they are affected by it.

    still, should provide a bit of insentive for ms to hurry up and comply
    • Re:drop in the ocean (Score:3, Informative)

      by sehryan (412731)
      It only takes a year for this to turn into almost $1B. MS might have a lot of money sitting around, but I doubt it could let $2.4M dribble away like this. Especially when you consider that they are already taking another financial hit with making the 360.
    • 876 million/ annual (Score:2, Interesting)

      by IAAP (937607)
      I agree completely. Then again, 2.4 million per day comes out to $876 million for the year. Even MS would feel that and it wouldn't do much for the stock price either. Even then, I'd like to see the EU collect. That would REALLY be interesting!
    • The Commission's fines are generally set with the size of the infringer's purse in mind.
    • Re:drop in the ocean (Score:3, Informative)

      by nutshell42 (557890)
      The fines are based on company income. I'm not sure whether it's global income or only the money earned in member states.

      Do you really think the EU would fine joe sixPACK Inc. $2.4M *a* *day*

  • Debt collection (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ettlz (639203) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @10:52AM (#14317277) Journal
    Just how can the EU make Microsoft pay this?
    • by gregarican (694358) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @10:55AM (#14317301) Homepage
      They will send the case to some collection agency, who will call Bill Gates at home and at work asking when payment will be made or at least a reason why it hasn't been made yet. Then Bill will have no other alternative than to write the check to keep the monkeys off his back.
    • By kicking them out of their market. The EU is not a trivial sized market for MS. I do not think MS wants their software kicked out so Linux can take it over. That is just the sort of thing which would cause a monumental shift in the overall market.
    • Just how can the EU make Microsoft pay this?

      The same way as all courts enforce payment. They will confiscate however much of the offender's property they can get their hands on, and possibly sling their asses in jail for contempt of court if they continue to refuse.
    • Re:Debt collection (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Chyeld (713439) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .dleyhc.> on Thursday December 22, 2005 @11:04AM (#14317396)
      To do business in the EU, just as you have to in the US, you have to have licenses, permits, etc. All of which require periodic renewal. If Microsoft simply said "See ya!" and let the fines rack up, they would not be allowed to renew those items. They would eventually no longer have the legal ability to do business in the EU. Then they would either have to settle (for a far smaller sum if history is any indicator) or pay up to be able to regain that privledge.

      Also, since they have headquarters and subsidaries in the EU, those would be shut down when the licenses and permits expired.

      Plus, if the EU really wanted to be mean, they could order seizures of Microsoft products being sold in EU stores.

      Will any of this happen? Unlikely, but it works on paper.

      Without the legal ability
      • bleh, never put your hand down on the keyboard when looking over your shoulder to find out what a co-worker is laughing about.

        What the last part of my comment was meant to include is that without the legal ability to do business in the EU, Microsoft loses access to a large market, it's dobutful they'll allow things to go that way. Especially since EU politicians are just as buyable as US or ME ones are, why bring things to a head when you can pad a few pockets and make it all go away?
  • by llamalicious (448215) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @10:53AM (#14317282) Journal
    Is today pro-Microsoft or anti-Microsoft?
    I left my cheat-sheet at home...
  • by Mulletproof (513805) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @10:53AM (#14317283) Homepage Journal
    "Microsoft Set To Be Fined $2.4M a Day"

    That's what those bastards get for shutting down New York with that transit strike.... Oh, wait...
  • by Recovering Hater (833107) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @10:53AM (#14317285)
    And M$ will predictably wait until the last minute to provide documentation. I'm sure the documents that M$ provides will be bare minimum in scope just to get off the hook. Nothing to see here. Move along...
  • by joelsanda (619660) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @10:54AM (#14317291) Homepage

    and they could 'recalculate' the fine to be 2.4 dollars a day.

  • by jaemz (935009)
    How long before we see the 'Microsoft disclosure documentation of non-Microsoft work group servers for dummies' book?
  • why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by COMON$ (806135) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @11:00AM (#14317347) Journal
    left with no alternative Who wants to be the first to start listing alternatives? So you purchase a software, you run it, and find that you screwed yourself over by becoming a MS junkie. So the only alternative is to fine the organization into submission?

    This is about as asinine as suing an open source company for making their code public...

  • Is it file formats? Kernel interfaces? Network protocols? Or are we looking a lot more low level?
  • ...EU's rules. If Microsoft was to choose not to follow their stipulations and refuse to supply the documentation or retract their services from Europe altogether, in this tech's opinion the EU would be better off for the decision. Economically speaking, they could spend the money they were spending on Microsoft Licenses on their own internal development, keeping the cash in the area. Technologically, any *nix makes a better server than Windows and requires less administrative staff to accomplish the same t
  • by OwlWhacker (758974) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @11:45AM (#14317828) Homepage Journal
    If Internet Explorer was locked-out, or it was made extremely difficult to operate with Apache, there would be an outcry.

    If Apache was closed-source and used a proprietary protocol, Firefox was closed-source, and Apache and Firefox were developed by the same company - providing seamless integration between the two - and if Microsoft was given no help to allow its browser to operate with Apache, I'm sure that Bill Gates wouldn't just sit down and say "Ah well, fair's fair."

    Microsoft has had plenty of time to address similar issues that it has brought about, and the company knew of the consequences.

    What's to complain about?

    What other option does the EU have?
  • by AlXtreme (223728) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @11:52AM (#14317904) Homepage Journal
    Is this pro-MS day or something? 'mericuns, stop seeing this as a US/EU war and look at the bigger picture.

    The EU wants MS to open up their protocols and fileformats to allow fair competition. Aren't open standards what everyone here wants in the end? This 2.4M/day fine is just because MS isn't listening, the EU has fined MS before. This is the EU's way of saying: open up your protocols, your fileformats and your system or we'll force you to. Fines and legislation are the only way the EU can slowly force MS into accepting this fact.

    I can't wait for the day that MS publishes actual complete documentation on implementing NTFS or communicating with an Exchange server. That is the day that we, the people, say that we won't stand for closed standards anymore.

  • Europe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MicroBerto (91055) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @12:50PM (#14318538)
    From an outsider's point of view (I'm an American), Europe is quite a different beast than most other outsiders realize.

    I work for a company that sells hardware and software, and the demand for more Linux support has gone up dramatically from overseas - and we're responding with success.

    I personally think that their Linux requests are a bit out of spite (they have MS contracts, the project managers involved are just sick of Microsoft) -- but whichever way you cut it, Microsoft should probably begin playing nice because that's where they're going to lose customers. And Korea.

  • May be impossible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hacksoncode (239847) on Thursday December 22, 2005 @03:28PM (#14320551)
    Microsoft may not be able to comply with this request without effectively releasing all their source code. I have thought for a long time that Windows is such an organic life form that no one really understands how it works, either inside or outside Microsoft.

    It's my opinion tha they could do the *very best they possibly could* to release the specifications for their APIs, and while it would help, it still wouldn't give anyone much more ability to interoperate than they currently have, because the documentation will be wrong.

    Microsoft has a huge incentive to get their developer's documentation correct, and yet MSDN is rife with errors and omissions.

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