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EU Launches Yet Another Antitrust Probe Into Microsoft 373

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the getting-probed-always-a-bummer dept.
Connor writes "The EU has announced a new wide-ranging antitrust probe into Microsoft's practices of bundling software with Windows, as well as whether its products interoperate sufficiently with competitors' products. 'The first area of investigation will concern interoperability of some of Microsoft's products, including Office 2007, the .NET Framework, and some of Microsoft's server products.' The other prong of the investigation is a response to Opera's antitrust complaint, but will look at other products, too. 'The Commission will also look at desktop search and Windows Live as well in addition to other products. The EC says that its investigation will "focus on allegations that a range of products have been unlawfully tied to sales of Microsoft's dominant operating system."'"
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EU Launches Yet Another Antitrust Probe Into Microsoft

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  • Another one? (Score:4, Informative)

    by calebt3 (1098475) on Monday January 14, 2008 @04:27PM (#22039670)
    Can anybody tell me what MS has actually been forced to do as a result of anti-trust lawsuits? I don't mean what they have been told to do but rather what they were forced to follow through with. IIRC, they still haven't paid a hefty fine imposed by the EU a long time ago.
    • Re:Another one? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Scarblac (122480) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Monday January 14, 2008 @04:46PM (#22040082) Homepage

      They paid about 500 million euro in 2004, while they were still appealing the decision. Their last appeal was turned down last year.

      Also, they made available the specs for the SMB protocol, which the Samba team bought (for about $14k).

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by BvF7734 (1181911)

      Can anybody tell me what MS has actually been forced to do as a result of anti-trust lawsuits? I don't mean what they have been told to do but rather what they were forced to follow through with. IIRC, they still haven't paid a hefty fine imposed by the EU a long time ago.

      Haven't they been forced to hide there Monopolistic ways more carefully now? Possibly find new ways and means of extending their tentacles just a bit further without rousing suspicion? Just a though...
      • by tsa (15680)
        Nah. 600 million dollars (isn't that what they were forced to pay?) is not a lot for them.
    • Let me think.. There is a version of XP for European markets that doesn't include Media Player. They also published some more detailed specs on the api, and some windows networking protocols. There was also a version that didn't have a Java virtual machine, or was required to have the sun virtual machine, or something like that. Nothing thats been earth shattering. I have a little hard time thinking that any remedy in any court, short of breaking up the company, will have much of a real impact on its market
    • Re:Another one? (Score:5, Informative)

      by KokorHekkus (986906) on Monday January 14, 2008 @04:52PM (#22040202)
      The 2003 fine was paid during 2004 (http://www.news.com/2100-1014_3-5255715.html [news.com]). The other additional fines most likely have been as well since Microsoft does have a business presence in Europe via Microsoft EMEA located in Ireland I belive (EMEA stands for Europe, Middle-East, Africa). Should the boardmembers refuse to pay then that would land them in court and result in possible personal punishments. No sane business professional would do that no matter how many chairs are thrown on the other side of the atlantic.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jimicus (737525)
      It's difficult to say.

      Sure, they've been forced to hand over cash in fines - but fines aren't terribly effective against companies that can make more money in 3 hours than they are likely to be fined in 3 years.

      As far as I can tell, every antitrust suit (in the EU at least) has focused on punishing specific actions rather than preventing general behaviour - for instance, "you bundled media player, don't do it" rather than "you systematically use your existing monopoly in one product to try and establish mon
    • Microsoft has had to license a mass of proprietary protocol documentation [slashdot.org].

  • Shudder... (Score:5, Funny)

    by nog_lorp (896553) * on Monday January 14, 2008 @04:29PM (#22039704)
    I normally am happy when bad things happen to Microsoft, but I was Antitrust-Probed by aliens once, and I know how it can feel.
  • by KublaiKhan (522918) on Monday January 14, 2008 @04:32PM (#22039782) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft has a bit of a juggling act to do. On one hand, they're bound to make the maximum possible profit for their investors as a corporation. On the other side, they have to do so in a way that keeps various governments off their backs, and keeps from being -overtly- anti-competitive--because, let's face it, the maximum possible profit will be made by M$ being a monopoly.

    I do rather wish, though, that it was the QC department rather than the legal department that got all the funding for these ventures; the strategy of 'sue everyone and who cares about the product' didn't seem to work too well for SCO, and with the rather notable--especially in Europe--rejection of Vista, M$ would do well to take note of the problems with their product. Legal muscle and dominance of the marketplace will take you far, but such things are no excuse for honest innovation (or, if you can't do it honestly, buying it or stealing it from someone else--anyone heard of any actual production plans for those nifty tabletop computers from a few months back yet?)
    • Microsoft has a bit of a juggling act to do. On one hand, they're bound to make the maximum possible profit for their investors as a corporation.

      Within the bounds of ethics! Microsoft is at a minimum one of the least ethical companies.

      On the other side, they have to do so in a way that keeps various governments off their backs, and keeps from being -overtly- anti-competitive--because, let's face it, the maximum possible profit will be made by M$ being a monopoly.

      Ummm, that's ethics as well.
      • What are these 'ethics' you speak of, and are they legally enforcable?

        All facetiousness aside, the investors -can- sue the board of directors etc. for malfeasance if M$ does not take every effort to make the maximum possible profit--so that's not really so much 'ethics' as 'staying on the investors' good side'

        The probe isn't meant to be an analysis of ethics--because, yes, frankly, M$ has all the ethics of a kitten-and-puppy sausage maker. It's meant to figure out if they can bring a case against 'em
        • by mlwmohawk (801821)
          All facetiousness aside, the investors -can- sue the board of directors etc. for malfeasance if M$ does not take every effort to make the maximum possible profit--so that's not really so much 'ethics' as 'staying on the investors' good side'

          Well, it seems that a lack of ethics has undone more than one company and harmed its investors. Maybe Microsoft's illegal and unethical maintenance of their monopoly will get them at some point, and their investors will push for more ethical behavior.
        • All facetiousness aside, the investors -can- sue the board of directors etc. for malfeasance if M$ does not take every effort to make the maximum possible profit--so that's not really so much 'ethics' as 'staying on the investors' good side'

          I think they would have to demonstrate that the directors were grossly negligent. It's arguable that choosing a strategy of ethical business practices and good relationships with governments and public sector organisations might decrease profit in the short-term (e.g
  • by seeker_1us (1203072) on Monday January 14, 2008 @04:36PM (#22039854)
    How long is it going to be before Bush sends US diplomats to intervene on Microsoft's behalf [infoworld.com] again?
    • The US has precisely zero legal standing in the dispute, so "sending diplomats" would be an empty guesture.

      Besides, I haven't seen any signs recently that the EU is at all impressed by the US opinion in this matter since it demonstrably operates well within the WTO framework.

      Last but not least ... the US has enough troubles of its own to head for a trade war with its largest trade partner in the world. And just about the only major one with which, by the way, doesn't have a massive deficit.

      So no. The

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2008 @04:37PM (#22039876)
    I think people are so use to the past decade of Microsoft getting away with pretty much anything they wanted and effectively walking away from any legal or government intervention that it is hard to grasp that that is no longer the case. Microsoft is getting a lesson right now from the EU like someone who just got pulled over for a speeding ticket and speeds off and gets pulled over again. The fact that you just got pulled over a few minutes ago means absolutely nothing.

    There is a certain, and strange, Microsoft fanbase that is roughly of the mindset of "Microsoft is always teh winner". They might not even like Microsoft products but somehow identify with the company as somehow being badass and that "Bill Gates will just buy his way out of this with pocketchange LOL!" type sentiments.

    Tough times ahead for that crowd. Look for much crying about how life isn't fair from them.

    • by jorghis (1000092)
      I dont think I have ever seen an MS fanboy talk like that.

      Currently there are over 75 posts in this topic and several are pro-MS. (although obviously they are in the minority and modded below comments like yours) Can you point to a single one that has the sentiment "Bill Gates will just buy his way out of this with pocketchange LOL!"?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Amorymeltzer (1213818)

      There is a certain, and strange, Microsoft fanbase that is roughly of the mindset of "Microsoft is always teh winner".

      Well, Microsoft WAS the winner as far as pretty much everything computer-related was concerned for almost all users. The past ten years or so has seen hugely increased Apple adoption, as well as a number of products that are distinctly NON Microsoft that are beginning to compete. Google, Firefox, all the rest. Instead of the giant Microsoft conglomerate, there are a half dozen or so specialized competitors that, while never coming near to combating Microsoft, can whittle away at one specific aspect of t

    • by jellie (949898)
      I disagree, and argue that while the EU is doing everything that it can to force Microsoft into compliance, it is limited to what it can do and how quickly it can do so. Obviously the EU has to follow the laws, but it took four years for Microsoft's appeal of the earlier EU decision to stand. What will prevent it from violating antitrust laws and take over the next Netscape or RealNetworks? Five years later, when the case is finally decided, they'll pay some tiny penalty that is a mere pittance compared to
  • Good EU! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fri13 (963421) on Monday January 14, 2008 @04:39PM (#22039912)
    This is just great! If we get Internet Explorer, Windows Mediaplayer, Windows shell (GUI) and few others ripped off from Operating System, we would get a great platform.

    No, this dont mean that Microsoft could not sell them or develope those. Just that those users who dont need a Microsoft own webbrowser or a WMP. Can remove them. OEM manufactures can install Opera or Firefox or OTHER webbrowser instead IE and VLC or any other mediaplayer instead of WMP.

    How many remembers what is definition of Operating System?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operating_system [wikipedia.org]

    "An operating system (OS) is the software that manages the sharing of the resources of a computer and provides programmers with an interface used to access those resources. An operating system processes system data and user input, and responds by allocating and managing tasks and internal system resources as a service to users and programs of the system. At the foundation of all system software, an operating system performs basic tasks such as controlling and allocating memory, prioritizing system requests, controlling input and output devices, facilitating networking and managing file systems. Most operating systems come with an application that provides a user interface for managing the operating system, such as a command line interpreter or graphical user interface. The operating system forms a platform for other system software and for application software."

    And what we have left if we remove all applications what dosn't remove any of these definition parts? Just pure OS.

    It would be much better if a Microsoft would become as two corporation, other to build and sell basic OS and other to sell all other software like WMP, IE, Office, Games, Outlook etc etc. Together user could get windows as it is now and every one would be happy.

    And those who needs just windows OS, would get Operating System and nothing more. They could install just their games to it or software what are needed and use computer happily.

    • by jorghis (1000092) on Monday January 14, 2008 @04:49PM (#22040128)
      I dont get this whole idea that including applications with your OS is somehow evil. There are certain things that the average user expects to be able to do with a PC out of the box. Things like browsing the internet, playing a media file, etc.

      (warning car analogy ahead)

      It is kind of like telling auto manufacturers that they cannot include built in AC, CD player, or any other ameneties with their cars because it kills the third party market even though these are things that consumers expect to come with their cars.
      • by taniwha (70410) on Monday January 14, 2008 @05:05PM (#22040504) Homepage Journal
        nothing - so long as in the process you are not leveraging a monopoly - the problem isn't including apps, it's using your OS monopoly to out-compete other app vendors
      • by blair1q (305137)
        Your car analogy is 100% dead-on. Microsoft should be allowed to pack any app into its OS that it wants. Provided you or a third-party accessory vendor has the right and access to modify it to remove that app and make your add-on accessory work, the way you can with any car.

        I've never had any trouble running third-party browsers, media players, or apps on a Windows system (far less trouble than I usually have getting things installed and working on Linux, in fact). Although they are never as well-integra
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        imagine you had one car manufacturer who made 99% or all cars. they do not produce navigation systems, so there is a thriving market for these and many companies compete in this market. then one day the car manufacturer decides to include a navigation system with its cars and make it use a subtly different sort of map. suddenly, everybody who buys a new car already has a navigation system and so doesn't need to spend money on one from another company. gradually, the maps you get in the shops fit the navigat
    • Uhh, you do know the "definition" of a product isn't any kind of logical way to limit the product, right? Nobody cares what the "definition" of an operating system is. People expect to be able to install an OS (or purchase one pre-installed) and to be able to do some core set of things with the computer in a standard way. This definition has changed over time.

      It's ridiculous that people think MS should include less in Windows and that this would somehow help consumers. Consumers expect to be able to l

  • If I have this correctlty, ASP.Net is executed server side 100% of the time and returns HTML and javascript to the browser. How would this not work on every single operating system and browser out there? Am I missing something? I mean Office 2007 you have a point; but .NET?
    • by Kalriath (849904)
      ASP.NET, you're right. The "problem" here is the client side .NET framework, a large beast of a JIT compiler with a base framework of classes - much like Java. Someone probably thinks it's killing Java market share (it's not, but if you ask me anything that kills Java market share has to be good) and therefore is illegal. It's a load of bullshit, really. Just the EU looking for a way to get some more free money. Office 2007 I disagree with too - it's not bundled. What exactly are they going to fine th
    • You don't have it correctly. .NET can be used to code desktop apps, and the code only runs under windows (Mono's pretty good, but not perfect).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In the 50's, 60's and 70's IBM was repeatedly beat up on by antitrust people. The result was IBM couldn't ship a computer with an operating system pre installed. It didn't really mean that the computer wouldn't have an IBM operating system (since no one had a viable alternative available), it ment you had to buy the OS seperately. This practice continued into the era of the PC. Early IBM PCs were sold naked. This gave Microsoft the opportunity to sell MS DOS instead of the IBM labeled version of MS DOS
  • It's a Monopoly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday January 14, 2008 @05:03PM (#22040464) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft is a monopoly. It's been operating as one for over a decade. It's been declared one even in the monopoly-friendly US for 7 years. I hasn't changed, and is even worse globally like in the EU. Its monopoly comes from bundling across the IT product line, extending even beyond software. Until it's broken into individual OS, app, development, network, content and hardware corporations which don't make preferential deals with each other instead of with any other competitor to each other, it will operate as a market abusing monopoly. Why shouldn't it? And why should the EU put up with that, when Microsoft isn't even an EU corporation?

    I just saved the EU a lot of money. Now, if they skip the probe and start barring monopolies like Microsoft at least from doing business with the EU governments, they might actually save the EU's people some money, and get some better products out of a more actually competitive environment.
  • Ironic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by misleb (129952) on Monday January 14, 2008 @05:05PM (#22040500)
    This is ironic because one of my bigger gripes about Windows is that it does not bundle *enough* software. And the software/utilities they do include are generally subpar, IMO. I usually have to spend a few hours gathering all the little pieces of software that I need for Windows to be generally useful as a base. Need a PDF reader, PDF writer (print to PDF), better archive file handling, CD/DVD burning, updated drivers, telnet/ssh client that DOESN'T feel like it was coded in 1986 and never updated, etc. A lot of it has to do with XP being so damn old, of course, but even back when it was released the bundled utilities were mostly useless. OS X (and Linux to a greater degree for obvious reasons), on the other hand, comes almost completely ready for general use (minus major apps like Adobe Suite) out of the box. I hardly have to download anything to get OS X going. And then there's iLife, which I don't use.

    I wonder if/when governments are going to start going after Apple. OS X is 10x "worse" than Windows when it comes to bundled software. I use "worse" lightly, of course, because I actually want bundled software.

    -matthew

  • by Tom (822)
    After all these years, finally an investigation with enough width to actually cover the problem.

    The browser, or the video player, all that were only just whatever the current incarnation of the real crime was. Looking into the bundling issue independent of a specific problem is what should've been done long ago.

    And interoperability as well! Someone in the EU has looked at and really understood what it's all about.

    That's one of the days where I'm proud to be a European.
  • by AArmadillo (660847) on Monday January 14, 2008 @08:02PM (#22043706)
    In other news, the European Union is launching an investigation into the monopoly that smart people have on the job market. According to recent statistics, 90% of employees in the technology industry have IQs over 100, while less than 2% have IQs less than 80. According to the complaint filed by the representatives for the mentally challenged, smart people continually engage in anticompetitive behavior to keep the mentally challenged out of the job market. Of particular note is the amount of bundling that most smart people force on their employers; it is common for a smart person to be able to communicate effectively, write complete sentences, perform multiple job functions and assist others on the job. Additionally, smart people continually refuse to work with those less intelligent, monopolizing even the hiring process to do so, instead of remaining interoperable with them.

    European commissioner Neelie Kroes has expressed deep anger at smart people's obvious monopolization of the job market and abuse of that monopoly to keep the mentally challenged from being hired. She has vowed to investigate and take whatever action is necessary to reduce smart people's stranglehold on competition, including both fines and the prescription of neuroinhibitors to put them on an equal footing with the mentally challenged. She then said that success would be when less than 50% of the world's employees had IQ's greater than 100.
  • by DarkOx (621550) on Monday January 14, 2008 @09:46PM (#22044756) Journal
    I really think it would have been better for Microsoft as a company if the DOJ had broken them up. As it is today everthing in the office automation, information processing, and home entertainment spaces that can be done with a computer(or network of small computing devices) pretty much as been or has been at least talked about. Those are Microsofts core spaces.

    Microsoft can no longer do anything without the specture of Anti-trust law looming. I think its caused them a great deal of uncertainty in terms of product roadmap and generally taken away from their focus. The only products of theirs that seem to be improving are Exchange and Windows Server itself which are becoming functionally more like the Unix and VMS systems that inspired them in the first place. They are certainly not doin anything new; because their ain't much new to do, and skipping logical points of intergation to avoid stepping on toes that might go crying to the DOA.

    Don't get me wrong I hate what Microsoft has done to the industry as much as the next Slashdoter. I also think two or three Microsofts would more then likely suck all the oxygen out room just as much as the one monolith does; but at least we might see some real progress.

    Over the last six to eight years we have gotten just about exactly nothing from Microsoft of real value. Oh and don't say DotNet was inovative. It took Microsoft two years to figure out what DotNet was themselves and its not new either. Sandboxed byte code interpreters existed already; JAVA as well as others. Ok so Microsoft made some more compilers for other languagues targeting their byte code. Big deal its was an obvious move, anyone wanting to invest the man hours could have done the same thing with Java; and if nobody had well CPUs have gotten fast. Pure interpreters would have filled the space.

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