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Microsoft Businesses Government Internet Explorer The Courts The Internet News

EU Antitrust Troubles Continue For Microsoft 593

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-on-the-hook dept.
Julie188 writes "Opera Software's year-old antitrust complaint against Microsoft took another step toward being vindicated, and the Oslo-based browser maker can't help crowing over the European Commission's decision. Opera had filed a complaint with the EC in December, 2007, contending that Microsoft's bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows violated antitrust rules. Yesterday, the EC sent a 'Statement of Objections (SO)' to Microsoft with a preliminary finding that bundling IE with Windows does indeed constitute an antitrust abuse. Microsoft has eight weeks to plead its case and change the EC's mind, an unlikely outcome if ever there was one. Opera's CEO said, 'On behalf of all Internet users, we commend the Commission for taking the next step towards restoring competition in a market that Microsoft has strangled for more than a decade.'"
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EU Antitrust Troubles Continue For Microsoft

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  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:17AM (#26493857)
    In all likelihood, Microsoft would not actually remove IE, they would just create a registry key that enabled or disabled the web browser functionality. Such a key might already exist, put in place just in case the US government demanded that they remove IE from Windows.
  • by Coopjust (872796) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:28AM (#26493927)
    IIRC the way Windows XP N was in Europe was that the user was presented with a choice of several non Microsoft media players at first run.

    Nobody actually bought N (well, no OEMs, I'm sure a few people did out of principle). My guess is Microsoft tries to offer that as a combined product/SKU with the "no media player" editions and, failing that, it'll get it's own SKU.
  • Re:How? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pinckney (1098477) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:31AM (#26493955)

    A Browser will be bundled with virtually all preinstalled systems by the OEM.

  • by Snowblindeye (1085701) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:02AM (#26494165)

    Removing IE breaks a lot of functionality in XP, so I doubt they can simply have bundled and unbundled product lines

    As other posts pointed out, it's not clear if that's even true. If it is, they can always remove the the browser application, while leaving the browser components in.

    But there might be another option. Instead of removing IE, they could bundle other browsers, or an installer that will get other browsers, into the default windows install.

  • by similar_name (1164087) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:04AM (#26494183)
    Why does everyone think you need a browser to download something. It's not like HTTP is a protocol made for downloading files.How about FTP, p2p, or an add/remove programs that actually adds programs.

    It doesn't have to be hard. I cannot believe so many people on slashdot actually think you need a browser to download a file. A lot of times a browser uses FTP anyway to download something. Now I will agree that most people have become accustomed to having a browser pre-installed. I'll even agree that it can be useful. But it absolutely is not necessary for downloading.
  • by diebels (893147) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:04AM (#26494187) Homepage
    Dear poor brainwashed windows users, in the free world there is something called Package Managers [wikipedia.org] These wonderful tools makes managing all your software downloads and updates for your computer a very pleasant experience.
  • by Tubal-Cain (1289912) * on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:05AM (#26494191) Journal
    OEM preinstalls.
  • by Tibor the Hun (143056) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:54AM (#26494531)

    From a ruling in 2001, they are certainly a monopoly, and have abused that status.
    Link. [crn.com]

  • by armanox (826486) <asherewindknight@yahoo.com> on Saturday January 17, 2009 @03:10AM (#26494597) Homepage Journal
    My point exactly - bundling isn't a necessity. And, because of lack of bundling, we have choices. apt-get install lynx (or yum install or rpm -hiv or emerge) is just as simple, removal is simple, and, wait, we can chose a default browser rather then being given one!
  • Re:what the hell? (Score:3, Informative)

    by linebackn (131821) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @04:05AM (#26494835)

    "If Windows doesn't come with a web browser, how do you get one?"

    This is asked and answered in several places, but there are a variety of easy ways this can or could be done.

    * First, OEMs would pre-install their choice of web browser(s) for you.
    * Get a CD-ROM with the software from your vendor (Firefox and IE are available on CD
    * Windows could get with this century and add a friendly non-browser based package manager.
    * A simple auto-downloader (double-click an icon and it grabs the file).
    * Other, optional, file sharing applications - could be P2P or even just a friendly GUI FTP program.
    * Start with IE installed, download another browser, then uninstall IE (if IE were truly optional you could do this).
     

  • Re:Coming up next... (Score:3, Informative)

    by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @06:16AM (#26495405) Homepage

    and they come with browsers too...

    Which can be uninstalled.

  • Gawdamit (Score:5, Informative)

    by Almahtar (991773) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @06:30AM (#26495473) Journal
    And I have mod points...

    People are drastically missing the point here. Nobody's punishing Microsoft because they're Microsoft, and nobody's saying you can't bundle a browser with an OS.

    The facts are these:
    1. You can't leverage a monopoly in another market.
    2. Web browsers and operating systems are separate markets.
    3. Microsoft has the monopoly on Operating Systems.
    4. Microsoft leverages their Windows monopoly to further their browser market share.

    So nobody is saying Microsoft can't bundle a browser - they just have to provide options. Make it so you can choose your browser on install, make it so the OEM can choose a browser to bundle with default installs, whatever. Some sort of choice. You can bundle fifty browsers if you want. Just don't bundle your own and only your own.

    As of now the problem isn't that Microsoft is bundling a browser, it's that they're bundling only their browser and offering no options to anybody.
  • by Serious Callers Only (1022605) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @06:37AM (#26495499)

    Your grandmother will buy a computer with a bundled OS, with a web browser included (Windows, Linux, OS X, whatever).

    What should be questioned here is the underhand practice of secret OEM contracts, which force OEMs to accept exactly the bundle that MS dictates is acceptable. For example they're not allowed to bundle other browsers. Those same contracts forbid bundling another operating system like Linux with MS products, etc etc. While I understand the reasoning for MS to want to control their distribution and the software that goes with it, but they have forfeited that right by their persistent use of it for anti-competitive ends.

    If OEMs are allowed to bundle their choice of browser, and remove the built in IE exec (leaving the rendering libraries in place for any other apps that use it), everyone (apart from a certain anti-competitive monopolist) would be happy.

  • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Saturday January 17, 2009 @07:00AM (#26495593)

    From a consumer perspective, that a Linux distribution comes with Firefox is not really any different than a Windows distribution coming with IE. In both cases, I can go and get and use the browser that I want to use.

    There are two key differences. First, monopolies have to play by stricter rules than everyone else. Second, almost every Linux distribution comes with more than one browser, and an OEM is generally allowed to remove those and replace them with their favourite (or just ship without a browser). OEM's can't ship Windows without IE.

  • Re:Coming up next... (Score:3, Informative)

    by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Saturday January 17, 2009 @07:02AM (#26495601)

    If you're an OEM, you can just remove whatever the distribution picked for their browser and replace it with Opera. Microsoft doesn't let you remove IE.

  • Re:How? (Score:3, Informative)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday January 17, 2009 @09:11AM (#26496203) Homepage Journal

    As far as I'm concerned MS still can bundle IE, I only need the ability to uninstall it after downloading $otherbrowser (and no, removing the IE shortcuts is not enough).

    This is a stupid argument and you are a stupid person for having made it. HTML help and the Windows Explorer are two of the major applications which depend on IE. Unreal Tournament embeds IE to display the news. Winace embeds it to display its tips at start. You cannot "uninstall" IE from Windows without breaking not only Windows, but also a huge percentage of contemporary Windows applications.

    The most you could possibly accomplish in a reasonable fashion would be to remove the iexplore.exe executable. This would still prohibit you from using Microsoft/Windows Update, which is a big loss.

    Windows and Windows applications cannot today function without an embeddable web browser. Developers want to be able to embed a browser and Mozilla's embeddable support has never been better than flaky at best. I have personal experience patching applications to use Mozilla embed instead of IE, and sometimes it works, and usually it doesn't. (If all they do is embed a whole page, it works. Anything else will probably fail.) To force Microsoft to make a broken version of Windows when the only ACTUAL problem is that they strongarmed OEMs into not bundling some other browser which would work fine anyway is to follow up wrong action with more wrong action. Fine them, invoke the corporate death penalty, but don't make it impossible for them to do business - if you really think that is the remedy, then make it impossible for them to do business at all, and stop allowing them to sell their products in your country/union.

  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @10:46AM (#26496797)

    ...how it is that the courts in America ruled that Microsoft was ok to keep bundling IE with Windows, while Microsoft's hopes in the EU when faced with the same issue is basically nil?

    The thing is, the US courts didn't rule that it was ok for MS to bundle IE and Windows. They ruled it was criminal. Then, a new crop of politicians were elected and MS was one of the largest donors to their reelection funds. They replaced the people prosecuting MS and the punishment for MS's illegal bundling was no to be broken up so they couldn't do it again, but instead to not even be stopped from continuing the crime. Rather, the punishment was a very small fine and basically nothing else. This proved to companies around the world that the US court system is useless for getting judgements against rich corporations if you're not quite as rich. As a result American companies started complaining to the EU about other American companies rathe than bothering with the US courts. The EU, you see, was actually handing down the occasional useful verdict.

    Since the US courts and several other courts have already convicted MS of this particular crime and most of the important facts have already been proven in the last case, MS has little or no chance of getting off scott free. The real question is if they will just end up fining them a pile of cash or if they will enforce a punishment that will do good in the long term, like forcing them to de-bundle or adhere to standards as decided by an independent watch group.

  • by init100 (915886) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:14PM (#26497395)

    I have an idea. Let's go and sue Linux distributions for bundling free and open source browsers with it, because it wrecks the market for my $40 closed source browser!

    Sure, go ahead. Daniel Wallace tried that [wikipedia.org] a couple of years ago, with a very similar argument. He claimed that he wanted to sell his own operating system, and that the GPL amounted to price fixing at zero, and thus Linux was hindering him from selling his own OS.

    In short, the court didn't like that argument. He tried to amend his complain several times, but those amended complaints didn't fly either. But if you feel like paying for nothing, go ahead and sue.

  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @07:00PM (#26501053)

    I haven't used Vista that much and have an honest question. If this is true can I uninstall IE in Vista?

    Depends on what you mean by "uninstall."

    If you mean, "does it appear in Remove Programs control panel?" then the answer is no.
    If you're asking, "can I delete iexplore.exe and all shortcuts/file associations for it?" then the answer is yes, but you could also do this in XP or 2000, so nothing new here.
    If you're asking, "can you remove mshml.dll and still have a functioning copy of Windows?" then the answer is no.

    IE on Windows is like Safari on Mac. You can remove the front-end IU for it, but you can't remove the HTML rendering libraries-- too many other parts of the OS rely on it.

    Besides, I have a sneaking suspicion that w/o IE built in OEM's would just preinstall a browser of their choosing. I doubt the end user would have to do it themselves.

    The OEM could do that now, but they don't. This decision from the EU won't change anything there.

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