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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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  • That only telling people the full terms of use after they can no longer return the product is also a pretty underhanded means of doing business?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by VertigoAce (257771)

      If you want the terms of use for Microsoft software, here they are: http://www.microsoft.com/about/legal/useterms/default.aspx [microsoft.com].

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Yes a list of software licences not easily found on their site will really help when someone is deciding what to buy at the shop or when installing an OS and leaving them with no internet service at the time.

        Sure they could research this beforehand but what I've learned from the Ubuntu laptop topic is that the average person is a moron and fans of MS think this is acceptable. Which means they'll never find that URL so it effectively doesn't exist. Which makes MS happy because they, like most software com
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          This is why I pirate. It's a form of protest against software, music, or video makers who happily take my money but refuse to provide any kind of guarantee for return. Even food manufacturers provide a "satisfaction guaranteed or money back" warranty. There's no reason why software, music, and video companies can't do the same.

          Oh, and posting the terms on an internet site is worthless for customers who don't have internet. The terms should be revealed at point-of-sale, not hidden inside the box. It's j

  • Good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WiiVault (1039946) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:15AM (#26493831)
    Its hard to deny that MS has gotten where is has through quality or good practices. I hope the EU does what we should have, and slaps them hard on behalf of all the consumers and competitors they have swindled.
    • by WiiVault (1039946)
      Whoops! You all know what I mean :-)
  • How? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cobraR478 (1416353) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:21AM (#26493879)
    How is the average computer illiterate going to download a browser if Microsoft is not allowed to bundle one? Buy a disc?
    • by Coopjust (872796) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:28AM (#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.
      • by Coopjust (872796)
        Found it. Apparently when you double clicked a media file in the XP "N edition" it asked you to install Windows Media Player or Winamp:
        http://labnol.blogspot.com/2005/09/windows-xp-n-edition-xp-without-media.html

        My guess is OEMs will prebundle a browser and MS will include Opera on there (they started the complaint and have a smaller marketshare than Firefox currently). That is, if anybody buys it. (Apparently only 1,500 XP "N edition" disks have been ordered with no known sales...)
    • Re:How? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Pinckney (1098477) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @12:31AM (#26493955)

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

      • by drsquare (530038)

        Yes, Internet Explorer. The way I see it, those of us savvy enough to recognise the superiority of other browsers already know how to download them.

      • Re:How? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by linebackn (131821) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:35AM (#26494705)

        But even more importantly: The OEM's *CHOICE* of browser will be bundled with virtually all preinstalled systems by the OEM.

        Right now they don't have a real choice. IE has to be installed, so they can have just IE, or IE+Firefox or IE+Opera, or IE+Firefox+Opera or so on. Given there is a tendency to avoid having multiple application that do about the same thing installed, everyone currently usually just winds up with IE.

        • Re:How? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday January 17, 2009 @08:05AM (#26496165) Homepage Journal

          Microsoft used its monopoly position to FORCE OEMs to not bundle other browsers (or lose their big discount.) THIS is wrong. Including a browser in the OS and using its functionality is NATURAL. Otherwise why would KDE and GNOME both include a browser? Trying to make Microsoft remove a part of the operating system (which after all is a way for a user to operate a computer, and includes the UI) is complete bullshit. I don't buy the argument that it's acceptable because they are a monopoly. Either fine the shit out of them, invoke the corporate death penalty, or leave them alone. I don't mind interfering with their ability to lie, cheat, and steal, but interfering with their ability to legitimately do business (e.g. put together a modern operating system with the features users now expect) is simply not acceptable. This whole thing is seriously just a whiny, passive-aggressive attempt to punish Microsoft for past misdeeds. Why not, you know, just punish them for past misdeeds?

          • Re:How? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Jesus_666 (702802) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:04PM (#26498407)

            Microsoft used its monopoly position to FORCE OEMs to not bundle other browsers (or lose their big discount.) THIS is wrong. Including a browser in the OS and using its functionality is NATURAL.

            It sure is. But it also means that people are compelled to use the browser you bundled simply because it's always there. The rules are different when you're a monopolist as even something you throw in as a convenience feature could severely impact markets.

            In this case Microsoft should't even be hit too hard - MSHTML will still be in the OS simply out of neccessity; it's simply the web browser GUI that gets axed. The only thing that would really break are badly programmed applications that ignore the default browser setting and directly call iexplore.exe.

            Otherwise why would KDE and GNOME both include a browser? Trying to make Microsoft remove a part of the operating system (which after all is a way for a user to operate a computer, and includes the UI) is complete bullshit.

            So essentially any program that ships on a Windows install DVD is sacrosanct for all times because it's part of the base install? If not, who decides which programs are neccessary for a modern operating system and which aren't? If we go by the classical OS definition, not even a GUI is required for an operating system; a mere hardware abstraction layer with process scheduling would suffice. We could go for an ISO standard, but that would require a committee and five years of deliberation time (plus ISO has been shown to be bribable).

            It's possible to use Windows productively without using Internet Explorer so I'd guess having IE as part of the base install is not really necessary, especially as OEMs will bundle either IE or other browsers when building their systems.

            I don't buy the argument that it's acceptable because they are a monopoly. Either fine the shit out of them,

            Useless. If the EU whips up fines large enough to destroy Microsoft it'd either get hit by sanctions via WIPO or Microsoft would simply withdraw from the EU and work doubly hard to ensure its monopoly in other parts of the world - and complete incompatibility with all open standards to force Europe to import Windows anyway. If the fines even get through; Microsoft would make sure that the appeals suit would take decades.

            invoke the corporate death penalty,

            Impossible; Microsoft is not a European company and the EU is unlikely to take over the USA anytime soon. The EU can attack Microsoft's local subsidiaries but that's scarcely going to kill the corp - and, again, would probbly create bad consequences as the USA wouldn't appreciate such actions against one of the government's larger sponsors.

            or leave them alone.

            Which essentially means they can do whatever they want because the US government is bought off and nobody else has the power to outright destroy them. That's not a terribly good idea as Microsoft still controls the desktop OS market and is known to put any monopolies it has to their fullest use. Having Microsoft dictate the terms of desktop computing is not going to help the European IT industry in any way so there's little incentive to let it happen.

            I don't mind interfering with their ability to lie, cheat, and steal, but interfering with their ability to legitimately do business (e.g. put together a modern operating system with the features users now expect) is simply not acceptable.

            Completely stopping their business is okay but restricting it is wrong? By that logic, judges shouldn't issue restraining orders anymore because everyone should be either completely free or dead.

            It's not like nobody would buy Windows anymore because it doesn't come with a browser. Every OEM will bundle something so for virtually everyone Windows still does come with one and the rest

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by juancnuno (946732)
      With Windows Update? The average computer illiterate can choose from Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome... As an additional bonus, users will get used to installing programs from trusted channels instead of from any .exe they find on the Internet.
    • "How is the average computer illiterate going to download a browser if Microsoft is not allowed to bundle one? Buy a disc?"

      Sure! Do you want 3.5", 5.25" or 8" [spreadfirefox.com]? :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kwark (512736)

      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).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        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

  • The European Commission were the ones that actually got them to make "Windows N" without media player. And in that case I think MS could have actually left a few core "system-ish" files and still have met their requirements.

    This time let's see a version of Windows that doesn't have MSHTML.DLL, SHDOCVW.DLL, or even WININET.DLL. Then perhaps developer finally will stop embedding IE or calling these files bypassing users choice of browser... Or perhaps not. Did Windows N actually ship to stores or get preloade

  • by similar_name (1164087) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @01:04AM (#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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ljw1004 (764174)

      An "add/remove programs" that actually adds programs?

      So your proposed solution to the anti-trust action is for Microsoft to become a central channel for distributing and installing third-party software, rather than leaving that to the third parties?

      Seems like that would be even more anti-trust.

      • So your proposed solution to the anti-trust action is for Microsoft to become a central channel for distributing and installing third-party software, rather than leaving that to the third parties?

        It was merely one of several examples of ways to download software without a browser. But since you bring it up, it would be nice if they included a method for installing third-party software from the web without a warning about running an executable that could harm or damage your computer.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by RulerOf (975607)

      add/remove programs that actually adds programs.

      I was floored when I found out that it actually could. Applications (in the form of MSI files) can be advertised using group policy and made available based on Active Directory group membership. As cool as it is, sadly though, self provisioning of applications doesn't facilitate license compliance or dumb users very well.

      • Hnnh. One learns new things every day! Too bad you need to set up a DC (or AD machine) to make all of that work... and manually dump the MSIs on the DC... And fiddle with GPOs... :/

        (Not that fiddling with GPOs is hard, mind you... it's just that this feature is next to useless for the home user.) [Not that you made any claims to the contrary.]

  • I personally look forward to when TV's are no longer sold with remotes. Only when we stop the unfair bundling of remotes with TV's will consumers be forced to no longer accept "good enough" remotes when far better remotes are available for purchase.

    Personally, I find the whole IE bundling witch hunt paternalistic. Let Opera, or whoever, advertise their products in the marketplace, and get people to buy them. Firefox did that full-page ad and that did far more to increase its market exposure and usage tha

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 17, 2009 @03:35AM (#26494965)

      Which is actually not a bad idea. No more having proprietary remotes that are impossible to replace: without tying, remotes would conform to published standards (ideally open and patent free) which would allow choice in the type of remote that you used.

      For example, accessible remotes could talk, or have extra large button, and be _guaranteed_ to work with your TV/Video/DVD/Blu-Ray/whatever - instead of the hit-and-miss pot luck you take when purchasing so-called 'universal' remotes these days.

      You have unwittingly given a very good example of the problems with tying.

    • by linebackn (131821)

      Ok, so I buy a TV and the remote it came with smells up the house or something... I get a different remote of my choice and throw the old one the heck away.

      I buy a Windows computer and IE smells up my hard drive or something... I get a different browser of my choice and.... Ok, how do I get rid of IE?

      And would a TV manufacturer really forbid or technically prevent a dealer from offering a different remote (presumably with more abilities to increase sales) in complete substitution of their remote? I would ho

  • So Microsoft did make a 'N' series of Vista (Ultimate N, Business N, Home Premium N, Home Basic N etc.) for EU, basically that's have the Windows Media Player and all the WMV/WMA functionalities removed. (i.e. Sound Recorder can't save in WMA)

    But I doubt if it's cheaper than non-N version. (Could some people in EU tell me?)

    If EU is going to be decided as antitrust, Microsoft will just make the N not to include the browser. Who is going to lose?

    How about OS X and Linux? Can they ship browser binary bits on t

  • Gawdamit (Score:5, Informative)

    by Almahtar (991773) on Saturday January 17, 2009 @05:30AM (#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.

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