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Microsoft Government News

EU Says MS Must Offer Other Browsers; Now What? 911

Posted by kdawson
from the foot-in-the-door dept.
Glyn Moody writes "So the European Commission is going to require Microsoft to offer competitors' browsers with Windows. '...Microsoft will be obliged to design Windows in a way that allows users "to choose which competing web browser(s) instead of, or in addition to, Internet Explorer they want to install and which one they want to have as default..." [Microsoft] now has until mid-March to respond to the Commission, and might also ask for a hearing. Brussels will not adopt a final decision until it has received Microsoft's official reply.' But having the option to install Firefox, say, is useless unless people know what it is. The implication is that we need some kind of campaign to ensure that people understand the choices they will have. How can open source best exploit this latest EU decision?"
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EU Says MS Must Offer Other Browsers; Now What?

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  • Now What? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai ... m minus language> on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:44PM (#26965797) Homepage Journal

    Now you DIE, Mr. Bond!

    [...]

    Or you just offer weak support for bundling other browsers. If I'm not mistaken, many viewers will probably see Google Chrome ads on this page. Which is definitely a good start for getting out the word about alternative browsers. Even better is to apply peer pressure to your friends, neighbors, and relatives. Peer pressure can be an excellent tool for getting people to conform to non-conformity. (Bizarre idea, eh?) Especially when the non-conformity is actually the direction that conformity is going.

    Let's just make sure we do the RIGHT thing and don't get too focused on a particular browser. As long as it's not IE, the world will be a better place. ;-)

  • Re:That's not okay. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by goombah99 (560566) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:47PM (#26965811)

    At least, not by me. I imagine that most users will be confused by the presence of more than one "internet" on their machines, and one browser or another still has to be the default. Does MS have to make Firefox the default browser, too?

    I agree. I know what I'm doing and I still find that this or that file or link opens by default in browser X when my main default browser is Y. for example Minefield grabs the firefox links some of the time etc..

    As for my poor mom with a barely adequate supply of computer memory I constantly find her sluggish computer with two or three browsers running and causing page swaps. Her bookmarks scatterd on all of them and her calling me up because she can't find the one she needs.

    Then there's the nag screens that ask you to make this or that your default browser. You don't dare click "don't ask me this again, because youi can never get that back again unless you know the magic about:: command on firefox.

    You just don't want to that horror to come uninvited to novice users.

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:48PM (#26965823) Homepage

    Utter confusion is the first thing. Few average users are going to be able to handle the idea that there is any point to multiple browsers on one computer. Either one works and the other one does not, or there is no point. If one is broken, then it shouldn't be there.

    Next, if MS, Dell or any other large OEM is going to be including FireFox, Opera, Safari and others on a computer they are going to require some pretty stringent requirements on release planning and QA. If these aren't present in the organization supporting them the OEM will introduce these. This means there will be a "official" release and a Dell release. That is going to help, isn't it?

    Since the HTML rendering engine and a good part of the browser is used for displaying lots of other stuff besides web pages, this is going to make for some interesting times. Some HTML that displays differently between the "source" and the actual rendering.

    Certainly going to be interesting.

  • by exley (221867) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:51PM (#26965845) Homepage

    The Mozilla/FF people are all clearly [slashdot.org] on the same page [slashdot.org] about that issue. If anyone wants to know how best to exploit this, just ask 'em!

  • by wright_left (1429899) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:52PM (#26965855)
    "Microsoft will be obliged to design Windows in a way that allows users "to choose which competing web browser(s) instead of, or in addition to, Internet Explorer they want to install and which one they want to have as default..." What part of Windows doesn't allow users to choose a competing web browser? They even include a web browser so you can go and download the competing web browsers. How nice is that.
  • by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:56PM (#26965879) Journal

    The EU should make them put up a bunch of their patents and copyrights into the public domain. Crippling their software is stupid. And in corporate settings where there is a in house IT staff, Linux is more than ready to replace Microsoft.

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd...bandrowsky@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:08AM (#26965927) Homepage Journal

    Everyone here seems to be acting as if consumers don't understand how to download, install or use some alternative program. Yet, everyone has been buying programs for video game consoles for almost 30 years, and has been buying software for PCs for nearly as long. Yet, somehow consumers are to notice that there is a choice in browsers.

    For the EU, if they are looking to protect their way into developing a domestic desktop industry, the problem is that the ideology that permeates the continent, utterly precludes that from happening. Why would a European pay for Opera, when FireFox and Chrome are both open and free. Even though on some level I'm a bit bothered by the idea of the EU trying to protect themselves against the one industry Americans are actually good it, by the same token, I will never in my life buy a German car, simply because it is not American, so I can't say that I blame them for it.

  • by mgblst (80109) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:18AM (#26965991) Homepage

    What a stupid statement. This is not an unreasonable request, and is something that the US gov should have done a long time ago. Microsoft has produced such shitty browsers, they should in fact be banned from being allowed to produce such an important piece of software. Time and time again, even with ie8, they have shown themselves inept at producing quality, standards-oriented software.

  • by craagz (965952) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:42AM (#26966137) Homepage Journal
    Whenever I install a fresh copy of Windows XP, I use IE to get the Latest and greatest version of FF off the net! I love IE for giving me this one service. But this decision is quite ridiculous. Should MS also offer various minesweeper alternatives?
  • Re:This stinks... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:58AM (#26966211) Journal

    >>>Only a small minority of existing users do not ALREADY run more than one browser

    More like a large majority of existing users do not have more than IE. Of all the users in my family, none knows how to download an alternative browser like firefox. I suspect my family is representative of the typical PC-using family. They know just enough to *barely* use their computer, but not how to upgrade it with other programs.

  • by troll8901 (1397145) * <troll8901@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @01:02AM (#26966225) Journal

    Install Internet Explorer, Install FireFox, Install Opera, Install Safari.

    More savvy users may not like these extra icons, ironically.

    On a new HP home PC out of the box, you may see many icons on the desktop:

    • Norton AntiVirus
    • Microsoft Office
    • many HP utilities icons
    • etc.

    The first reaction of some people is to grumble that HP bundles unnecessary software, then proceed to delete these extra icons.

  • by Mark Programmer (228585) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @01:03AM (#26966231) Homepage

    I think the most significant line in the slashdot article is this:

    "But having the option to install Firefox, say, is useless unless people know what it is."

    But Glyn then goes on to suggest some kind of publicity campaign, which misses the point of this entire inane EU process. Because if a publicity campaign were useful, it should be done regardless of this ruling.

    The average user does not, and continues to not, care. For those of us who do care, we know how to install Firefox and don't need Microsoft or the European governments to hand-hold us through the process. This EU process been one big, fat waste of time.

    Even if Microsoft offers a version of Windows that lets users choose explicitly to install IE or Firefox (and I guess, what, Opera as well? Safari? Chrome?), I bet you good money that most users will choose "Microsoft Internet Explorer" because it has Microsoft in the title. As in, faced with this bogus non-option, an ignorant user will choose the program that was written by the operating system vendor.

    And I mean this bet literally, because when I write web browser plugins I make sure they support IE first. It's the browser most people have because most people don't care. Until and unless the EU makes Microsoft bundle Firefox to the exclusion of IE---a move that hardly seems fair by any rational metric---most users will still use the most convenient option, because most users simply don't care. End of story.

    An advertising campaign that would sell Firefox needs to begin by making people care about their web browser as an application, then explain why Firefox is a better application for browsing the web. History suggests it's an uphill battle.

    Incidentally, the fortune file entry at the bottom of my article listing right now is "bureaucracy, n: A method for transforming energy into solid waste." How appropriate.

  • Re:That's not okay. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by A12m0v (1315511) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @01:13AM (#26966281) Journal

    MS is in an odd situation. Why don't they instead consider, at least in Europe, dropping IE and replacing it with something more standards complaint. Bundling Opera would sure make some people ecstatic.

  • by Mathinker (909784) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @01:26AM (#26966365) Journal

    Since MS, it seems, will be writing the Pros and Cons for their competitors, I'm sure some marketing research company is just salivating thinking about the money MS will pay them to find texts which pass MS's legal department's vetting, yet cause the vast majority of users to choose IE.

  • Stupid and pointless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yog (19073) * on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @01:59AM (#26966509) Homepage Journal
    The EC is demanding that Microsoft "redesign" its OS to allow equal competition of browsers on the desktop. This is sort of like the FTC ordering GM to allow a free choice of stereos in its cars, rather than ship cars with only its (former) in-house brand of Delco.

    Yet, knowledgeable users are not restricted from installing their own choice of browser, e.g. Firefox, and just ignoring IE completely. So, the main thrust of the EC's argument is that ignorant users need to have a choice put right in front of them, to force them to not be sheep.

    This decision by the EC comes at a time when Microsoft's stock price has dipped under $18, which is where it was in the late 1990s. Bill Gates, the founder of the company and chief executive throughout MSFT's monopolistic phase, has left the company and is busily donating his great wealth to charities all over the world. Microsoft's revenue is down, and its grip on the browser market is slipping in the face of natural and normal competition by products like Firefox, Safari, and--soon, perhaps--Chrome. Increasingly, mobile devices are incorporating browsers and IE is not number one in this market; Opera for example has focused strongly on the handheld market, and Apple, Google, and Palm are attempting to dominate this niche with their new non-Microsoft products.

    All in all, it seems like a silly time to implement a monopoly-busting decision that had its roots in a bygone era when Microsoft was truly dominant. Today Microsoft is increasingly looking like a dinosaur, like GM, its products coasting along on past momentum with some slick non-Windows OS's coming up fast on some of these new netbooks and handhelds. It's a new era and the stodgy bureaucrats of the European Commission need to get a brain transplant to keep up. I wouldn't bet on Microsoft going away any time soon, but they are no longer the threat they once appeared to be, just as that previous behemoth IBM was swamped by the competition in the 1980s and 1990s with no need for government intervention.

    In researching this situation a bit, I came across an interesting proposal [computerworld.com] for unbundling future versions of IE from Windows for the sake of better security. This is a far more intelligent thing to do than the stupid, simple minded idea of adding extra icons to the desktop.
  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @02:09AM (#26966557)

    Microsoft being forced to design Windows in a way that allows users "to choose which competing operating system(s) instead of, or in addition to, Windows they want to install and which one they want to have as default..."

    If you take the GNU bootloader say, it allows you to boot other operating systems that may already be installed on the machine. When you install a typical Linux distro on a Windows computer, the distro asks you nicely if you want to keep the other OS, and it makes sure not to overwrite the parts of the disk which are used by the other OS.

    This is only common sense and courtesy, which Microsoft sorely lacks. I'd be in favour if they were forced to play nice in the same way with other operating systems that may be present on the system.

  • by TheLink (130905) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @02:13AM (#26966581) Journal
    Yeah I agree it's stupid and pointless. There are tons of browsers out there. Bundle all? That's crazy.

    What they should be clamping down on are the "forced bundling strategies". Where Microsoft coerces manufacturers to NOT supply competing O/S on their computer hardware - by having preferential pricing if they don't.

    After all it's software. Whether it's 1000 or 100 copies, no big diff in cost to Microsoft. All it affects is their long term strategic stuff.

    Basically if Windows-only OEM PC Maker gets charged price X for windows per laptop, the rest should get the same price, and not higher just because they also have Linux/BSD/FreeDOS options. Same goes for Microsoft Works, Office etc.

    No funny games like that, and it stays that way till Microsoft no longer has "monopoly" status.

    If Microsoft wants to supply stuff for free that's fine, but then they have to offer that option to all in the same category (I say "same category" because I haven't considered the ramifications of a "if you offer it free to any one except charities, it has to be free to all others too" policy).
  • by squidinkcalligraphy (558677) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @02:42AM (#26966745)

    During the US anti-trust trial about the same thing one expert witness demonstrated a windows install stripped of IE. It was based on CE (whatever verion was based on XP tech), but this in turn demonstrated that windows can be (and is) modular - just not the one they throw on desktops.

    Or for a simpler experiment at home, look for tinyXP or nLite to get rid of IE for you.

  • Re:interesting times (Score:3, Interesting)

    by atraintocry (1183485) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @02:50AM (#26966783)

    The real problem is that this decision should have been handed down ten years ago. It's irrelevant now. And who gets to decide what browsers come installed?

  • by heretic108 (454817) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @03:01AM (#26966849)

    This is a bit of a strawman. OOo is the same basic experience as MS Word.

    Yes, but a decade later.

    Yes, but the same Joe Sixpack couldn't get past the Windows installer either, so that's not exactly distinguishing between OS's. I venture that some linux distributions are comparable or easier to install than Windows, in fact.

    They are now, but they sure weren't back in the mid-late 1990s when Windows was winning its market share.

  • Re:That's not okay. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by atraintocry (1183485) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @03:07AM (#26966871)

    They could just host a build of the browser on microsoft.com once they've done a virus scan.

    Barring that, hopefully the EU will be okay with MS putting in some sort of a disclaimer about why they're doing this and how it's unsupported software.

    But I agree with you. This is something that looks good on paper but there's no good way of doing this in the real world. Browser customization happens in OEM land, and it should stay there. The EU should have just made sure that MS gives OEMs more options in terms of hiding Internet Explorer. And retail version customers should be taking more of a buyer beware attitude to begin with, so this doesn't affect them in my opinion.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @03:23AM (#26966963)

    Microsoft being forced to design Windows in a way that allows users "to choose which competing operating system(s) instead of, or in addition to, Windows they want to install and which one they want to have as default..."

    I think what would be even better would be an option when you get a new computer that says "Would you like to fully uninstall windows on this machine and be mailed your money back for the cost of windows that you have paid when purchasing this machine?". That would be pretty neat :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @03:47AM (#26967041)

    Internet Explorer, the web browser, can be uninstalled from Windows. Simply by using Add/Remove Programs.

    Internet Explorer, the COM objects and ML rendering libraries, are integrated into the system, primarily because Windows Help relies on it, as do a bunch of other critical OS features.

    You can remove that too if you want to, but it's deliberately not easy to do because of how important it is. But that's ok, because without actually using IE as a browser, its security doesn't compromise the system. Unless some malware has access to the IE libraries, but if it has that it can already do anything anyway.

    But why am I not surprised that these obvious points of fact escape you.

  • Re:That's not okay. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by turbidostato (878842) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @04:25AM (#26967243)

    "I doubt that MS would change anything. They'd probably rather keep paying fines while ignoring the EU ruling."

    What for? If it makes more economical sense to pay the fines than comply, then they probably will do so. If it's better to comply than to pay, then they will comply.

    And probably Microsft, sooner or later, will find it makes a better bet to comply than not.

    What they probably won't do if they comply is offer Firefox alongside Internet Explorer. What for? Microsoft hardly have weapons to fight against copyleft opensource. Why they would allow "the enemy on their home", so to say, when they can comply on a cheap and controllable way offering Opera, for instance? They already know how to deal with other closed source companies to their advantage, don't they?

  • Re:That's not okay. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Weedlekin (836313) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @04:33AM (#26967273)

    "IMHO they're missing the point."

    It seems to be you who's missing it.

    "How about going all the way: what about shipping computers offering other OS's?"

    This is a matter of EU anti-trust laws, under which having a monopoly in one market (personal computer operating systems in Microsoft's case) isn't illegal, but using that monopoly to try and establish another one in a different market (Internet browsers and rich Internet content) definitely is illegal. Note that the definition of "monopoly" from the EU's viewpoint only concerns their own markets, so it's irrelevant what share of other markets a company may or may not have.

    "The above suggestion is much like the browser issue is to windows"

    It bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the browser issue under EU anti-trust laws, which existed before Microsoft did, and were therefore also being used to curtail corporate monopoly abusers before Microsoft existed.

  • by houghi (78078) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @06:23AM (#26967803)

    Hello, I am a Microsoft Customer called Dell. I buy a lot of software and I would like to add Firefox. However if I want to do that, Microsoft changes their price.

    They have been convicted of this.

    Please remember that the end user is often NOT Microsofts customer.

  • Re:interesting times (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CmdrGravy (645153) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @07:40AM (#26968219) Homepage

    Oh ! Whine, whine ... moan, moan ... cry, cry. Poor little cruelly victimised US.

    Absolute bollocks, the EU fines far more European companies than it does US ones.

    Stop wimpering like a girl and stand up for yourself for goodness sake you whinging loser.

  • by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2@NOspam.gdargaud.net> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @07:58AM (#26968323) Homepage

    bundles 10-20 really crappy and outdated browsers

    I've never understood why there isn't a central application installer in Windows, something similar to apt-get & Co of Linux, or the Store of the iPhone. Let 3rd party register and submit apps to it, vetted by MS, possibly payware, and in this antitrust case they can add Firefox at no charge. On first run of the OS, let the user customize the apps they want, charge them if necessary and make money along the way.

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