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EU Fines Microsoft $613 Million, Officially 1186

Decaffeinated Jedi writes "As reported by, the European Union has hit Microsoft with a record US$613 million fine after a five-year investigation, finding the company guilty of abusing the 'near-monopoly' of the Windows operating system. Microsoft has been given 90 days to make a European version of Windows available without a media player and 120 days to give programming codes to rivals in the server market to allow 'full interoperability' with desktops running Windows. Microsoft plans to appeal the decision." Other readers point to coverage at the BBC, ZDNet, Reuters (here carried by Yahoo!), and
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EU Fines Microsoft $613 Million, Officially

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  • Money? (Score:1, Informative)

    by luxis ( 240935 ) * on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:16AM (#8654907)
    I hate to tell the news.. but $613 Million is pennies compared to Micro$oft pocket book, still its a good step in the right direction.
  • by CountBrass ( 590228 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:23AM (#8654976)

    There is no question.

    You get fined for speeding you don't get to choose to pay it using luncheon vouchers.

    You pay cash and it goes to the EU's exchequer.

  • by mrdaveb ( 239909 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:25AM (#8654997) Homepage
    Sadly the appeals and whinging are likely to drag on for many years.
    Hopefully the EU will be able to make the ruling stick in the end. The fine may not be all that much to MS, but being forced to unbundle Media Player, etc could have quite an effect on their future strategies.
  • EU statement.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by volgers ( 545215 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:31AM (#8655056) Homepage
    Read the EU press release from their own site (in your own language): _action.gettxt=gt&doc=IP/04/382|0|RAPID&lg=EN&disp lay= []
  • Re:Unbelievable (Score:5, Informative)

    by dabadab ( 126782 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:32AM (#8655078)
    "I wonder who'll be picking up their copy of the relevant code in 120 days to help with Linux coding efforts to provide Windows interoperability?"

    No one, since it is explicitly stated that they are ordered to release API info, NOT source code.

  • by polyp2000 ( 444682 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:33AM (#8655088) Homepage Journal
    This is completely offtopic, but dont mod me down because it is in some way related (at least in the UK)

    I tried to post this article but for some reason it was rejected in favor a completely pointless article about firewire and video cameras!

    Anyhow it is important and should have been accepted!

    to briefly put it;

    Anyone here interested in Open Source, and supporting it in UK
    government should digest this document and send your support/comments/insight

    heres the link [] with downloads and stuff.

    Its an important document and those here interested should read it and post related comments/ suggestions to the email address on that page.

    What they are seeking to do is support evaluate both Open Source and Proprietary solutions; whilst doing their utmost to avoid vendor lock-in ; as is the case with Microsoft bundling IE & WMP (etc) with windows.

    The document is an Open Draft, that means that right now it is not set in stone, and liable for change. If anyone here reads it and thinks it should be changed in anyway I would advise letting them know.
  • by mcc ( 14761 ) <> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:34AM (#8655103) Homepage
    in a front-page article a couple days ago that it has not yet been decided whether the remedy will be put on hold during the appeal and MS has to lose the appeal for the remedy to go into effect, or whether the remedy goes into effect now and MS has to win the appeal for the remedy to be redacted.

    They said a judge had a forthcoming ruling on that issue. It seems quite possible to me the ruling would go in favor of the government, since it is quite clear that a remedy that begins in five years would be as good as no remedy at all-- it is quite easy to look at how quickly the tech market moves and how quickly MS has been able to take over previous previous tech markets once they start putting the veritcal-monopoly moves on, and argue that if the remedy waits for the end of the appeals process, it will be too late to do anything to help the competitors the remedy is meant to address.

    Whether this has changed since then I do not know.
  • by dabadab ( 126782 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:38AM (#8655143)
    No, MS is not required to release any code, just the API, and from the sound of it, they are expected to make it freely available.
    Here is the EU press release [], that should be more accurate than that various news agencies make up.

  • You fail it (Score:4, Informative)

    by Johnny Mnemonic ( 176043 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `eromsnidm'> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:39AM (#8655155) Homepage Journal

    I RTFA, and I didn't see: what happens if they don't comply, or comply 1/2 and it's found that it doesn't cut it?

    And this will be a bigger story if/when the sanctions immediately apply, instead of being enjoined until the end of the appeals process. Could go either way, I guess; but the first wouldn't allow Microsoft to play a waiting game.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:40AM (#8655169)
    The most important interfaces that need to be well documented are being able to interoperate between exchange (and outlook client) and to both serve office functions as a server and to keep open source office products totally compatible. This is what permits users to truly interoperte.

    It is critically important the such interface documentation be available to all, not just big server vendors or closed source vendors that can sign license agreements--open source cannot sign agreements! The most important compatibility is not talking to Windows clients at the network level, but at the user/application level, both for platforms that support windows users as a server or as alternative systems that must interoperate properly.

    Compatibility as a windows platform is overrated ... it needs to be at the user or application level--that is where the practical rubber hits the road.
  • by 10Ghz ( 453478 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:42AM (#8655180)
    Well, they have fined European companies in the past (Volkswagen for example), so your "theory" does not hold water.
  • by 16K Ram Pack ( 690082 ) <[tim.almond] [at] []> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:42AM (#8655189) Homepage
    partly because it offers benefits, partly because they don't know about the alternatives and partly because they feel they have to have Microsoft to interoperate with everyone else. Office is a good suite, and as at Office 97 was the best IMO.

    However, I've converted people to Mozilla Firefox - once they see the popup blocking, tabbed browsing and the nice search engine selector. The problem is that lots of people don't see these things. There's no-one much in the mainstream media suggesting alternatives to users, so they keep on using IE/Office/WMP.

    And that's crucial. The tech press can wow about Linux, OpenOffice and Mozilla all it likes. A lot of small businesses don't read the tech press, so keep on using the MS products.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:43AM (#8655196)
    An appeal doesn't mean you walk scot-free during the process. If I'm found guilty of murdering 50 people, I can appeal but I'm not going to be set free to walk the streets just because I appealed the verdict. The only way I can be set free is if the appellate court agrees to suspend the sentence and it's unlikely to do so in this case. So Microsoft will either comply pending an appeal or have their EU assets seized landing a few of their EU execs behind bars in the process
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:46AM (#8655227)
    actually, if you compare with other fines from the EU for anti competitive action, this is indeed the biggest, but not much bigger than the second.

    and they did bash european companies too...

    here is the top 5

    1 Microsoft Corp (USA) in 2004
    497 ME
    2 Hoffmann-La Roche AG (Switzerland) 2001
    462 ME
    3 BASF AG (Germany) 2001
    296.16 ME
    4 Lafarge (France) 2002
    249.60 ME
    5 Arjo Wiggins (international) 2001
    184.27 ME
    6 Nintendo (Japan) 2002
    149.13 ME
  • by Marton ( 24416 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:47AM (#8655238)
    And this was modded Interesting??? ,1 129,603206,00.html

    In 2001 the same comission fined Hoffman-La Roche (Swiss) for 462m, and BASF (German) to the extent of 296m, for vitamin price fixing.

    You may go back to your freedom fries now.

    PS: One can only hope that an appeal will not be granted. It does not have to be, you know.
  • by Decaff ( 42676 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:52AM (#8655292)
    You can easily buy a PC without Windows on it... and if you don't like Microsoft you can use one of the many alternatives. If you are a business owner and want to stream media content, you can choose from one of the many alternatives.

    Nonsense. I may be able to buy some sort of PC without Windows on it, but suppose, like most businesses, I have standardised on one supplier (like Dell). I go to their website. I pick my PC. Where is the Linux Desktop option? As for alternative media content. Downloading alternative players and installing them takes time and effort. This may not be much for an individual but for a company with 10,000 seats its time and money.

    Until I can go to most major PC suppliers and get the option of alternative OSes and features pre-installed and configured for hardware there is no true competition.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:58AM (#8655343)
    If Microsoft removes WMP, they are going to remove the media codecs with it.

    Any company that wants to compete will have to license and/or create media codecs for themselves.

    There is obviously a lot of functionality available by default to any app developer in Windows.

  • by mcc ( 14761 ) <> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:02AM (#8655375) Homepage
    You bring up very good points however it does increase overhead and support costs if ever so slightly.

    Sure. Except there are two things.
    1. Increased costs don't translate to higher prices. Businesses don't just go "oh gee, our heating bill was $70 higher this month than we were expecting, better raise our prices by 0.03 cents per unit". Businesses sell at the price that will maximize the value of the price per unit times the number of consumers willing to buy at the current price per unit. Cost only comes in in that if that value winds up being less than the expected overall cost of producing the product over time, the product is discontinued. unless the company is Microsoft. []

      Now given, since Microsoft can set their own prices, it's quite likely MS would purposefully increase costs in the EU after this even if it lowers their demand to "punish" the EU, or so that they can whine "oh look, enforcing antitrust laws just leads to higher demand". But the fact such things are possible seems to me like an argument for MORE action against MS's monopoly, not less.

    2. Such costs would be nearly incidental. Like I said, the increased support and overhead costs would be absolutely dwarfed by, say, the amount of money put into Windows Media Player with no expectation on return, or the amount of money put into the XBox with no expectation on return in the last week*. It probably would not even be as large a cost as, say, a $613M fine. I don't see anyone going "Paying $613M to the EU will result in higher costs for Microsoft, resulting in higher prices to consumers".
    * Caveat: This may not be a fair statement. I'm sure MS firmly expects the XBox 5 to make a small profit.
  • Doesn't matter (Score:5, Informative)

    by BiggerIsBetter ( 682164 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:02AM (#8655376)
    If releasing the full Windows APIs is part of the deal, it should be possible to provide a Mozilla based DLL to replace the IE one. Ditto Opera and others. If enough functionality is released to allow WindowsUpdate to work, any browser war will be formally over.
  • by NoOneInParticular ( 221808 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:11AM (#8655460)
    Switzerland is not part of the EU. Until last year, Switzerland was not even part of the UN!
  • Re:Money? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:27AM (#8655617)
    Europe will then, obviously, use linux.
    After three years, those of us on "the other side of the pond" will finally realise that they're doing just fine, and also start using linux.

  • Re:I hope.... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:43AM (#8655783)
    Uh, Mr. Darl aka Capt. Dumbass? Why don't you check your facts next time before you post?

    MSFT was in the $33-34 range in November 2000 (split adjusted). Through December 2000, they dropped to around $21 only to rebound to $32 in January, drop again, up again, etc.

    NET RESULT? They are trading at $24.15 today. That's right Capt. Dumbass - $24.15 off of a base/high of $35 during GWB's tenure.

    So much for your GWBBIGBUSINESSBASHING tirade.

    As for RJR, funny that I find this article THIS WEEK relating to your wonderful government activities toward BIGTOBACCO:

    >>More tobacco funds go to state deficits, study says
    >>Monday March 22, 4:03 pm ET
    >>WASHINGTON, March 22 (Reuters) - U.S. states
    >>that cashed in on a landmark $246 billion
    >>settlement with tobacco companies plan to spend
    >>more of the money to plug budget deficits in
    >>2004 and less of it on health-related programs,
    >>according to a government study released on
  • by sepluv ( 641107 ) <blakesley@gmail.cAUDENom minus poet> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:43AM (#8655786)
    I agree with Ms. Murray on this.

    How dare the EU declare war on and infringe the human rights of a lovely corporation like MS who just happens to have made [] substantial [] contributions [] to [] Ms. Murray's campaign fund. (~$200000).

  • Re:Huh??? (Score:3, Informative)

    by rokzy ( 687636 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:45AM (#8655805)
    you obviously don't understand what an OS is.

    IE/WMP etc are NOT free. you pay for windows, you pay for IE/WMP.
  • Re:I doubt it... (Score:5, Informative)

    by EinarH ( 583836 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:49AM (#8655849) Journal
    Yeah, that is why they investigated and in some cases fined companies such as Hoffman La Roche, Audi, Marathon/Ruhrgas, Carslberg, the "REIMS II companies", BT, Telebel, Ewe Tel, Telefonica, UEFA, Telenor/Canal Digital, Phillips, Sony, One2One, BA/Iberia/GB, Air France and B2/Telia in 2003 [] and Telenor/Canal Digital, "REIMS II companies", Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile/Viag in 2004 []...

  • by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:50AM (#8655854)
    I'm hoping somebody can clear this up. Does this mean that Microsoft has to help out projects like Samba so that Linux can communicate with Windows over SMB? Or does it extend all the way to helping Wine run Windows apps on Linux?

    Personally, I hope it extends all the way. Imagine the Wine team not only having access to the Windows source (They sort of do now due to the leak, but they can't do anything with it), but being given legal permission by the government to use it, with Microsoft's help!

    So, can somebody clear up how far this extends?
  • by TiggsPanther ( 611974 ) <tiggs@[ ] ['m-v' in gap]> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @11:09AM (#8656052) Journal

    Part of how they can strongarm the OEMs is that WMP and IE are bundled with with OS.

    If they have to have an unbundled version of Windows, then OEMs can supply other software instead. Imagine being able to buy a PC that might run Windows, but not comes with Mozilla and WinAmp (or Opera & Realplayer or Quicktime), but doesn't even have WMP and IE anywhere near it to hijack the User settings.

    Opening up their formats and interface hooks can also help stop them being anticompetitive, as having to keep up with people who use Microsoft platforms won't automatically require having to use one yourself.

    Plus, if nothing else, it shows Microsoft that they can't get away with being anticompetitive and automatically assuming that they'll be supported by the government.

  • by ahillen ( 45680 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @11:10AM (#8656063)
    Switzerland is not part of the EU.

    Yes, but he replied to the statement: "'ll still consider in Anti-American till they start coming down on European monopolists with as much fervor." Since Switzerland is European (although not EU) and not American, I think the poster you replied to gave a valid example. BTW, according to BBC [], the second highest fine so far (296m euros) was imposed on BASF, which is a German company and thus European as well as from the EU.
  • by ahillen ( 45680 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @11:16AM (#8656136)
    According to an article in a German newspaper [] (sorry, it's in German) the money will go to the EU budget, reducing the money the EU member states would have to contribute by the same amount. For Germany that would mean 100 million Euros less to pay to the EU in that year.
  • Re:Huh??? (Score:2, Informative)

    by DaveHowe ( 51510 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @11:32AM (#8656329)
    What "media player market?" Is there a version of Windows Media Player that costs money? All they're doing is giving stuff away. They bundled IE not to get us hooked and jack up the prices, but because an OS should come with a browser. IE is free (as in beer). MediaPlayer is free.
    Indeed MediaPlayer (and RealPlayer) are free - but the streaming servers for each are not (and the Real one runs on a Mac, so MS don't even get the server licence fee)
    Something similar applies to IE - Netscape didn't live on its browser sales, but on its Server sales; and note that now the IE bundling is being used in reverse - IE6 will be the last version released for W2K or the Win9x range; if you want IE6.5 and beyond, you *must* upgrade your windows to XP or 2003. In a world where half the websites don't work properly (or at all) in FireFox, but you dare not use an *old* IE due to the security vunerabilities, how will you access your preferred sites without paying for the latest and greatest DRM enabled version of windows?
  • Re:I hope.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ironica ( 124657 ) <{pixel} {at} {}> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @11:46AM (#8656513) Journal
    So for the same business behavior, it is fair when you are small and it is unfair when you are big. I would say Microsoft is punished for being too successful, not for unfair practice.

    If Windows was 30% of the market share, MS could add a media player and increase value, sure.

    What they could *not* do is threaten to jack up prices on OEMs that include rival media players, because the OEMs would use one of the OSes that made up the other 70% of the market.

    They didn't even get in trouble for just bundling. They got in trouble specifically for *illegally leveraging monopoly power.* This is something you cannot possibly do without a monopoly, so market share DOES matter.
  • Re:why WMP ? (Score:3, Informative)

    by thatguywhoiam ( 524290 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @12:39PM (#8657198)
    And I don't want my music in any format related to Quicktime.

    That is a mighty list of formats, my friend. Can you take a look at this page [] and tell me you don't use even one of those formats?

    QuickTime is not like WMP or Real. It is a media architecture. It is not a codec. Apple barely has any codecs to speak of that they themselves have made (Pixlet being one of the exceptions).

  • by Safety Cap ( 253500 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @12:59PM (#8657454) Homepage Journal
    All the wrongs in the world are not, in fact, the fault of President Bush. But the overwhelming majority are :)
    Zeldman [] wrote some very poigniant thoughts about this very thing:
    Although it is hard for many Americans to understand, between Iraq and Guantanamo Bay,
    many people in this world are more afraid of the U.S. than they are of terrorists whose objective is to wipe modern civilization off the face of the earth.


    Taking out bin Laden while leaving nuclear weapons in play [in North Korea] is like firing Michael Eisner and expecting Disneyland to close. One fanatic with a bomb down his pants could take out Manhattan, or London, or Rome. Three fanatics with three bombs could do all three.

    (emphasis mine)
  • AAC is QuickTime? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Gorimek ( 61128 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:44PM (#8658092) Homepage
    Apples music format is AAC, which AFAIK is not related to QuickTime in any other way than that QT can play AAC.
  • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @02:25PM (#8658640)
    Man... I wish they'd just deposit in it a bank, and fund open source development off the interest. Even if it got just 0.1% compounded annually, that's $615,000 a year.
  • by flossie ( 135232 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @03:54PM (#8659690) Homepage
    Imagine the Wine team not only having access to the Windows source ... but being given legal permission by the government to use it

    The press release explicitly states that MS must release the APIs but does not need to release the source code because it is not required for interoperability.

    The press release []

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.