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back to article Microsoft hit by two more EC probes

The European Commission is launching two formal investigations into Microsoft. Microsoft is accused of abusing its dominant position by unfairly tying products together - in this case its operating system and its browser, Internet Explorer. Microsoft is also accused of illegally refusing to disclose interoperability information …

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Hmm

So, Apple can put a desktop search app into OSX, but when MS do it, the EU investigates?

This really seems to be a witch hunt, rather than anything helpful. Will MS be forced to make a non-IE version too - like the non-WMP version they were forced to do before, yet no-one wanted to purchase afterwards.

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Gold badge

IE issue only applies to XP and earlier

With Vista Microsoft removed dependancy on IE for the File Explorer and Email clients.

So it should be possible to remove IE.

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Pirate

Break standard?

I especially love this part

"Microsoft has introduced technology into its browser which reduces compatibility with open internet standards"

As someone who as done web dev, I can tell you this is an understatement. I have pages who looked fine in any other browser get craped out in IE. And of course, the changes you needed to make to make it work in IE screwed it up everywhere else. We had to detect what browser was used to feed it html it would understand. Strange, it was always "if = IE, send this. else, send normal html"

Pirate flag cause I hope MS continues to get harpooned by the EU

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Gates Horns

Netscape

Didn't Netscape do this back when Dinosaurs roamed the earth?

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Anonymous Coward

meh

Fine line between good business practice and monopolipy-absuing behaviour. MS tends to dance either side quite frequently.

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Ok - let's save 'em the job

Lets save the EU a load of work and expense right here by stating the bleedin' obvious....

1/ Tying IE with the OS - Yep - Guilty - Why are they even considering the possibility that this may not be the case?

2/ Failure to disclose API info for Office etc - Guilty - just as the Linux people

3/ Office Open XML format not "open" and "interoperable" enough - Errr... Guilty as charged. This is well documented, as is the fact that MS Office seems to have considerable difficulty even adhering to its own "standards"

4/ Adding MS-specific stuff to IE to stifle interoperability - Well, yes, obviously Guilty - ask any web developer!

It's not bloody rocket science! You could amass enough documented evidence to prove all these points within a single day, just by using Google! What a stupid waste of time. A blind man can see that MS has done (or not done as appropriate) ALL these things and has been doing them for donkeys. Whether they amount to a "crime" I don't know (I'm not a lawyer), but the EU could certainly cut-out months and months of very expensive "investigation" and "fact finding" by opening their eyes!

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Jobs Horns

The poblem is their integation...

@ AC at the top - The problem is not that they have a search, it is that it is designed to send queries to the windows live search engine, and good luck in choosing any other search engine.

I have a search on my Linux box, and I can choose which engine to send it to, from a drop down list including:

- Yahoo

- Google

- Amazon

- Answers

- Creative commons

- Wikipedia

- I could fish around on the Ubuntu forum to add more if I wanted to

Microsoft would never let you choose any search engine but the one that earns them money, let alone include them in a drop down list to give the average user a choice.

Until we force them to.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Hmmm

Well, MS have a monopoly (as in they can exert monopoly power in the market, much like iPods can in the "mp3 player" market) so they can't use their monopoly to either subsidise (dumping is illegal) or extend a monopoly to a new area.

MS put their WMP into windows and suddenly, WMA/WMV have 90% penetration. So if it is going to cost you to stream in RM format *and* you have to give everyone access to a player, or with WMP you can skip the "giving the player to everyone" cost, which would you go for? Of course WMP servers have to be Windows machines, which also helps extend monopoly to the server market.

Note: Apple DO have monopoly power in MP3 players but only because the recording ass. around the world have a monopoly and DEMAND strict compliance with DRM (which is, by reason of its aim, a monopoly creation device). So the monopoly isn't Apple's creation, it's a (happy) result of anothers' action. And Apple don't use iPods to extend a monopoly into the desktop (you can get iTunes for Windows).

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Gates Horns

@Break Standard?

I agree completely, which is why every website I create has advice on where to download a real standards compliant browser (obviously highlighting the security advantages too)

However I don't think introducing functionality beyond that defined by standards is a problem - as long as the browser supports the existing standards.

I think the real case that should be brought against MS is that not fully supporting standards has an impact on accessibility. Surely someone can construct a case using the Disabilities Discrimination Act (in the UK at least)?

As for OOXML - what a pile of shite! Why the hell would anyone save in a MS proprietary format when you know they will throw it away in x years claiming that particular format is unsafe or just plain rubbish and they will no longer support it?

My GF got a vista laptop for xmas - she asked me to get rid of Office 2007 last night with no prompting because after three weeks of trying to do college work she has decided it is crap and unusable. All without any prompting from me.

As for it being a witch hunt, it bloody well should be. MS deserve to be nailed to the wall.

Windows Applications developer <sigh>

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Anonymous Coward

not again

God forbid that a company should be allowed to do whatever it wants with its own products

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Yawn

web developers - please show me a fully compliant browser? and you have to write for different browsers - every tried writing for different OSs and different languages? and if you want to tell 80% of your clients they are wrong well that's your issue, but it doesn't sound either good business practise too me

and the EC – looks more like a protection racket than anything else

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Anonymous Coward

What about the existing fines?

MS have already had the EU fine them on remarkably similar sounding issues (related, as noted by others, to "abuse of monopoly" - Apple can do it because they're not a monopoly yet). Are the fines actually being collected yet?

C'mon El Reg, where's the analysis?

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Witch Hunts

I have three web browsers installed on my Windows system (IE, Opera, Firefox). It's trivial to install them and a lame argument that Microsoft isn't making it easier.

As for the open document format, Microsoft spent enormous time and resources developing and designing its office formats, programming, testing, processing customer feedback and user studies. The open document format was whipped up fairly quickly, since it had the benefit of using Microsoft's formats and functionality as a template. No good deed goes unpunished, and now open source zealots are trying to convince governments to ban MS formats. It's typical of leftists that they talk about freedom, and then do anything they can to force their choice on others.

All of this is a witch hunt, partly anti-Americanism from those in Europe who are so annoyed by their dependence on US hardware and software technology (microprocessors, the GPS system, Windows, Office, the internet, etc). Partly just typical knee-jerk leftism, any coroporation that is successful is a target.

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Gates Horns

@not again

You mean like changing the file format so all previous versions of your office software is incompatible with the latest one, so you end up having to buy a new copy to read any documents sent to you, even though the older version you have works perfectly fine?

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Linux

Nobody mentioned "desktop search" yet

So, is it better, or worse than "beagle"?.... and can Linux be sued for using a journalled filesystem?

BTW...I LOVE vista...... never , ever used it,.... but I still love it.

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How much of this is EU v. USA?

I get so fed up with this whole 'bash Microsoft' nonsense. What do people buy? They buy MS. I have OpenOffice and MS Office on my PC. What do I use? MS every time. Anonymous Coward - I'm sorry your girl-friend gave up on Office 2007. I think it is a brilliant suite of apps, but I did have to learn some new stuff - but that's life.

Microsoft - big successful American corporation. EU - more than it's fair share of anti-American detractors (who don't like Capitalism, full stop)

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Unfair? I don't think so!

"The unfair tying case was brought following a complaint from Norwegian browser maker Opera."

If Microsoft is still doing things illegally then it would be "unfair" for the EOC NOT to investigate. They have a long record of abusing their market position which should have been stopped in the 80s.

If you want to talk about unfair. How about it being unfair that Microsoft doesn't have to pay all the companies it illegally abused based on the full amount those companies lost. I'm talking hundreds of billions. That WOULD be fair.

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> Witch Hunt

A witch hunt is a wise exercise if there are actually such things as witches, and you fear you may have one in your neighbourhood...

In this case our friends at Microsoft have repeated convictions for breach of fair trading rules, and it makes sense to check up they're not breaking the law again. Its exactly the same as your local copper keeping an eye on that guy who's got three convictions for driving while banned to see f he's doing it again...

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It was only a matter of time..

.. before the left wing/anti-american arguments started to raise their heads.

This is a company that has already been convicted under anti monopoly laws ..... err in america ?

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Silver badge
Boffin

@ AC - "Yawn"

Show you a fully compliant browser? OK:

Firefox, Seamonkey, Opera, Safari, Konqueror, Epiphany, Camino... I could go on. All of these are W3C compliant. Yes, some have a few minor quirks and some support newer versions of the W3C and CSS standards than others, but ALL, and I mean ALL of them will display a web page constructed using <div> and CSS 2.0 tags correctly, without any modifications to the HTML. Internet Explorer does not.

Because of Internet Explorer, we have to *still* use tables (and sometimes frames) to design our web pages, because if we use the much more dynamic and flexible <div>+CSS approach recommended by the W3C, the page breaks in IE. So we are forced to use slow-loading, outdated HTML simply because Microsoft think they own the Web.

If the client is willing to pay the extra development cost (we quote it as "support for non-compliant user agents") we can design a site that uses <div>+CSS 2.0 while sending old-style table-based HTML to IE. The upshot of this is a website that provides a much faster and more functional user experience to all but IE users, who just get the "same-old" clunkiness, which is all their browser permits. Surprisingly, after being shown what's possible for non-IE users, quite a few clients pony up the extra dollars for the better website!

I would have no problems with people using IE if only it was standards compliant. As a web developer, I don't give a toss what browser people use, as long as it's compliant. The only reason I push Firefox is because it's popular AND compliant. I'm just as happy to push Opera or Safari as viable alternatives, although I do like Firefox's add-on system and configurability. But IE is NOT compliant, and catering to it practically doubles our development costs and time.

So yes, Microsoft should be put against the wall on this. Just as an electrical-goods manufacturer would be if they sold appliances with non-standards compliant power plugs. Standards exist for a reason.

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Coat

European Bias

Its more than a little odd that this has taken so long to surface, both Opera and IE have been around for some time, and it seems that Opera have decided its their turn to take a shot.

As someone else said, god forbid that people should get so successful that they have to abandon improving their own products because their competitiors cant organise themselves into a cohesive group or define their own standard. If everyone else is using a standard and only microsoft isnt, then i fail to see the monopoly. Its just tall poppy syndrome. If this had of happened back when the BIOS was invented we may not have PC's as we know them today.

I've never had an issue with IE, WMP or Office in any of its categories. I haven't used Vista yet, but WinXP may be the most user friendly program ever made by man.

At the end of the day, this amounts to nothing more than a european assault on a big american business. There is no other reason for this barrow to be pushed AGAIN and AGAIN. This is going to go on and on because new business doesnt want to innovate, it wants the guys at the top removed so it can "compete fairly" by emasculating the people that got their first.

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Anonymous Coward

Any Search Provider You Wish

In response to Devon:

IE7 Search:

Instant Search Box:

The Instant Search Box in the upper right hand corner enables you to search the web without navigating to a search provider website. You can set your default search provider and add more providers from the Find More Providers menu option.

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Thumb Up

From Europe this is normal.

I live in continental Europe (Belgium) and this investigation looks quite normal from my point of view.

Americans have to understand that Europe (especially continental Europe) has a much stronger stance against bundling and monopoly abuse than the US.

Here in Belgium it is legally forbidden to bundle a mobile pourchase with a mobile contract, so mobiles are more expensive than in "bundled" countries, but once you have one you enjoy very low mobile contract prices (I pay less than $20 a month for voice and data, with enough minutes and Mbs included to last me the month).

Also the main mobile company was legaly forced to open its network to competitors because an operator controling 70% of the market can (and often do) use it's maket share to prevent the competion to get a workable foothold in the market if not protected.

The reason is that here in Europe capitalism and competition is viewed as a way to keep prices down for consumers and maintain healthy companies, and a near monopoly doesn't do that. From the moment a company gets a near monopoly the governement will do one of 2 things: either consider it's a critical part of the state infrastructure and nationalise/regulate it (that's what they did with rail in the early 1900's) or impose disadvantages to the monopoly to ensure that competitors can gain a foothold in the market and the monopoly is broken or reduced.

If you wonder why European have this kind of stance you only have to look at the US public transportation system. Because the US state left most transportatuion companies to be bought and closed by car manufacturers, it almost impossible to live in an US rural area without a car. Now for the people that can't afford a car that's a big problem. Also this will cause serious problems for reducing the US carbon footprint (it's difficult to convince people to use public transportation if it doesn't exist). Sure it did give a big boost to the US car industry a few decades ago, but now people are in trouble... That's the kind of situation that would be considered unacceptable in Europe.

It started in some parts of europe: In belgium from next year it will be mandatory for all state administrations to work only with documents in open formats. Microsoft will either have to open it's market to competion or lose some of it's bigger customers. That doesn't means that micrtosoft can't sell it's product to state agencies, it just means that they have to do so in a way that don't give them and advantage over other companies or a lock-in.

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Flame

Getting sick of this

From a UK IT guy (using Firefox !)

To Europeans: if you don't like it, don't buy it.

To EC: Stop wasting our time and money and investigate something more important like Gas, Electric, Water, Car, Electronics, Air fares (I can go on and on) prices in the UK,

To Microsoft: Stopping selling in Europe. Let's see how long this pathetic stance will last.

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Bronze badge

Anti-americanism

When you've got no argument it's your best defence.

I'm trying to remember which country got caught spying in Europe to get trade secrets, oh yes it was the US........ Barbarism to hedonism in one generation without any intervening period of civilisation.........

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Boffin

Stop with the EU vs USA bull*hit!

It's not about being "anti-american"! It's about getting the laziest corporation in history to do things the legal way and actually improve their badly made products! OOXML has to be the worst pile of &hite made in a long while. I don't agree with the IE part of it though, as there is nothing stopping you downloading and using another browser, for FREE. In order to download another browser, you need a browser to start with. Use IE to download another browser, surely that's enough irony for any IT person?

All we need is a little info given to the general public. If people stopped using IE because it is so bad and use the better products out in the world, we wouldn't NEED a lawsuit, would we?

We don't need lawsuits against MS, they are pointless. We need better information given to joe public pointing out the better ways to do things such as firefox, such as open office. We don't need linux rammed down our throats though. I've used it, (by it, i mean SUSE and red hat, haven't used ubuntu yet, but i am looking into it) and i don't like it. That's just a personal opinion. Of course, i can't stand vista either.

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@Steve Roper

>> Firefox, Seamonkey,

I suggest you go back and look at the standards and check which features were dropped from css 2 to 2.1 because they have never been implemented – i.e. the specification was changed to match the browsers lack of support for the standard.

And I have yet to encounter things I can't sort out in css without the need to modify the html – and certainly not needed tables for layout (unless it is a table of data) – so perhaps you should consider a different field to work in if you can't

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Anonymous Coward

Good on the EC

As pointed above, MS have a history of breaking monopoly laws both in US and EU, it seems that it is reasonable to keep an eye on them. They are also steadfastly refusing to follow standards, all their so-called "open" formats have been designed expressly to screw up the genuine open formats (see IE), relying on their 90% dominance of the market. But things are changing! All over Europe there are administrations (regions, towns, even some countries) that demand that all their communications with the public are made with OS/machine independent formats. Those usually include ODF, but also PDF, which is an American, proprietary format. If MS products support these formats properly, then no problem, but if they use their dominance to weed out their competitors then expect more M€500/year fines courtesy of the EC.

Remember, capitalism works only if there is healthy regulation and competition, otherwise it is just corporate dictatorship (also known as fascism, go read about Mussolini).

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blimey...

... someone in Belgium is talking sense ;)

Anyway...

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To Microsoft: Stopping selling in Europe. Let's see how long this pathetic stance will last.

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Yes please, the EU just then needs to make it legal to reverse engineer and redistribute all "non-compliant" software under a FOSS type license. All we'd loose in Europe would be MS support.

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Its more than a little odd that this has taken so long to surface, both Opera and IE have been around for some time, and it seems that Opera have decided its their turn to take a shot.

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View to bigger picture required - Microsoft is eyeing the Opera comfort zone now (device embedded browsers - such as Opera on the Wii); it's a early strike from Opera. When it comes to standards compliance they do rather hold the moral high ground over MS, so that's where they're attacking from.

@every other web-developer (yes - I am one too); agreed IE is the crappiest piece of crappy old crap ever but it is possible to write compliant code that will ALSO work on IE in (X)HTML and CSS; you just have to remember the box model is broken and perhaps add additional containers, NOT tables.

Although the CSS model isn't exactly perfect either; we'll have to wait for the new display model in CSS3 to create certain behaviour currently only available in tables (think of a page with 2 columns, menu and body, and getting the 2 the same height).

Granted if you're writing JavaScript (DHTML/AJaX), IE is an absolute pain - the DOM is seriously broken.

It would be nice if EU pressure convinced MS to put the time into making a decent browser... doubt it'll happen though.

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Gold badge

@Anon Cow replying to Devon.

Actually, I think he's referring to the new Windows Desktop Search, not the search box in IE. This is, indeed, tied to MSN search (or Windows Live Search as it's been rebranded).

Having said that, it's an add-on search product and there are alternatives out there. The reason for giving these away free is to punt your own Search Engine when the user extends the search to include the web. I look forward in Devon's world to Google being nailed to the cross for tying Google desktop search into, er, Google........

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Alert

It isnt just Microsoft

Ok yeh they are a tit company - But why are they being crapped on for something that isnt just them?

Apple bring Safari into its operating systems... Wheres the rulling against them??

I download iTunes, who said I wanted Quicktime? Got no choice... Have to have quicktime if you want iTunes.

Maybe they should get off the money making idea and just go back to doing the right thing...

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@Devon Buchanan

They were talking about desktop search, not web search in firefox... With ubuntu you now use tracker, other linux's support tracker and beagle, the two are pretty interchangeable.

WRT Apple tying in these things... They don't!

Sure the email client uses webkit, and so does safari, you can remove safari and you still have webkit! If you remove IE, trident/mshtml is gone and windows craps out.

Desktop search via Spotlight on a mac isn't heavily integrated or tied in to other parts of the platform in ways that make it impossible to remove, whereas desktop search on vista I am led to believe is.

Its not about them "Bundling" their own apps, its about making it so the platform can't exist without them, its kinda like Xv vs DirectShow, directshow and WMP are heavily tied together, and without directshow you can't access video acceleration adequately, with Xv any app can use it, its part of the X11 API.

After they tie together apps, they then skew them off in a direction which makes it difficult if not impossible for a competitor to reach the same kind of feature parity. This is why microsoft are anti-competitive in software, they are also anti-competitive in business but that's a different matter entirely, and one far more difficult to prosecute without willing victims of microsofts underhanded tactics coming forward.

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Coat

Yawn

Wake me when it's over and let me know who won.

Who's got the odds on this one? Personally, I'm rooting for the EU... but then, I've just spent the last week re-installing XP on my desktop. Twice (first time tanked - and I'm in IT). Yay for Opera. Maybe they finally think they've got enough muscle/leg to stand on since M$ lost their last appeal?

Seriously thinking about penguins and big cats...oh yea, I already have a Leopard on this laptop. My bad.

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Joke

MS or Standards Complaint Software, chose one.

Anyone who thinks the EU is just looking for a easy "winning lotto tix" is not seeing the real droids. MS ties everything to THEIR stuff, buy a new laptop/desktop? get MS Office for 30/60/90 days, Windows Desktop Search? WMP? IE?

Of course every document you save "by default" in the latest version of the trialware of Office is saved as a .docx and not a .doc. (Remember Office is their biggest cash cow)

Who really pays the price?

People who are not smart enough to download OpenOffice and use it.

BUT what about Johnny DimBulb, he doesn't even know what a web browser is and opera is just something else he has never been to.

Firefox? that to them is a hot chick who is perhaps a pyro?

If your in IT, as i am, you know what a "ID ten T" error is, and this is more about protecting them than you, some of you get it and perhaps the rest of you just don't care.

Me? I will fix your windows for money, hell your used to paying for everything anyway... but don't expect me to use it, Mac is ok and so is linux but MS is frankly designed for the

"These are not the droids your looking for"

type,

So to them i can only say this, move to the side and just sit down, remember to pull out your wallets and just happily wait your turn, your software will only be a few years behind schedule.

:-)

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