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back to article Report: Microsoft to cop it from Brussels in Browser Choice affair

Microsoft is reportedly set to be whacked with a Statement of Objections from European Commission competition officials over the software giant's foolish browser-choice gaffe in which users of the Windows OS were steered into using the firm's IE software. According to Bloomberg, which cited two anonymous sources familiar with …

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Meh

MS and not Apple......

Why are MS being hit in the browsers kerfuffle and not Apple?

I'm not an Apple anything user, so this is anecdotal, but my understanding is that Apple are even more restrictive about the software that is running on, say, an I-Pad or notebook etc, and yet seem to get away with it.

Why ............... ?

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Bronze badge

Re: MS and not Apple......

I guess because they have not been perceived to have a monopoly position.

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g e
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Re: MS and not Apple......

Maybe on mobile stuff the app store is a way around that, and you don't have to buy an iThing, you could have Sammy, LG, SONY, etc ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MS and not Apple......

and yet to an outsider, it appears they do have a clear monopoly.

Maybe the true reason is their lack of competition from other american or european companies?

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JDX
Gold badge

Re: MS and not Apple......

>>and yet to an outsider, it appears they do have a clear monopoly

A monopoly of what? They certainly don't have an effective monopoly on mobile phones or mobile devices in general. Even regarding tablets they may have the biggest market share but it is nowhere near a monopoly the same way Windows was/is.

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Re: MS and not Apple......

It is because politicians are always about 5-10 years behind events. Chrome and Firefox have long since grabbed market share, and computing has moved to tablets where Apple has some 70-80% of not just software, but hardware too, and a total lock out even on whose apps can be installed.

It's just that politicians haven't noticed this yet. They'll probably have the big stick bashing Apple some time around 2020, by which time it will probably have already given up its leading position thanks to a combination of lack of innovation, and the proliferation of cheaper, better alternatives - just like in the 90s.

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Stop

Re: MS and not Apple......

I am truly amazed that people still don't understand why this only applies to Microsoft, rather than being an industry wide mandate.

The requirement to offer users a choice of browsers is not a matter of EU policy regarding computer software. It is a specific sanction imposed on Microsoft by the EU as part of the punishment that was handed down when they were found guilty of leveraging their monopoly in operating systems to attempt to establish one in browsers.

Any other company or organisation is free to bundle whatever they choose and, once Microsoft's time in the sin bin has been served, they will be free to do the same.

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Facepalm

Re: MS and not Apple......

You don't have to buy a windows PC......

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Facepalm

Re: MS and not Apple......

Seems to me that they should be forcing any and all OS providers to provide a choice rather than picking on one company... this would be a horrible change for users who just want to get on and use the device/OS... and where does it stop??

No simple answer to this.

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WTF?

Re: MS and not Apple......

Apple do not have a monopoly on either phones or computers...

On tablets they have a sizeable market share, but certainly not a monopoly as yet.

There are however some important differences:

MS had a monopoly on web browsing in general, even if apple has a monopoly on tablets there would still be large numbers of people browsing the web from non tablet devices.

Tablets are a new market, the market hasn't settled yet...

Tablets have always come with browsers, whereas windows didn't include a browser until a competitor started to threaten them.

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Re: MS and not Apple......

Well, you kinda do, which IMHO is a bigger problem than whatever browser comes pre-installed.

Try buying a non-windows PC, you'll soon find yourself shopping for components, which is not everyone's cup of tea. And let's not get started on laptops....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MS and not Apple......

"You don't have to buy a windows PC......"

Have you ever tried not to? They don't make it easy.

Once, when having a custom build made so I could put Linux on it. The shop really didn't like this and the machine still came with an unregistered Windows on. They claimed they needed it for testing the hardware which is fair enough I guess. Not sure why they left it installed just unregistered though.

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Facepalm

Re: MS and not Apple......

Yes there is a simple answer. . .

Let each device / OS vendor package their own browser. As I have stated before all the others are FREEly downloadable for those that really care less.

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FAIL

Re: MS and not Apple......

I believe Apple provide a very aesthetic range of desktop and laptops that don't come pre-loaded with windows.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MS and not *GOOGLE*

The only reason that Google now have some market share with their Chrome browser is because they themselves have abused a monopoly in the form of their search engine, to promote a product that most of its users don't understand.

Google should also be investigated for anti-trust behaviour.

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Fine

What happens to the money Microsoft pay to the EU?

It all sounds a bit like a load of tossers in Brussells are going to get their snouts a bit deeper in the trough thanks to us paying, via Microsoft, for the omission of a choice that was forced upon us but that we either didn't care about or didn't need.

I don't see where in this process I derive any benefit.

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Megaphone

Re: Fine

Indeed. . . why do we care that the choice of having something freely available versus something else that is also freely available might have been swayed towards the freely available option provided by people that did the heavy lifting involved in delivering the OS in the first place.

Factor in, if you know enough to give a toss then you know that you can simply go download your browser of choice any time you want. If you don't know enough to care. .. . . .well nuff said.

There are too many whiny little bitches lurking round with not enough to usefully do and the EU commissions are playing to them.

Leave MS alone. . . it is not like it forced its competitors out of the OS marketplace through underhandedness, they were just crap compared to the experience offered by MS and its joined up world: -

OS2 - every used it? Ever get bored of waiting for it to do simple stuff? Even at IBM they ran OS2 Warp with a Windows overlay on it.

Apple OS - Getting better and best of the also rans but frankly it is only intuitive is you wear narrow spectacles and wear a turtle neck. Again - oddly there is a windows overlay for people to use when they find that half the stufff they want to do is either too laborious on Apple or simple isn't available.

Linux (any flavour) - great OS. . . if you happen to live in that world. Just don't expect to be able to do anything with it other than look despairingly at the stupid (meant to be an in joke) error message and don't mind using a user interface that anyone now over the age of 40 could have produced as an A'Level project back in the day.

Browsers

Netscape: Why would I want to pay for this when even early versions of IE did what I needed and was free.

Mozilla, Opera, Safari, Firefox: Also rans. . . fine until you want to use joined up writing and do something other than fire up your next torrent or watch porn.

Chrome: NOW we are talking. I'm not a huge fan of google as a company but by Christ that is a good browser and largely works in a joined up world.

As far as I know all of those browsers are downloadable at any time of the day or night should you feel that IE isn't the choice for you. If you don't like option then I suspect you are also someone that struggles to wipe their own arse without soiling their fingers.

Okay lunchtime over, you are lucky as I could go on all day about this stupid Anti-Trust bullshit.

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Windows

Re: Fine

It's simple.

You do the crime you pay the fine. OK, not quite a crime but MS signed an agreement to abide by the EU's findings on the perceived monopoly that MS had in the browser sphere and agreed to install a browser ballot screen to remedy the problem. Then, apparently, they decided that they had done enough and unilaterally removed the ballot screen, thus breaking their agreement with the EU.

MS are a big organisation but if they want to do business in the EU then they MUST play by the rules and they didn't. Hence the impending punishment.

Any other monopoly would probably get the same treatment.

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Re: Fine

"It's simple.

You do the crime you pay the fine"

Yes, everyone understands why they will be fined.

I'd still like to know where this money goes.

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Re: Fine

into some anonymous slush fund for 'fact finding' junkets to brothels and bars.

MS did have a virtual monopoly in consumer os's and was trying to ensure that no matter what you needed, be it a browser / spreadsheet / disk compression tool you used theirs and if you didn't know there was an alternative then who cares. I'm not entirely against their actions either, they played hard and fast but delivered or acquired some decent products. They played to win and did a good job.

MS agreed to the terms and breached them, however their punishment should be relalistic. An extension to their agreement and a moderate fine. 10-50m, anything higher would be totally out of proportion.

However, the muppets in the EU will be out to flex their muscles and line their pockets so expect something in the billions. They have to justify their pathetic existance and apparently we aren't buying into how important it is to regulate the shape of bananas.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Fine

"Leave MS alone. . . it is not like it forced its competitors out of the OS marketplace through underhandedness, they were just crap compared to the experience offered by MS and its joined up world: "

Your name is Steve Ballmer and I vlaim my prize.

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Re: Fine @Lord Voldemortgage

"I'd still like to know where this money goes."

Back to the EU's central budget.

If you see the sun shining from the buttocks of the EU, then this means that the financial burden on taxpayers from the EU's good works is reduced. If you see the EU as the spawn of satan, then it means that the money is lost or wasted by an organisation that can't even get its accounts signed off auditors.

Either way, all corporate fines are paid by customers, not shareholders or management (who usually stand to benefit from malpractice), so arguably financial remedies are wrong, and hit those already harmed - the correct remedy would be personal sentences on the culpable managers.

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Vic
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Re: Fine

> I'd still like to know where this money goes.

Greece and Spain, I shouldn't wonder...

Vic.

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Pint

Re: Fine

If you want to know something about it just look for Case COMP/C-3/37.792 Microsoft and read it.

American companies turned to the EU for help as the US did nothing. The browser is just on of the matters involved, perhaps the least significant.

This "Case" is from 2004, it really takes time and I am quite sure the money EU had to pay for running this case might have been more than the rather modest amount of money Microsoft has payed (or have they) compared to what they could have been demanded to pay.

And for a short answer about who took the money, think lawyers.

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Silver badge

I find the whole business very strange.

When the EU commission took the issue up with MS Redmond's reaction was basically "oh shit". They even had Ballmer contact Brussels himself and assure them that MS would take its medicine (ie fines) like a good little boy without arguing. On the one hand it is difficult to believe that MS had not noticed this "error" and on the other hand it is also difficult to believe that they thought that nobody else would notice it either and that they could "get away with it". What the frack was going on there is frankly speaking not entirely obvious.

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JDX
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Re: I find the whole business very strange.

Equally hard to believe is that Brussels didn't notice.

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Re: I find the whole business very strange.

The complexity of the process to decide which Windows Update gets delivered to which PC and when is enormous. I don't really think it's that hard to beleive that a particularly obscure one accidentally got overlooked (after all a pre-SP fix usually ends up rolled into the service pack, but couldn't in this case because it's location specific).

Now that's no excuse and Microsoft deserve another slap on the wrist for failing to meet their requirements. However it's a bit of a push to suggest it was a deliberate decision rather than an unfortunate oversight. Never attribute to malice that which can equally be explained by stupidity and all that...

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Bronze badge

Re: I find the whole business very strange.

But 17 months is a pretty long time. Did anyone else notice? I don't recall regular articles in the reg questioning what had happened to the browser poll screen, so the collective IT community didn't seem to notice. Opera? Chrome? I am sure they'd have said something if they'd noticed. It seems this whole thing was pushed through by politicians but that nobody else really gave a toss. Which makes the huge fines MS faces look more like damages over the ego of EU bureaucrats than against any real damage to the market.

MS was certainly evil in the past, but the landscape has been very different for years and there are bigger threats to openness and choice out there now.

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Re: I find the whole business very strange.

Anyone who cares about which browser they run would have visited www.google.com/chrome or www.firefox.com anyway without the need for prompting. Anyone who doesn't care, or is quite happy with IE, wouldn't have been annoyed by the stupid browser choice thing that they need to delete and wouldn't have noticed it wasn't there.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I find the whole business very strange.

"Did anyone else notice?" Well, I certainly did. I'd got to where I could no longer be arsed to use a thumb drive or DVD to install Firefox from an offline copy and figured once Windows was installed I'd just use the Browser Choice menu to download it. I'm sure I'm not the only one (actually, I'm not sure, on account of the no. of times I've reported bugs and the like that I didn't think you could miss, and get told I'm the first to report them).

Not quite as serious as whatever happened to the disabling autorun update that also seems to have been forgotten. Or maybe MS decided it was safe now.

Btw, I just had my cake and ate it. Does that old saw mean you can't have it _after_ you've eaten it? But if so, who'd want to keep it rather than eat it anyway?

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Why not Apple. . simple

The ponces on the EU Commissions like their iPhones, iPads and turtle necks too much to bite the hand that feeds their vanity.

Oh, and largely they are too stupid and self-serving to see what they are doing.

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Silver badge

Re: Why not Apple. . simple

it does seem unfair, but not just because of apple. The browsers on all android smartphones should also be in this pile.

Anything before ICS has the stock browser but can have several downloaded from the play store, whilst ICS and above has (can have) chrome as standard.

Hardly a level playing field.

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Mushroom

Someone pass the popcorn

I say, this is rather enjoyable to watch.

http://i.imgur.com/tCp90.gif

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Pint

It's a feature, not a bug.

The point is to shake down microsoft for a billion dollar vig which goes straight into the Eurocrats' coffers.

The fact that nobody noticed before and therefore doesn't care - well the second half is irrelevant since Eurocrats aren't interested in what people think, and the first half - well that just means the upcoming fine for this one is larger, so that's a bonus.

It's a feature, not a bug.

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Bronze badge

Isn't that the point?

The issue is only really relevant in the case of very non-savvy or terminally lazy users,

And Microsoft's main target consumer audience is...?

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Anonymous Coward

Wondered why

I bought a new machine 6 months ago and had wondered why this screen hadn't appeared. Like most faux pas that fall in favour of those who commit them, the "technical error" bit does have the whiff of bovine ordure.

And it IS relevant. On getting a new machine, my parents and siblings apparently all go for the first thing that "logs me in to google", which after a great deal of very painful (for me) interrogation, turns out to mean the address bar in IE - as a side note, most of them believe the 'e' icon is actually the symbol for "the internet". Any attempt to get them to install something else, short of going round and actually doing it for them, elicits the kind of fear response more normally associated with visits to the dentist or being tied down and forced to watch "Songs of praise" for a week.

Sort it out Ballmer, please?

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Re: Wondered why

If they really just want to be able to browse the web and don't care how. . . why worry them? Let them get on with it. If you wanna use something else then install it. You aren't limited to one.

One our family machines we have 3: IE, Chrome and Safari. The only one I actively chose to put on their was Chrome, IE came with it and Safari went on when I installed iTunes. Generally we use Chrome because it is a bit quicker. Sometimes I use IE becuase it plays better with 365 and other MS widgets.

That said - very handy having 3 different browsers on there because it means we can "stay logged it" on 3 different facebook accounts at once. . . . . WOOOOT! if that is what floats your boat ;-/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wondered why

The reason I "worry" them is because, having picked IE, the first thing that came to hand, they then fail to update or move on to newer versions, which may well explain the problems they've had with malware. In one case the browser not being updated is IE6 - toxic doesn't begin to cover it. At least if they tried Firefox or something, there'd be a nag screen for updates, although that would probably come under the heading of "I don't understand" and get cancelled.

My point is that the majority of people will simply use what they're presented with and cling to it for dear life. Allowing them a choice when taking it is at its least painful seems like a bit of a no brainer to me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wondered why

If they haven't updated from IE6, then they're ignoring Windows Updates, and wouldn't get the Browser Choice screen anyway!

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Bod

Monopolies

Brita have pretty much a monopoly on water filters. How come the EU isn't insisting they have to provide a water filter cartridge choice when you buy the filter jugs? i.e. they can't just supply their own filters but have to include alternate brands in the box, or vouchers for them.

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Boffin

Re: Monopolies

Brita have pretty much a monopoly on water filters. How come the EU isn't insisting they have to provide a water filter cartridge choice when you buy the filter jugs?

Simply because Brita are not forcing all jug manufactorers to include a Brita water filter.

The problem wasn't so much that Microsoft had a monopoly in operating systems, it was that it was using a monopoly in operating systems to force everyone to use their browser technologies.

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Devil

"Historically, Internet Explorer was the dominant browser used across the globe."

Historically, Netscape Navigator was the browser used across the globe (like IE it was developed from Mosaic)

THEN MS used their monopoly position to achieve IE dominance, but Bush Jnr saved the company from splitting.

Why no fuss about Apple? Because MS don't sell computers.

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Anonymous Coward

Netscape didn't disappear into the dust because Microsoft "used their monopoly position to achieve IE dominance". Netscape disappeared into the dust because IE4, 5 and 6 were better browsers than Netscape! Microsoft came from behind, and each new version delivered a better experience, whereas Netscape over-reached, and ended up with a buggy unstable mess, that users deserted, just as 7 or 8 years later, they started to desert IE for Firefox.

If Netscape had been able to keep delivering a better browser, users would have kept on installing and using it, just as they do today with Chrome and Firefox.

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Foolish or incompetent? Knowing it faced billions in fines and a restart to its propation MS management could not find one intern to assign the task of monitoring Windows update design reviews for browser compliance. Now the old boys in PR who brought you strippers are saying we were foolish, please forgive us for our insensitivity TO A COURT ORDER.

Try that on your parole officer.

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