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back to article Euro watchdog to charge Microsoft on web browser choice boob

Microsoft will be slapped with "a formal proceeding into the company's breach of an agreement", the European Commission's competition chief Joaquin Almunia confirmed today. He apparently told reporters that the process was likely to be dealt with swiftly "because the company itself explicitly recognised its breach of the …

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Mushroom

Popcorn time

Put your feet up fellas and enjoy. This is going to be a good one.

Nom, nom, nom

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Even $7bn

Won't teach an old dog new tricks.

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Re: Even $7bn

No, but it'll buy a lot more iPads for EU commissioners.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm...

This appears to have been a cock up, which wasn't noticed by MS or the EU, and was admitted by MS as soon as it was drawn to their attention, without trying to weasel out of it. It also had been running (I know, I remember getting the browser choice screen) which further suggests balls up. If this is the case, I would be very surprised if the fine is as much as $7BN, which seems rather excessive even if it was a deliberate breaking of the law.

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Re: Hmm...

Maybe the $7Bn will come out of the wages of the person responsible? Could be done easily enough at $7k a year for a million years.

I woudn't want to be that guy (where the buck stops).

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@ AC 27th Sept 10:51: ".........which further suggests balls up". Whilst we know that.........

..............that Redmond has considerable form in this area I have to say that on this occasion I am inclined to agree. Apparently the "fat, sweaty, chair-throwing maniac" (as a certain section of the cognoscenti here affectionately refer to him) contacted the commission personally to assure them that MS were coming in with their hands up and did not dispute that they were in breach. On the basis of the evidence so far it does appear to be a case of "do not ascribe to malice what stupidity can explain" - or at least the cock-ups that a large and fairly bureaucratic organisation can explain.

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TRT
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Way to go...

Eurozone bailout!

</cynic>

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Way to go...

Now, just a few decent suits against Apple and it's Greece, Italy and Spain sorted. Happy days!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Way to go...

What monopolies does Apple have? erm, none. So how can they be charged with abusing any?

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New anti trust case please

Great - the fine should be spent on training/re-programming to use opensource alternatives to Microsoft products throughout the EU - therefore saving costs (and getting a more reliable service in the long run), in the future tax payer's money could go to a Linux company meaning that any improvements made (with tax payers funding) will improve computing for the entire world , not just MS shareholders...

No onto the next anti trusts starting with Windows8 secure boot, then the Windows 8 browser choice....

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Trollface

Re: New anti trust case please

"The fine should be spent on training/re-programming to use opensource alternatives to Microsoft products throughout the EU...in the future tax payer's money could go to a Linux company."

Sorry. I disagree in part - especially if Ubuntu enters into the equation. There's a little hypocrisy - in my mind - in saying that you can choose what you want so long as it's Gnu/Linux.

Anyway, isn't it an established fact that BSD flavours are generally superior? Change Linux to BSD and I may be more inclined to agree.

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Re: New anti trust case please

Anyway, isn't it an established fact that BSD flavours are generally superior

I'm gonna have to run out and grab some popcorn for the discussion resulting from that comment I think.

I agree though, handing taxpayer money to one company (whether Canonical, Microsoft, RedHat or whoever) is a bad move. I guess really it needs to go into funding alternatives that people need, so perhaps look at some of the things that might stop people switching and fund projects to help bring software in that area up to scratch.

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Bod

Re: New anti trust case please

"use opensource alternatives to Microsoft products throughout the EU - therefore saving costs (and getting a more reliable service in the long run)"

A common held belief by many corporates and the public sector looking to reduce costs, and many of those who try end up with the same or higher costs. Especially if it's one of the many failed or hideously overspent government IT projects that attempted to migrate to "cheaper" open source platforms.

Reliability is highly implementation and support quality dependent. Just being MS software or not is not the key (and it's unfounded anyway), no matter what the subjective opinion on "Micro$oft". There are plenty of unreliable services implemented whatever the platform.

Still, if we're talking anti-trust, then perhaps the money should be spent kitting everyone with Apple products. After all they don't force their browser on you do they?... oh wait ;)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: New anti trust case please

Get real brother. The reason that Linux and friends are not the dominant force for anything except server backend (ie. dont need GUIs) are because they are painfully behind the times for user-friendliness.

You may get your thrills from being in a terminal window and trawling through usr, lib and randomly named directories, constantly sudo'ing all the time. But the rest of the population gave that up a couple of decades ago for efficiency. The odd virus you may get (unlikely for most that dont surf beyond amazon,bbc etc.) is nothing, compared to the time wasted on the incessant, re-enter your password to change that 'gov.

Even my mother can use a laptop with Windows 7 and Office on it... Windows Auto-Update takes care of everything else, no training required

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Re: New anti trust case please

You may get your thrills from being in a terminal window and trawling through usr, lib and randomly named directories, constantly sudo'ing all the time. But the rest of the population gave that up a couple of decades ago for efficiency.

That's true.

Did I mention I use Linux?

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Re: New anti trust case please

The odd virus you may get (unlikely for most that dont surf beyond amazon,bbc etc.) is nothing, compared to the time wasted on the incessant, re-enter your password to change that 'gov.

Pretty much sums up the difficulty in melding good security and convenience really. The most efficient security will always be inconvenient in some way, but the masses don't want that. They want to be able to just click and it's done, the problem is they whinge about the low security when something goes wrong.

You may get your thrills from being in a terminal window and trawling through usr, lib and randomly named directories

I would say that Windows is the one with randomly name dirs to be honest. It's the only popular OS out there without the Unix file-structure. OS X, Linux, BSD all have /usr and so on. But I guess it's 'random' because you're not used to it (reminds me of people on forums asking where their C: drive had gone).

I do use the terminal quite a lot, but only where it's more efficient to do so. I don't actually have to use it though, you know, we have GUI's too.

My mother uses Kubuntu without too much difficulty, no training required. What's your point?

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Re: New anti trust case please

Anyway, isn't it an established fact that BSD flavours are generally superior?

I'm hedging my bets with both Linux and BSD.

Not to forget Windows and OS X.

What have I missed?

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LDS
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Happy

Re: New anti trust case please

At least windows has no directory named "etcetera".... and it looks in *unix almost anything is "et cetera".

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Re: New anti trust case please

Onto something there. $7bn is well enough to write a new OS. My suggestion: buy up BEOS and virtualize it. Then make it mandatory in the EU natch.

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Re: New anti trust case please

Look under c:\windows\system32 what do you see? Oh wow a directory called etc, and just like on *nix it contains - config files!

Not that there's any real relevance to the discussion except your claim that Windows doesn't have an etcetera dir

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Holmes

Re: New anti trust case please

"isn't it an established fact that BSD flavours are generally superior?"

In what sense? No Stallman in sight gets a plus point, the fact it's technically inferior knocks points off.

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Come back from 1999

"...are because they are painfully behind the times for user-friendliness.."

My organization, Reglue.org gives 8-18 year old kids somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 computers a year. The majority of those kids are between the ages of 12 and 15. Every one of them run a Debian-based Linux distro, respun to contain educational and recreational apps, many of them geared to the learning-disabled. Since 2005, we've rarely had any of our kids experience problems with learning the systems after less than an hour of instruction. To my knowledge, none of them have had to use the command line, unless they wanted to learn about it.

I am sorry you find using Linux difficult, and if I may be so kind as to offer you assistance, we have several 12 year olds that are willing to help you should you run into difficulties. Please email me personally and I will arrange a help session via vidchat or email. Most of these kids are extremely eager to help and rarely tell you to RTFM.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: New anti trust case please

It's not open source that is needed it is open standards for data as there will always be proprietary software in business.

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A bottom-line hurting fine would seem deserved and necessary or else the essential take home message is that EU competition law and the authorities enforcing it need not be taken seriously.

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Stop

@Pseu Donyme

"A bottom-line hurting fine would seem deserved and necessary "

No it wouldn't. All the money is somebody else's - customers in the first place, or shareholder's in the last, but the problem is a management failing. Robbing shareholders or customers won't stop it happening again.

Look at the financial services sector. Fined and forced to pay compensation for mis-selling personal pensions. But that didn't stop them mis-selling endowment mortgages. Or split capital trusts. Having been fined and forced to pay compensation again (rolling total of about £15 billion quid on fines for those three alone), they then moved on to mis-sell payment protection insurance, and interest rate swaps. That's before you've got other financial services deceits like market and itnerest rate manipulation, wilfully dodgy lending, bent equity analyst recommendations and the like. What will the financial serices sector mis-sell next? Who knows, but it'll be something with a nice margin and generous commissions.

The evidence of competition law has a similar history, of big fines handed out to companies, but still new cases come to light. So a cartel of makers of vitamins and supplements were fined €790m in 2001. Did that put anybody off? Well maybe the vitamins makers had a pause for thought, but virtually every year since fines exceeding a billion euro have been handed out to other cartels who thought the risk worth taking.

Until *people* are held to account, and if necessary have prior years bonuses, salaries and pension accruals clawed back, this won't change. What has Fred Godwin lost for his malignant incompetence? Three letters in front of his name, that's all. But he's still got a pension bigger than any salary I'll ever earn. And to fix we will require a much more competent regulator and prosecutor in the UK, who will act quickly and get results, otherwise people will believe that the chance of being caught and punished is low enough to justify the risk.

Most of the organisations involved know when they're doing something wrong, but regard it (in the recent words of the chairman of RBS) as "acceptable commercial sharp practice". In their minds, the personal gains of doing he wrong thing outweigh the possible consequences and likelihood of being held to account.

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Anonymous Coward

I know Google is getting looked at for supposedly using its search engine to promote its own products and abusing a monopoly position but does this extend as far as Google Chrome? The message you get on first visits to Google products and (IIRC) search results would suggest that it should do.

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"does this extend as far as Google Chrome?"

No, because Chrome is voluntarily installed and commmands a modest fraction of the market Google has a dominant position in search, but not in browsers.

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EU should look into others

I think the EU should stop concentrating on M$ and perhaps look at Apple locking out their phone's system so you can;t change the default browser - yes you can install chrome but can you make it default ... nope. seems Apple are doing what the originally accused M$ of and no one is taking them to court. stinks!

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Re: EU should look into others

A note on Chrome, whilst you can download an app named Chrome on the iPhone. It isn't Chrome itself. It's merely a reskin of the Safari webkit engine. As Apple forbid browser engines other than their own.

Also the fast safari nitro javascript engine is limited to Safari only, so all those browser safari reskins on the appstore use a much slower js engine. Lovely eh? It's one of the reasons I stopped using an iPhone and switched to Android.

By the way, windows phone has the exact same limitation. You're stuck with IE. Lovely eh?

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Re: EU should look into others

The slower JS is a result of the iOS security model. Basically Apple apps are trusted more than 3rd party apps and can generate and execute native code whereas 3rd party apps cannot. So Safari is allowed to generate native code for JS (e.g. JIT) but something wrapping WebKit like Dolphin or Chrome cannot.

Even if other rendering and JS engines were permitted on iOS they would still be hamstrung by this security restriction.

So if Apple were slapped with antitrust or whatever, the order really needs to stipulate that not only are other browsers permissible but there should be a mechanism that allows them generate and execute native code. How Apple solves that without compromising their system security is going to be really hard but its a problem of their own making.

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Re: EU should look into others

Apple are doing worse than MS. At least MS let you set a default browser as a competitors alternative. Apple don't let you go that far. Apple don't let you run their OS on compatible hardware either, MS do. Surely that has to be even more anti competitive?

I'm just waiting to see how the EU deals with Windows RT not even allowing other browsers at all. Ha, should be funny.

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FAIL

Re: EU should look into others

Surely that has to be even more anti competitive?

So the fuck what? Apple do not have a monopoly on phones, they don't even have a monopoly on smart phones, and they particularly don't have a monopoly on PCs. Anti-competitive behaviour is only disallowed when you use your monopoly position to provide it.

A company only allowing the OS that it made to be sold with hardware that it also made is not monopolistic, nor is it anti-competitive.

I'm just waiting to see how the EU deals with Windows RT not even allowing other browsers at all. Ha, should be funny.

Well, guess what? They will do nothing about it, due to, y'know, no monopoly in tablets. It's quite straightforward, if you aren't clueless.

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Re: EU should look into others

It looks that Tim Cook at the iPhone 5 launch admitted Apple has a monopoly: "He notes that iPad also accounts for more that 90% of tablet web traffic. "I don't know what these tablets are doing," says Cook. "They must be on shelves and in warehouses:" (http://www.digitalspy.com/tech/news/a405570/apple-iphone-5-launch-live-blog.html). So he admitted on tablet Apple has a monopoly as large as MS had in the glory days with IE. Thereby it's time the EU forces Apple to open iOS to other browsers as they did with MS, who had a 90% share on Windows and 0% on other OSes, while Safari has a market share on other OSes too...

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Re: EU should look into others

Ah but Apple does have a monopoly in tablets where the hell is the ipad browser choice screen? This is all such BS. People already have a choice on Windows, they can install what ever browser they want. How hard is it really.

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Facepalm

Re: EU should look into others

"I'm just waiting to see how the EU deals with Windows RT not even allowing other browsers at all. Ha, should be funny"

Asside from not actually being true, my guess is Microsoft's reply would be "Apple plskthx".

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FAIL

Re: EU should look into others

No, Apple do not have a monopoly on tablets. A monopoly would mean that you could not easily go out and buy a non Apple tablet, which is clearly nonsense.

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Re: EU should look into others@ Tom 38

"Apple do not have a monopoly on phones, they don't even have a monopoly on smart phones, and they particularly don't have a monopoly on PCs"

Arguably they have a near monopoly of f***wits who will slavishly buy wildly over-priced trinkets, and whenever a trivial modification is released queue up to be reamed out like crackheads needing their next fix.

If I was Samsung I'd ask the European Commission to investigate Apple's dominant position in that market, and their abusive pricing.

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spin off

Instead of fines, would the European Commission be able to split the browser business off from the rest of Microsoft, so that Internet Explorer would be the product of an independent company from that day on?

They couldn't favour their own browser if they didn't have one.

This might have the amusing side-effect of Internet Explorer suddenly improving because it needs to be popular. After all, it's probably not necessary to Microsoft's continued existence, but it would be to a company that had no other products.

Now that would be popcorn-worthy.

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Linux

split the browser business off

Wasn't that exactly the objective of the legal process against M$ in the dying days of the Clinton administration that was killed off by Bush?

More fundamentally, making the Web browser the same as the file browser was pretty stupid in the first place. Recently, I copied some files (photos of my dad, whom I mentioned the other day) to a computer that used to have Internet access but no longer has (belonging to his schoolmate). When I had done so, it was impossible to open the folder because Internet Explorer wanted to explore the Internet but couldn't.

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Monopolies

As much as I'd like to see Apple whacked with the sort of fine that they alone are in a position to pay, Apple aren't a monopoly in the way that M$ are. Most people are forced to use M$ SW whether they want to or not. There is no competition, and the reason there is no competition is that there is no competition full stop.

Yes I know that is a circular argument, but that is the way the monopoly plays out in this business. You can't get SW to run on Linux because there aren't enough desktop Linux customers, and there aren't enough desktop Linux customers because the SW they need isn't available. It isn't a question of what's better or friendlier, its a questions of what SW is available. Personally I find the Linux GUI environment to be much friendlier and better than Windows XP or 7, but when you think in terms of user friendly you need to think it terms of which user and nothing that is strung together on top of the Window's registry can ever be thought of as friendly in anyway shape or form.

Apple aren't a monopoly player in any market segment, they're small fry in the desktop world, middle fry on phones and big fry on tablets, but they haven't managed to make monopoly status yet. Of course it is their avowed intention to prosecute every customer in the world who refuses to buy their products, so maybe one day they'll manage to elevate themselves to the point where the EU and other competition body can aim at them. If they were a monopoly they would be in big trouble.

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Stop

Surprised?

Microsoft was never thought to be a moral, straight company.

Even the name "Internet Explorer" was pinched.

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FAIL

Re: I'll remind you all again

And yet they haven't been taking them back......

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Trollface

If they're doing this to Microsoft...

God only knows what they are preparing for Apple and their walled garden.

Trollface for trollpost.

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Anonymous Coward

Two more digits required

Unless the fine is $700 Billion, Microsucks considers the fine just the cost of doing business. They can steal $7 Billion from consumers in a week and still make a profit.

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LDS
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Could EU please look into phone/tablet browsers?

If I am not wrong, Tim Cook said that 90% of tablet internet traffic is made by iPads. Where the only available browser is Apple one, and nobody can install a competitor one. Because Apple has admitted it has a dominant position in that field, I guess the EU should impose a "browser choice screen" on iOS too.

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Future rot.

Apple are the enemies of open computing so why are their feature phones and tablets overlooked?

At the moment Microsoft have an open invite to copy this limited vision, so why is our open web future also not on the agenda?

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Oversight or boundary pushing?

Surely a company like U$osft with building full of lawyers couldn't just forget this EU agreement? If they did then they re losing the plot. Alternatively, with full knowledge of their legal department, they are just pushing the EU boundaries to see how far they can go.

Either way Win8 is not for me or, I fear, a lot of corporate customers. U$oft don't like it but XP still rules in a lot of companies I know. And, with no easy upgrade to Win7, a lot of my customers are now visualising their XP systems and using VDI/RDP to access them.

If I were a betting man I would give very short odds on Ballmer being gone within 12 months.

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Anonymous Coward

Task Reminder Software

Don't Microsoft write software that does Project Management? ...and Task Scheduling?

You'd think that a company that publishes software would be able to design themselves something that can do this kind of thing?

Do you remember the adverts with the dinosaurs? I can just see the re-run: "Oh look, silly me, I forgot about that task, now I've got to pay a $7billion fine."

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Anonymous Coward

The paid liars didn't overlook this browser issue

They knew full well they would get fined but $7 Billion doesn't come close to equalling the revenue they reap year after year by doing what they want - in violation of law.

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