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back to article EC: Microsoft didn't honour browser-choice commitment

Microsoft has failed to comply with its commitments to offer people the chance to ditch Internet Explorer, the European Commission has said in a preliminary Statement of Objections that it has fired off to Microsoft HQ. From 2009, Microsoft has been legally obliged to show EU Windows users a "choice screen" so they can decide …

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Ya pays yer money ya makes yer browser choice

I only saw this screen the other day when I was using the other half's laptop which was new last Xmas.

Found a 'Choose a Browser' link on the desktop. Ironically this fires up an IE window.

The list of browsers had the usual (IE,FF,Chrome,Opera...) but also had a number that I had never heard of and installed just to look at!

It also mentions that while IE is not pinned to the dock... I mean, taskbar, it is available on the start menu.

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Repeat Offender

They just don't get it in Redmond. They're a repeat offender. Hit 'em with the full 10% of revenue fine. They deserve it. Arrogant shits.

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Anonymous Coward

I hope the EU crashes and burns.

This is ridiculous. IE is no longer in a monopoly position. Where is the EU when it comes to software choices with Apple products? This whole issue is about taking free money from an American company and taking it for themselves.

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The EU can file this with the Media Player fiasco. Hundreds of millions of dollars spent on providing Windows SKUs without media support, and you can count the buyers on the fingers of one hand. Even the EU itself wouldn't buy it.

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"IE is no longer in a monopoly position."

Firstly, *IE* was not the monopoly that Microsoft were trying to extend. That was Windows, and by the standards set by law, MS still have a monopoly in that market.

Secondly, since when does your liability for past criminal activity lapse as soon as that activity ceases to be illegal?

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To add to the point

MS were found guilty at the time and ordered to take certain actions which they haven't done (not in full). They also appealed and did everything they could to delay things in the first place.

So, while it is true that IE market share is fairly small today, the "punishment" is in response to MS actions and IE's position at the time of the case.

As for accusations of the EU taking US money...... hello Mr Pot, this is Mr Kettle, are you aware of your colour?

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Stop

just another Microsoft employee

Just another Microsoft employee wishing laws intentionally broken by Microsoft did not exist.

Do you really think anyone at Microsoft is so stupid to not understand their obligation? Maybe the AC that posted above. But, certainly not any decision maker.

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Stop

commingling the OS and IE remains illegal

It remains illegal for Microsoft to commingle the OS and IE. No settlement of any kind changes the law.

Microsoft appealed the decision finding them to be in violation of the federal antitrust laws in the States. The appeal (based on commingling) was denied. Did not even want to hear about it.

And Microsoft tried to just ignore their obligations in the EU acting dumb and stupid.

Well, Microsoft is run by dumb and stupid people. But, not so dumb as to actually believe themselves.

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Criminal? I was never aware that MS was hauled in front of criminal court.

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There;d be a reason for IE no longer being a monopoly

and this useful action is to maintain that reason.

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It wasn't IE's dominant position that was the cause of the browser choice screen. It was Microsoft's abuse of its dominant position in the OS market that forced the commission to act. Competition law is pretty much the same all over including in the US and it bans a company with a monopoly in one market from using that monopoly to push others out. This even includes for example not allowing companies to use profits from a monopoly in one market to use predatory pricing to try and gain a monopoly in another.

This is a good thing otherwise microsoft would be a monopoly for everything computer related now. Instead of just in the desktop OS market, and presumably in the office software market.

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Damn right

Technical problem or not, you were told to do something by a court and DIDN'T BOTHER to monitor that you were in compliance. For 18 months. You literally just thought "Oh, that'll do, we don't need to check". At one of the world's largest companies, where you could probably pay someone to sit all day installing Windows 7 (if you don't already do this indirectly, I'd be amazed - do MS not install their own operating system?) and check that the window that's supposed to come up does on various types of hardware and connection.

If they get fined, as they should, it's nothing to do with the EU being hard on them, or whatever technical problems they had, or anything to do with the actual case that caused it - it's just total non-compliance and ignorance of that non-compliance over an ENORMOUS period of time after you've been ordered by a court to do something. I'd even have sympathy if you'd notified the court on day 1 that there was something wrong and you were working on getting it going, but couldn't. But 18 months of NOT BEING BOTHERED to check you were compliant, not even the lawyer who handled it, or the CEO they told, or the compliance officer they put in charge of that - NOBODY bothered to spot they weren't in compliance until they were told by someone else 18 months later.

Charge them double, for wilfully violating a court order by failing to check they were ever in compliance with it, or not even having a process to check they were.

Disgusting bit of incompetence and ineptitude that courts tend to not look upon kindly. Would any other company get away with it if they were told by a court to do something (e.g. cut off PirateBay) and never bothered over 18 months to check that their filter was working as the court orders (the ineffectiveness of the filter itself is neither here nor there, so long as you do what the court ordered)? No, they wouldn't. And nor should MS.

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Re: Damn right

"do MS not install their own operating system"

Employees get it preinstalled.

The ever-present problem with Microsoft (and Google, Apple, et al) is that staff transfer quickly and there is no handover of responsibilities. Add to that "non-USA blindness" and Ballmer's incapacity to learn from this pattern, and it will keep on happening.

Nevertheless I'm surprised that it took the EU 18 months to notice that it wasn't working. Unless of course this was policed by French bureaucrats, in which case this would be a speed record.

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Re: Damn right

"Preinstalled"? Then someone, somewhere in Microsoft installed it for them. And someone, somewhere was writing the code for the installers and (presumably) testing them. And someone, somewhere wrote the code for the window that was supposed to pop up and (presumably) testing it. And someone, somewhere was installing it on lots of new hardware from disk to check things like disk images, hardware, installers, drivers, etc. worked as expected on bare hardware. And someone, somewhere was writing internationalisation data for the installers and (presumably) testing it. And someone, somewhere was presumably testing slipstreamed installs, PXE installs, "first-time" applications, and a range of other things.

And MS employees are allowed to install any OS they like on their PC's, if previous articles are to be believed, and thus they would have been installing it somewhere all the time, given the number of employees.

To even try to claim that Microsoft weren't installing their own product would be hilarious for them. And if they weren't, it leads right into wilful violations and inadequate processes to monitor those violations.

"We did what the court asked last time."

"Did you?"

"We don't know, we never bothered to check."

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I'm astonished

That the sheer number of complaints from users demanding that the browser choice annoyance was reinstated didn't spur both Microsoft and the EU into swift action.

-

Still, as you say they were supposed to do something, didn't do it for whatever reason and so will face some sort of penalty as a result, even if no one really cared.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Damn right

"…and (presumably) testing them."

I assume you're either joking or have never been near a windows computer. Noone who's used microsoft products would think they'd been tested.

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Anonymous Coward

No, I am not bald! [Was: Re: Damn right]

"Noone who's used microsoft products would think they'd been tested."

In fairness the very same thing can be said about products in every single ecosystem.

Using all the hairs on my head I still could not count the number of open source products I have downloaded over the years only to see glaring SQL injection vulnerabilities, gaping holes and a mass of ridiculous assumptions and fails within said code.

It's not just Microsoft that are capable of producing shite code - shite code is everywhere.

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Holmes

Re: Damn right

they probably just have a disk image they pre-created, and just load it up onto the machines as needed. all the software and everything else all at once, so it would never have been picked up anyway. besides i suspect that you'd be frowned upon for using a non-MS product

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Re: Damn right

I'm sure someone in the EU noticed but it's easier to claim the fine when it's been over a year compared to it being a month.

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Re: Damn right

@Lee Dowling - 100% correct, it was MS's responsability to check their compliance.

It also raises a question for me: did no-one in the EU justice system bother to check that MS was in compliance of their judgement? Or is the EU internal bureaucracy so tangled that it took 18 months for the message to get from the front-line staff up to the higher levels?

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Re: No, I am not bald! [Was: Damn right]

"shite code is everywhere"

You may well be right, but at least with FOSS you have the right to get at the source code and see for yourself.

Oh, and as you seem to know a bit about programming did you file a bug report to the devs. of the applications concerned?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No, I am not bald! [Was: Damn right]

"You may well be right, but at least with FOSS you have the right to get at the source code and see for yourself."

Absolutely. That's just one reason why I like it.

"Oh, and as you seem to know a bit about programming did you file a bug report to the devs. of the applications concerned?"

No. Not unless it was a one, two or three-liner. You see some FOSS code just needs throwing away and starting again from scratch. But hey, I'm not perfect and wrote some real stink in my early days too, no doubt as senility sets in later in life, it will start to smell again too :)

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Anonymous Coward

What if folks hadn't monitored their organisation's Windows licenses?

@Lee Dowling

Technical problem or not, you were told to do something by a court and DIDN'T BOTHER to monitor that you were in compliance. For 18 months.

Hefty penalties abound for customers not abiding agreements with MS.

It works both ways.

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Just wish

They'd do the same thing to Apple. No version of an app which Apple already has made? I mean really, if that isn't anti competative then I don't know what is. No wonder china is one of Apples biggest markets, they have the exact same outlook.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just wish

Yes, Apple is highly anti-competitive, but they don't have a monopoly on any of the operating products, i.e. music players or smartphones. So, unlike Microsoft, Apple can't be accused of using an existing monopoly position to exploit another market. If Android and Windows Phone become as minor a player in the smartphone market as OSX and UNIX are in the operating system market, then there would be an argument that Apple is exploiting their monopoly position and legal remedies would become available.

As far as I know, there are no laws about creating and controlling your own market. If only because until recently it was impossible to create new markets on a whim. Software offers the possiblity of creating a new market for each device or platform. Instead of writing new laws, we've used existing contract law to allow the device designers to define the structure of the market and terms for participation in it. Whether this is in the best interests of all participants may be up for grabs. It certainly seems that it is in the best interests of the device designers and not the consumers'.

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Re: Just wish

Then the correct conclusion is that you don't know what anticompetitive is.

Microsoft were selling one kind of product, very successfully. Netscape came along and started selling a separate kind of product, very successfully. Microsoft used the money and resources from the one kind of product to force Netscape from the market. In short they used a dominant position in one market to distort competition in another. Actual damage was done to real consumers.

Apple doesn't have a dominant position to abuse. It hasn't used resources in one market to force anyone out of another. The competition for everything it does is very healthy. If you, as a consumer, don't like the way Apple is working then there are lots of other options with similar market clout. The free market is functioning.

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Anonymous Coward

browser choice?

They have a choice, download the browser you want. At least you get the option, unlike with iOS.

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Re: browser choice?

I personally think this should be forced on all OS's or none at all... that includes iOS(full browsers, not safari re skinned) OSX, android, and all linux distro's.... but i somehow don't think this will happen.

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Re: browser choice? from Handle

I have Opera, Chrome and Skyfire installed on my iPhone.

None of them is a skinned version of safari. What are you talking about?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: browser choice? from Handle

That may be so, but Select * From Handle's comment that this choice screen 'should be forced on all OS's or none at all' is a valid point worthy of consideration nonetheless.

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Re: browser choice? from Handle

Chrome and Skyfire are front ends for the iOS webkit browser, neither of them is a fully functioning browser.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: browser choice?

You obviously have never used a Linux distros, aside from IE and Safari there are a load of alternative browsers available.

All you have to do is install the one of your choice.

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When will they get real

Until Microsucks is fined 300 BILLION Euro they will continue to violate law for PROFIT. There is no incentive to comply with law when they profit from violation of law. Fine them real money and throw the CEO in prison for 5 years and they will get the message loud and clear - as will other unscupulous companies who exhibit chronic violations of law for profit.

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Facepalm

Re: When will they get real

Microsucks

300 BILLION Euro

I see they're teaching IT in primary schools now.

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Anonymous Coward

@dogged - Re: When will they get real

You're a bit late, mate! All computing classes taught in schools and universities are about Microsoft products. And it has been like that for a while now.

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Re: @dogged - When will they get real

It is scary when all they teach is Microsoft...

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Headmaster

This is what MS have said in response.

"We take this matter very seriously and moved quickly to address this problem as soon as we became aware of it. Although this was the result of a technical error, we take responsibility for what happened, and we are strengthening our internal procedures to help ensure something like this cannot happen again. We sincerely apologize for this mistake and will continue to cooperate fully with the Commission."

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who wrote it and when

That is their statement? And you believe them?

Have naive do you think people are?

I will bet any amount of money that Steve Ballmer knew they were in violation and fully approved the illegal act.

He only lies about it now publicly.

Ballmer can not be so stupid.

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Happy

"Ballmer can not be so stupid."

*Citation Needed*

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Facepalm

Seriously?

"This meant that millions of people missed the chance to ditch IE for a better different browser."

No, this meant that millions of people had to actually use their brains and decide they wanted a different browser rather than have their hands held. The sheer volume of protests by affected punters and the spike in IE usage rates in the EU should have told them something was wrong. What, you mean that didn't happen?

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Vic
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Re: Seriously?

> millions of people had to actually use their brains

The whole point is that millions of people *don't know that there are alternatives* to IE. That's why the browser choice screen is necessary

Vic.

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Re: Seriously?

More pointedly millions of people don't know what a browser is. They don't know the difference between software and hardware, let alone subtleties about what comprises an operating system, an application, a browser.

Anyone reading or commenting in here is so far along the asymptote to the right of the bell curve, they may not even aware there is such a curve back there.

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Pint

The EU is not perfect, but...

"Microsoft may be fined up to 10 per cent of its total annual turnover"

That's more than enough to make them pay more attention next time. And also to make several heads roll, even bald and chair-throwing heads. ;-)

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Re: The EU is not perfect, but...

Indeed this is how to regulate effectively. There have been some eye-wateringly high fines over the last 12 months but only when you put them in the context of % of revenue can you see whether they are likely to act as deterrents. The Economist made a comparison a few months ago.

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Re: The EU is not perfect, but... (@ Charlie Clark)

Nice, nice link!

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Paris Hilton

Windows 8 TIFKAM IE,

How's that going to work out like?

(EU probing obviously - Paris no doubt involved).

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Meh

What's all the fuss about?

"So f***ing what?", is my response!

Maybe next time I buy a Nissan from my local Nissan dealer the EU should force them to suggest that I can also purchase models x, y and z from Honda, BMW and Skoda, you know, just in the interests of fair play.

I can't say I am overfond of Microsoft, but really, this whole EU/IE spat is so zzZZZZzzz.

Anyway, judging by my last Xbox update, they only put IE on there... Maybe, if the EU bureaucrats find their expenses coffers a little on the low side, they fine them for that too. I mean, it's so, so evil after all, eh? Meh.

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Holmes

Re: What's all the fuss about?

I take it you slept the day they taught economy in high school?

The point is Microsoft was levering their near monopoly in the operating systems market to create an unfair advantage in the browser market.

So to change your analogy to something more correct: what if you could only buy a Nissan and Nissan would start making their cars more expensive by putting in a TomTom, while not having the option of buying a cheaper car without one, or with a different brand of navigation? And don't say IE is "free", because it isn't. It costs MS money to develop and maintain it and you can be sure that cost is factored in the price of Windows.

I'm neither a fan of Microsoft or the EU, but this is one of the few things the EU handled well.

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Re: What's all the fuss about?

You can't compare car dealerships to the situation Microsoft was in when they were investigated. At the time they had IE so far embedded in the OS that you couldn't uninstall it even if you wanted to. Ignoring the choice of removing it you have to see how big a security risk that can be. This may all sound dull and boring to you now but that's ok, you have your choice now of multiple browsers that all operate on a similar level and that's in part down to the decisions of the EU trial and the US trial.

It might not matter as much now as it did at the time but showing that they will be held accountable for failing to adhere to the terms of the agreement will teach both Microsoft and any other company thinking of doing the same that they will be punished for abusing their position.

Also, you're bad at analogies.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What's all the fuss about?

1) I am not American hence I have never been to 'high school'.

2) I am aware of the monopoly ruling.

3) Personally I have never met anyone who was unaware of how to enter someotherbrowser.tld/download/.

4) As for cost, of course it's factored into the price of Windows. Windows is overpriced, by quite some margin in my mind.

5) As for studying economics, your're right, I didn't. But then look at the mess we are in with the 1st world economy. If that's the result of the economics education in 'high school' then I'm glad I missed it.

:)

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