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back to article Euro watchdog bares teeth at Microsoft over browser gaffe

Antitrust watchdogs in Europe could soon slap Microsoft with a massive fine for the software maker's browser-choice gaffe last year. The company was caught steering its Windows operating system users into loading up Microsoft's Internet Explorer even though Redmond had previously agreed - in an earlier regulatory ruling - to …

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Anonymous Coward

Take the money

And donate it to FOSS projects.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Take the money

So they can bundle Chrome with their OS?

Great.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Take the money

So they can bundle Chrome with their OS?

Great.

I'm assuming your post was sarcasm? Firefox would be a better OSS browser to support as it doesn't have that evil G connection.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Take the money

> So they can bundle Chrome with their OS?

nah, LO.

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JDX
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Re: Take the money

FOSS shouldn't need EU handouts...

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Re: Take the money

as it doesn't have that evil G connection.

When there's M (or A) on it already, it has reached the maximum level of evilness.

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Re: Take the money

FOSS shouldn't need EU handouts...

Not handouts, no. Investment, yes. In that context I must actually give a thumbs up to the German government. Most people know of the Munich project, but few seem to realise that GPG also received a good boost from the German government in what I consider a very intelligent use of tax funds. They needed crypto they could trust, so they took an Open Source project and sponsored it. Win win idea.

There are plenty EU-level uses FOSS could have, provided someone with a clue keeps a bit of an oversight. However, I can imagine the moment someone as much as sniffs at doing something like the German government at pan-EU level they will be either politically manoeuvred out of the way or otherwise neutralised - far too dangerous to profit margins.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Take the money

Why on earth would EU MEP's want to waste money on FOSS projects when they can use it for overseas 'business' trips, fine dining, high quality booze, new designer furniture, personal financial subsidies or even supporting those woefully inefficient French farmers who would all be of of business were it not for the CAP?

The EU, do something sensible?

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WTF?

Re: Take the money

Why would the EU need to invest in FOSS at all? I thought that movement was self perpetuating; powered by golden good feelings derived from contributing to the community... Am I wrong?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Take the money

First time round = pittance fine.

Failure to comply + bullshit excuses = unless the second fine is like say 2 or 3 billion euros, then Team Sleaze at Microsoft will just say, "Oh a choice of browsers, umm yes... the intern had that job, but she left and didn't tell us...., and we did take a puff on a joint, but we didn't inhale...."

Yes global price gouging, product lock in licences, USA Naziware goes global and the planet goes Linux.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Take the money

Re: AC 15:35 GMT

4 Thumbs down tards haven't a clue.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Take the money

But Firefox has more security holes than IE :-(

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Take the money

And many companies worldwide are thankful that it demonstrated beyond doubt that migration to Linux on the desktop is expensive, difficult, painful, functionally limiting and of little practical benefit.

The Munich migration still isn't complete after over a decade, and ten of millions were spent by IBM and others in getting there - vastly more than the expected 'savings'. And what has been migrated still mostly has to access Windows based VDI / Citrix etc. when they need a version of Office that works!

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Trollface

Re: Take the money

@15:35 AC

I'm assuming your post was sarcasm? Firefox would be a better OSS browser to support as it doesn't have that evil G connection.

The five thumbs down tards must be MSIE users, figures.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Take the money

But Firefox has more security holes than IE :-(

That's because Firefox has to do it all by itself, whereas IE can rely on the underlying OS for ruining security..

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Holmes

Apropos of which...

the last two laptops I purchased - both in the last three months, one W7 and one W8 - both failed to offer a browser choice.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apropos of which...

Was it a per-prepared build? I had a browser choice when I installed Win 8 on my desktop, but a pre-built machine may have had the person doing the build choose for you.

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Re: Apropos of which...

The standard 'push the right buttons and wait an hour while it builds and registers itself' thing you get with a new laptop, no installation media.

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On my last install of Windows 8, after installing updates, it wouldn't stop giving me the damn browser choice screen. Had to manually disable it via the registry.

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Anonymous Coward

non-savvy or terminally lazy users

That's 99% of them then.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: non-savvy or terminally lazy users

"That's 99% of them then."

Presumably then the 1% remaining use Linux

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Anonymous Coward

Who cares

They're no longer the incumbent, other than on the "dying" desktop. Fighting for eyes on a dying platform is largely irrelevant. The battle has moved on.

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Re: Who cares

Platform relevance matters not a jot. Microsoft had a legally-binding agreement, and they broke it - intentionally or not.

Bust a deal, face the wheel.

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Thumb Up

Re: Who cares

I do.

"Microsoft claimed it failed to spot that it was no longer including the browser choice screen for 17 months: the vendor has described the apparent mishap as a "technical error" rather than a deliberate action to push Internet Explorer."

They've admited to it. Strict Liability crime - purported lack of Intention is irrelevant except to the determination of the fine. No intention but a clear admission of Recklessness. MSFT have form. Expect a massive fine. Too right.

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JDX
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Re: Who cares

Eadon you forgot to login.

Dying platform? Windows desktop dominance is the one bit of the OS landscape which ISN'T really changing. No matter how much MS screw up, Linux still can't stumble to victory.

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Re: Who cares

Windows still dominates the desktop, and is likely to for some time, but the desktop doesn't dominate the computer market to quite the same extent that it used to. Many home users find that an iPad is all they need for what they do.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who cares

Cmon, who honestly believes the browser choice screen had any real impact anyway?

IE is a piece of sh*te and should lose market share anyway until it can do better.

The only reason I can almost forgive the commission's bureaucratic meddling is that it may have introduced a few ignorant souls to something different.

Other than that, it was just another Windows installation annoyance.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who cares

They're no longer the incumbent, other than on the "dying" desktop. Fighting for eyes on a dying platform is largely irrelevant. The battle has moved on.

-

Please get a clue before posting, the desktop is FAR from dying, despite what some paid-shrills will say, the mobile phone is NOT the successor to the PC, it just supplements it for on-the-move people like commuters and nomads.

Besides, I'd much rather use a laptop than a stupid locked down fisher price tablet anyway. If some people actually prefer to use locked down devices, more power to them, at least they won't have a PC/Laptop choke full of malware to wreck havoc on the internet, leaving us who actually KNOW how to use a PC/Laptop to get on in piece.

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Facepalm

"Whoops!"

Sorry Microsoft, you've backed yourself into a corner here - either it was deliberate, and you're over the barrel with the anti-trust issue, or it's a technical error - just like the azure outage and all the rest.

Whichever way, it's another knock to Redmond credibility - which appears to be flagging pretty badly at the moment...

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JDX
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Re: "Whoops!"

I can't see it being deliberate really, daft to expect nobody would notice much sooner. All we learn is that the two sides are equally incompetent.

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RW
Devil

Re: "Whoops!"

It was neither deliberate nor a "technical" error. It was a management error, pure and simple. You would think that MS, with the threat of a large fine hanging over it should they commit a specific misdeed, would make very sure that that misdeed did not occur by accident. But no, someone deep in the technical hierarchy in Bellvue was given the authority to okay an update without the point being made "make absolutely certain browser choice is still there for European customers."

My impression of MS is that its management is utterly chaotic, with nobody in particular actually in charge. MS isn't "too big to fail". It's "too big to succeed".

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Re: "Whoops!"

All we learn is that the two sides are equally incompetent.

Please explain how the European Commission has been incompetent.

Anyway ignorance or incompetence have never been valid defences before the law. Sounds like someone is going to have to do some explaining to the shareholders.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Whoops!"

A couple of ways the EC were incompetent -

a: the rule was ridiculous in the first place.

b: it took them 17 months to notice too.

Also no normal person cares, I'll spare the bad analogies, but most just use what they want, and most will end up using chrome as the giant ad vendor google pushes the masses towards its own products.

The time to deal with MS was 20 years ago, Google and Apple 10 years ago (in different fields) and, likely which ever cloud vendor wins should be dealt with 5 years before it wins. But oddly enough time and technological advances do more to curtail these behemoths than anything else.

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Headmaster

RE "Please explain how the European Commission has been incompetent."

Well there has to be some explanation for why not only MS but apparently world+wife+dog failed to notice this snafu. After all the competition authorities are supposed to police these agreements and apparently were completely oblivious for about a year and a half. This of course does not in any way excuse Redmond's cluster-fuck and it is to be hoped that they will indeed be very heavily fined. However, to paraphrase one of Conan-Doyle's most famous Sherlock Holmes short stories we still have the mystery of the dog(s) that did not bark. How is it that, apparently, nobody noticed for seventeen months?

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Re: "Whoops!"

RW: It was neither deliberate nor a "technical" error. It was a management error, pure and simple. You would think that MS, with the threat of a large fine hanging over it should they commit a specific misdeed, would make very sure that that misdeed did not occur by accident.

MS is probably assuming that it will not be a large fine, probably only a few million, which they can well afford - especially considering that it will not actually "cost" them that much after tax deductions etc. It's likely worth it to them. If it turns out not, only then is it a management error.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Whoops!"

Just show how irrelevant the requirement for the browser choice is - that no one noticed for 17 months.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RE "Please explain how the European Commission has been incompetent."

Perhaps they were just ..... incompetent?

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Windows

Too little, too late

Of course fines are in order because the EU needs the money. Heck, although I think its a good thing that customers are being protected against monopolies or unfair businesses I do place some question marks behind this particular ruling.

Not because I think its bad perse; but because the timing was pretty poor. Because the EU started flexing its muscles when the damage was already done. Even more funnier: where other browsers such as Firefox and Chrome had already managed to gobble up huge chunks of Microsoft's market share. And only then the EU kicked in with their browser choice demands.

Is this about protecting the EU civvies or another good attempt at grossing in some extra (desperately needed) cash ?

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Re: Too little, too late

I think it may hep you to read a bit about the history of this issue. You'll find that the original fine was given before Chrome, for example and that the fine would have been given earlier had MS not fought it tooth and nail.

Arguing that it is no longer relevant is a bit like saying that the person who stole and smashed up my car should be let out of jail because it was two years ago and I've got a new one now.

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Re: Too little, too late

Sorry, but that's not a very good analogy. That would be more closely equivalent to Microsoft receiving back some or all of the fine they paid initially.

A better analogy would be if the person who stole your car was let out of jail (after their sentence - equivalent to the fine in this case) and then allowed to steal your car and smash it up again without further retribution because they've already "paid their dues" for doing so the first time.

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Re: Too little, too late

Not sure I agree as the fine and the choice window were both part of the punishment. Nicking a car was probably not a good analogy however :-)

I suppose I feel that the point of the fine and the conditions is that they are there to put others off similar behaviour although it seems the fine wasn't big enough, given that other like Google seem not to have learnt a lesson.

Any regulator is in a difficult position here as they can't know in advance how long it will take to break the monopoly by pushing choice and even if market share dips they can't know how long it will be before it recovers, if it does.

All in all I think MS got away lightly given what they did and that if the regulator is to have any chance of putting others off they've got to go through with the punishment and ensure that the company being punished keeps to the conditions imposed. I've seen from my own children that idle threats don't work!

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EU lost the plot

I don't see Google home page offering for me to install other browsers. It just says click here to install chrome.

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Re: EU lost the plot

I don't see a "Browser Choice" screen on either Apple or Android devices either.

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JDX
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Re: EU lost the plot

They are not using a dominance in one market to influence another. If Android had 99% of mobile then perhaps it would be the same.

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Re: EU lost the plot

Bring a case to the EU courts. Until someone actually bothers to sue, it's not a problem.

People reported Microsoft to the courts, hence the action it took. It would also have to be proved to be an anticompetitive action (MS were primarily monopolist because they forced computer manufacturers NOT to install other browsers or give a choice, etc.) rather than just a company advertising its own products.

There's a BIG difference which, if you don't understand, then you're probably not the right person to ever sit on a jury.

Now if Google were forcing all their adsense advertisers to make websites that ONLY worked in Chrome, then you might have a similar problem.

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Re: EU lost the plot

If it was impossible for anybody except Google to make an Android compatible OS, then maybe they'd get hit.

The only vendor lock Google have is the Play Store. Not exactly insurmountable.

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Linux

Re: EU lost the plot

@Erroneous Howard

'I don't see a "Browser Choice" screen on either Apple or Android devices either.'

Android is Free Software, not a commercial product restricted by proprietary licensing, so there's no antitrust issue to consider, since there's nothing to stop any of Google's competitors (including Microsoft) from using it without incurring any financial obligations (or ceding any market advantage) to Google. Indeed several vendors have already done so, including Amazon.

Apple "bundles" its *own* OS on its *own* hardware, so that can't be a "conspiracy in restraint of trade", because one can't be engaged in a conspiracy with *oneself*. Obviously.

Windows, OTOH, is a proprietary, commercial product that's "bundled" without option on hardware that has nothing to do with Microsoft, to the near-total exclusion of all competitors in that (albeit rapidly declining) market segment called the "desktop". That's what makes this an antitrust issue, because it's "tying", collusion, or IOW a "conspiracy in restraint of trade". The universal "bundling" of any third-party software on that system is therefore a significant antitrust issue. That includes the OS itself and any applications, by Microsoft or otherwise.

The only problem I have with the EU's sanctions against Microsoft is that they keep targeting relative trivia like browsers and media players, when they should be targeting the root of the problem, Windows itself. I assume that's because Opera raised a complaint specific to browser competition, and no one (in the EU at least) has done likewise for OS competition. It does seem like they're pussy-footing around the problem, however.

What the EU needs to do is unbundle Windows from PCs, then they can stop wasting their time with a company as recalcitrant as Microsoft, as the Windows Tax problem will be solved once and for all.

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@ terra - Re: EU lost the plot

Wrote : "I don't see Google home page offering for me to install other browsers. It just says click here to install chrome."

I just checked and do not see that (www.google.co.uk in case your home page is different). I need to follow an intermediate link to get to such a page. Same with Microsoft's home page as it happens, but I have no issue with either. You will have chosen to go to either company's page to seek their offerings.

It is different with buying almost any new PC - Windows is first up on the screen whether you would choose MS's offerings or not, and, if it were not for the EU ruling, IE along with it.

I look forward to the day when a new PC offers a choice of operating system, not just the browser.

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Headmaster

Re: EU lost the plot

People reported Microsoft to the courts

No, they reported the matter to the Competition Commissioner. Anti-trust complaints rarely go straight to the courts and I don't even think it's possible for the whole of the EU.

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