back to article Italy's High Court orders HP to refund punter for putting Windows on PC

Don’t want that preinstalled Microsoft Windows on your new Italian laptop? You’re entitled to your money back, according to Italy’s High Court. In a ruling on Thursday, judges described the practice of only selling PCs with a non-free operating system as “a commercial policy of forced distribution”. They said bundling forces …

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  1. Dan Paul

    OEM Pricing?

    I would assume that HP has to rebate the price that was charged to the user for Windows not what they actually paid.

    Wouldn't that still leave a profit for them?

    I can see this ruling resulting in users having to buy and install their own operating systems now.

    Good luck with that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: OEM Pricing?

      “This decision is both welcome and long overdue,” seeing as Microsoft have enjoyed about 90% marketshare for 20 years, I agree it is late. Perhaps Windows should always be sold separately, at least until their marketshare for desktop PCs is such that competition genuinely exists.

      And more Governments need to stop mandating that citizens use Microsoft Internet Explorer and Microsoft's Office files to collaborate with them. Before some MS troll says but docx is open, it is not open, it is effectively closed to all but Microsoft and their current best friends.

    2. Hargrove

      Re: OEM Pricing?

      OEM pricing is a mysterious art unto itself. Bundling features to make a product more attractive and competitive should be fair game.

      My understanding from the article is that the anticompetitive feature of this case was that the vendor did not offer option to purchase just the computing hardware. The article doesn't really provide enough detail to form an informed opinion about the court's judgment. Hopefully the Reg has some Italian readers who can synopsize the referenced document and enlighten us?

      Granted for most users installation of an operating system may be a daunting task. But they should have the option.

    3. Keep Refrigerated

      Re: OEM Pricing?

      What exactly is the problem with installing your own OS anyway?

      Presumably buyers of computers have some basic enough skills that they can insert a disk/usb and click on 'Install'.

      If hardware manufacturers want to bundle Windows, they could easily offer it as a voucher or a physical copy that comes in the packaging (as you get with printers, webcams and other hardware peripherals).

      These days I go out of my way to purchase hardware that comes with no OS, but I don't think it should be so difficult and I think competition needs to be encouraged.

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: OEM Pricing?

        Or since we live in the 21th century, you could just have a little removable flash chip with the operating system on it. If you don't want it, just return the chip. If your harddisk breaks, just replace it, your OS will still be there. If you want to upgrade your OS, just swap the chip.

        This could be done easily, and in case of Windows you could even have a Ramdisk holding it. Microsoft would even have a competitive advantage. Since Windows is so small, last time I checked you could fit it onto a single bootable diskette, the flash chip would cost virtually nothing, and it would be loaded into RAM in milliseconds. Your typical Linux distribution would still occupy a couple of Gigabytes and therefore take longer to boot and need more memory.

        1. king of foo

          Re: OEM Pricing?

          Are you talking about windows 3.1?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OEM Pricing?

        Nothing. however most of the people who contact me (because someone told them I was in IT)

        are really scared/awed by computers and os's.

        re

        Presumably buyers of computers have some basic enough skills that they can insert a disk/usb and click on 'Install'.

        I have actually sat along side someone to hand hold him on installing Windows, and guess what, its all the questions that fazed him.

        Better to have a system where it says, you opened the packet so you accept the license etc, (readable copy in box).

        Plug in , one question, do you want to do this, did you read the license etc?

        The yes, OK see you in n minutes (hours if its windows) I will beep to let you know when I am done

        Then when done set user name, password , smile!!!

        Need lots of DV's, its that time in the lunar cycle :(

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: OEM Pricing?

          Still a little unworkable. Really the only good solution to this is for hardware manufacturers to also sell the hardware without software / OS installed. A blank slate. No manufacturer wants to go through the hassle of having to deal with people claiming partial money back (and the inevitable false claimants). And no-one who genuinely wants to put a different OS on there should want to have to start by removing Windows and re-partitioning to get rid of restore partitions or whatever. So sell the hardware OS free alongside installed versions. As should have been done all along.

          Personally though, I'd just be happy if they could provide me one without McAffee installed!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OEM Pricing?

      "I can see this ruling resulting in users having to buy and install their own operating systems now."

      "I can see this ruling resulting in users having a choice into which operating system they would like to install".

      TFTFY

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If

    I bought a car and then decided I didn't like the engine, I wouldn't expect to be able to just pull the engine out and ask for some of my money back.

    And its not like it didn't say "comes with windows?" You'd think it would be a case of caveat emptor. Obviously means less to an Italian than you'd expect.

    Still the Italian legal system has a long and proud record of.... Oh.

    1. Mike Flugennock
      FAIL

      Re: If

      Lamest. Analogy. EVER.

      Maybe we need a corollary to Godwin covering the use of cars an analogy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If

        Not all analogies work.

        You weren't bothered by the dig at Italy, though?

      2. graeme leggett

        Re: If

        "Maybe we need a corollary to Godwin covering the use of cars an analogy"

        That'd be Goodwood...

        1. Steven Raith

          Re: If

          ------

          "Maybe we need a corollary to Godwin covering the use of cars an analogy"

          That'd be Goodwood...

          ------

          And it'd be a Corolla (preferably of the AE86 variety) rather than a corollary.

          (sorry)

          Steven R

          1. Gordan

            Re: If

            "And it'd be a Corolla (preferably of the AE86 variety) rather than a corollary."

            Are you saying the analogy went more than a little sideways? :-)

            1. Steven Raith

              Re: If

              @Gordan - yes. Yes I am.

              (he says, wishing he had added that to the original post. DAMN.)

              Steven R

      3. h4rm0ny

        Re: If

        And the reason it's a bad analogy is because switching out the OS is normally pretty easy and there are good reasons to do it. So you should be able to buy just the hardware if that's what you want. Unlike a car where it's conceivable that there is someone out there somewhere who wants to install their own choice of engine, but let's be realistic - that's not a viable market.

    2. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: If

      More like it comes with a requirement to use a particularly expensive brand of low quality fuel for no good reason

      1. Bill Michaelson

        Re: If

        More like an option to change the firmware in the car. I wouldn't choose an alternative, but I would like to change whatever constant needs to be changed to recalibrate and correct the fuel flow metering which consistently under-reports consumption by about 7%. Opening the code up so that any mechanic (not just at the dealer) has full access to functionality? That would be good.

    3. MrNed

      Re: If

      It is the CPU of a computer that is the closest analog to the engine of a car. If anything, a pre-installed OS would be analogous to your car being delivered with its own chauffeur.

      I don't think I'd like to be driven by a chauffeur that was to driving what Windows is to computers.

      1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: If

        No, the CPU of the car is it's CPU. The OS is the interface between the vehicle and the operator, thus the collection of pedals, switches, gauges, even the stick-shift or 2WD 4WD transmission. Now if I were to make a car analogy, perhaps I would point to right-side vis-a-vis left-side driving. God knows the headaches involved are comparable.

    4. Chemist

      Re: If

      "I bought a car and then decided I didn't like the engine, I wouldn't expect to be able to just pull the engine out and ask for some of my money back."

      Agreed !. However if you were given the option you could choose. After all PCs are designed not to require 1 particular OS.

      I have bought several laptops now without any OS - no probs.

    5. Number6

      Re: If

      I bought a car and then decided I didn't like the engine, I wouldn't expect to be able to just pull the engine out and ask for some of my money back.

      Back when I last bought a new car, I had the option of choosing which variant of engine was fitted, along with the colour, accessories, etc. However, as someone else pointed out, Windows on the PC is more like the chauffeur driving the car than the engine.

    6. Timmy Cratchit
      Pint

      Re: If

      WOAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH..... There RICHTO! Lay off the crack - you've clearly had enough. You're confusing SOFTware and HARDware. Shirely someone who works in the marketing dept of a large software concern should know the difference?

      >I bought a car and then decided I didn't like the engine, I wouldn't expect to be able to just pull the engine out and ask for some of my money back.

      If I bought a car and then discovered the dealer had stuffed a Celine Dion CD into the player I'd feel disgusted, violated and terrorised.

      If I bought a car and then discovered the dealer had stuffed a Celine Dion CD into the player. Then discovered they'd defaced *MY* brand new car with "Made for Celine Dion" stickers festooned all over the bodywork. Then discovered those Celine Dion stickers were made with extra-cunning-practically-impossible-to-remove-and-guaranteed-to-destroy-the-paintwork-if-you-try(tm) "adhesive". Then discovered they'd CHARGED(!!!!ONE!) me EXTRA(!!!!ONE!) for the heinous unsolicited and unwanted CD and advertising sticker attack I'd... SUE THE FUCKERS... just as this Italian Gent appears to have done. Should have added professional cleaning costs for the palmrest-fungus to his damages.

      There, FTFY 0:-)

      Good on the litigant. ..and good on the Italian courts for standing up for the rights of the consumer over the whim of some foreign cartel.

      Can't help thinking the judgement will be overturned by Europe 'though. I might be out of date but didn't the EC and cartels contrive a decree a few years ago to (largely successfully) drive diversity and the small, agile PC assembly concerns out of the market? Something along the lines of "all computers must be sold in an expensively and long-windedly tested and certified 'ready-to-use' configuration." Under a depressingly sarcastic "consumer protection" excuse too! Perhaps this'll prove to be an opportunity to get that abomination fixed! (If it hasn't been fixed already) Fingers crossed!

      Raising my pint to the Italians BTW ------>

      1. tony2heads
        Paris Hilton

        @Timmy Cratchit

        I wish I could give you many upvotes for the Windows-Celine Dion analogy. It should become a new meme!

        Eds: Get rid of old Paris please; she's gone to the (nano-pomeranian) dogs.

        Icon: dump Paris!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If

        "WOAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH..... There RICHTO! "

        Nope, I ain't him. Never met him neither.

    7. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: If

      I bought the car and I did not like the air freshner because I am allergic to the crappy brand used by the vendor is a better analogy.

      Car engine is something which takes a considerble effort (a man day or so usually) to replace. It takes no effort to replace an OS (unless you have deliberately sabotage the process which MSFT has been known to do).

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If

      As cars come with a variety of engines, chosen by YOU at the time of purchase, AFTER taking a test drive you decide the engine is wrong, that's your own stupid fault for failing to test/research.

      Why the fuck would you expect to be compensated for buying, of your own volition, the wrong thing???

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If

        >Why the fuck would you expect to be compensated for buying, of your own volition, the wrong thing???

        Excellent point Mr(?) cornz.

        Interestingly and oozing with delicious irony, a certain ***Hewlett-Packard Corporation*** is determined that's EXACTLY what SHOULD happen!

        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/09/12/hp_aggressive_assumptions_in_autonomy_buy/

        RATFLMAO

        Sauce for the goose should die by the sword! ;)

    9. This post has been deleted by its author

    10. eulampios

      @the beaten automobile analogy

      >>I bought a car and then decided I didn't like the engine, I wouldn't expect to be able to just pull the engine out and ask for some of my money back.

      Is any of the bellow true:

      1) the engine cannot be re-sold without the car that it was originally installed in?

      2) you could download as many engines for free as you want?

      So AC, what a nice analogy ... or is it?

      1. eulampios

        nothing to bellow about

        Yet, sorry, the "l" in the above "below" should not have been doubled.

        s/bellow/below/

  3. LDS Silver badge

    I want a Mac and iPad without OSX/iOS preinstalled... and an Android without Google software

    Or the Apple and Google taxes are OK for the FSF?

    1. Aitor 1

      Re: I want a Mac and iPad without OSX/iOS preinstalled... and an Android without Google software

      They aren't a monopoly.

      With 90% marketshare, Microsoft IS a monopoly in desktops and laptops.

      the trick was gaining a big market share and then charging oems per system delivered.. even if it has linux.

      therefore, you rest assured thet they will offer Windows, as it is "free".

      If they insist on linux, you just have to cut them from "marketing expenses share", etc, and they will pay 15/30$ more per laptop.. effectively halving their benefit on cheap computers.

      Intel did even worse things, but all of this is history, you can check it.

      Note; I do like windows 8.1, and paid for it...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I want a Mac and iPad without OSX/iOS preinstalled... and an Android without Google software

        ...but all of this is history...

        No. It isn't.

        http://www.androidcentral.com/lenovo-announces-its-first-intel-powered-android-tablet-tab-s8

    2. Mad Chaz

      Re: I want a Mac and iPad without OSX/iOS preinstalled... and an Android without Google software

      Actually, OS X is now free if you own a MAC. It just won't run if you don't. You aren't charged for iOS or Android, it's given away with the device.

      That's the difference.

    3. Fluffy Bunny
      Alert

      Re: I want a Mac and iPad without OSX/iOS preinstalled... and an Android without Google software

      Buying a Mac and without OS X is a stupid thing to do. Yes, it works and I have seen it done. But you're paying a gigantic premium just to run Windows or Linux. Better to start with a high performance generic PC in the beginning. You save a lot of money and don't have to look at that stupid logo all day long.

    4. Chris Reynolds

      Re: I want a Mac and iPad without OSX/iOS preinstalled... and an Android without Google software

      @LDS +1 to that.

      I remember working for one of HP's competitors a number of years ago when a similar precedent was set by a court. The company then produced an identical machine with a free operating system for the same of marginally lower price. Not sure how popular they were, but they ensured compliance with the law.

  4. Curly4
    Linux

    What are Apple buyers going to do.

    Well at least with an HP pc one has a choice but with Apple there is NO CHOICE. What is the courts going to do with that one? Are they going to require Apple to allow other operating system on it. How about are they going to allow someone to put an Apple OS on a different computer Apple DOES NOT ALLOW either one of these options.

    1. Mad Chaz

      Re: What are Apple buyers going to do.

      Actually, while I do not like apple, you are wrong there. You can install any OS on a MAC. From windows to linux to bsd. They even provide drivers for windows and facilities to do it with bootcamp.

      As for OS X elsewhere, that's not the same thing either.

      1. handle

        Re: What are Apple buyers going to do.

        @Mad Chaz: yes, but that's not the point: you can install any OS on a PC too. But in both cases, non-free (as in beer) software has been bundled with the hardware, for which you can get no refund. I have explained the difference between the two situations above.

        1. Franklin

          Re: What are Apple buyers going to do.

          "But in both cases, non-free (as in beer) software has been bundled with the hardware, for which you can get no refund. I have explained the difference between the two situations above."

          OS X is free. Indeed, OS X upgrades are free to users of earlier systems. So the cases don't match. You're not buying software you don't intend to use. (And you don't have to use OS X if you don't want to; I have a Mac Mini server running Linux. But I didn't pay extra for OS X when I bought it.)

          1. Chris Reynolds

            Re: What are Apple buyers going to do.

            @franklin I think that they are comparable, but would need to know more about the ruling to be sure.

            Apple will have invested a considerable amount of money into creating OSX and have decided that they won't charge for it, however you can be sure that they're recouping the costs elsewhere. The fact that a Mac can run Windows or Linux (via bootcamp) means that OSX isn't critical to the operation of the computer.

            I'm not up on OEM agreements, but I would expect that the likes of HP would be allowed to offer a -100% margin on any Windows SKU so that it shows as a zero cost component.

            In the end, I doubt that the likes of HP are going to risk annoying Microsoft by acquiescing to the outcome of this case. They will find ways to ensure people keep buying PCs with Windows installed.

        2. itzman

          Re: What are Apple buyers going to do.

          installing OS/X on non mac hardware is possible, but its way beyond 'insert disk and boot'

          1. Da Weezil

            Re: What are Apple buyers going to do.

            OSX on Non Mac hardware is like popping a Zetec engine into a Morris Minor. Its possible, its been done a number of times, but takes a bit of skill and knowledge. In the average high street you cant buy a laptop without paying the windows tax.

            As for inserting a disc and installing - My first home PC actually came with a disc containing windows. Now if your hard drive dies a couple of years into ownership you are screwed because they are too cheap to even give you a CD or DVD rom for the licence you are forced to buy.

            I wont get into the ludicrous situation of trying to upgrade a current machine with a larger HDD, if I have paid for a licence then I SHOULD be able to use it even if I upgrade my machine. Redmond has long been an abusive monopoly in common with a few other businesses in the UK.

    2. handle

      Re: What are Apple buyers going to do.

      @Curly4: hasn't it dawned on you that the case of Apple is one company's non-free software being bundled with the same company's hardware, whereas in the case of Microsoft it is one company's non-free software being bundled with a myriad of other companies' hardware?

  5. Kev99 Bronze badge

    Apple may not allow their OS on non-Apple computers, it is possible to install on a PC, albeit not easily. I believe there is precedence in the US as to Apple's OS. IBM got burned by the courts when it refused to allow businesses to use any hardware except their for their Big Iron. After the loss, numerous compatible systems came online, notably Hitachi and Fujitsu. I agree with the assertion the Microsoft is a monopoly for another reason resides market share. Microsoft forces end-users to buy a new OS by creating new "versions" of the OS. More often than not, the new versions have features and micro-apps that nothing to do with an operating system, as well as more vulnerabilities and bloat. Remember, Windows 3.1 came on 5 3.5" floppies.

  6. Uncle Ron

    Marketplace

    Economies of scale: OEM pays MS something like USD$50 per machine it ships. You pay $450 to OEM and $50 to MS for a $500 machine. Maybe different if OEM gets $$ from other bloatware it ships with MS machines. So, not that much less if you get bare metal. Plus, if you had to separately buy MS OS (if no bundling allowed) it would be A LOT more--maybe 2x, 3x, 4x, if MS had fewer machines to spread costs over.

    People are lazy. They simply fire up whatever OS comes with the machine. They don't want choices, i.e., press 1) to install Windows, 2) to install Linux, 3) to insall Edgar's OS. People don't buy an OS. They buy a laptop, or desktop, or whatever and just want to turn it on. You don't buy an OS with a TV set or a BD player.

    It's probably unfair to penalize or to consider penalizing MS in 2014 for a marketplace system that has been institutionalized since the 1980's. It's not good or bad, it just is. Huh?

    1. handle

      Re: Marketplace

      How do you know how much an OEM pays MS per machine it ships? It's a closely-guarded secret, which is why when MS panicked and started foisting Windows XP on netbooks to nip the consumer Linux PC in the bud, you could never get the same spec machine with Linux as with Windows, so it was impossible to work out how much the Windows licence actually cost - positive, zero or negative!

      Why is it such a secret? Could it be that if indeed it does turn out to cost the hardware manufacturer peanuts compared with a standalone copy, the OEM bundling would be viewed as an anti-competitive subsidy to hinder the adoption of alternative operating systems and applications which run on them (or MS's applications which don't - for no technical reason)? Perish the thought!

      Because it is a secret, the court can only award the known price of the software, which is that of a stand-alone licence. I think we agree that this is likely to be far higher than the price paid by the OEM, so that secrecy backfires in a particularly satisfying manner! If this becomes a trend, MS will soon change the way it does things.

      Microsoft was the company that institutionalised this anti-competitive behaviour - nay stranglehold - and has benefited from it since the 1980s, so the fact that you think it's "unfair" to penalise the company for it strikes me as quite bizarre.

    2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: Marketplace

      Yeah, they want something like any other appliance, even a car is just another appliance (!!!), in their life. And when they do an appliance-like operation and don't get the expected result, they expect me to force it to match there expectation.

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