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Microsoft

EU May Fine Microsoft 349

Posted by timothy
from the just-a-couple-of-billion dept.
Yokaze writes: "The Wall Street Journal reports about a leaked European Comission document, that suggests that the EU may fine MS for anti-competitive behaviour. The fine can be up to 10% of the annual revenue, or $2.5 billion and may include the demand to remove certain programs from Windows. The report harshly criticized MS way of taking influence in the case, even speaking of trying to mislead the observers. Regarding the report of the WSJ, European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said, that the case is still at a preliminary stage, since MS still has the right to defend itself at a hearing. Or in his own words: 'To speak of a fine when Microsoft has not yet disputed the Commission's preliminary findings both in fact and law -- as it it's right -- is premature.' Since the original is for subscribers only, take a look at Yahoo or the more detailed report from BBC News. Lastly with some different details a report from Heise in German."
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EU May Fine Microsoft

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  • Put the fine to use (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 0tim0 (181143) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:03AM (#2410291)
    Personally, I would be happy with a fine in the US -- if the fine could be used to support an open source consumer OS.

    IOW, fine MS a billion or so dollars and use it to fund an (OSX-like) GUI for, say, linux (or FreeBSD, or whatever).

    MS would gladly pay the money to get out of this mess. And it would be the only viable way (that I can think of) to actually have a real Windows alternative. Everybody wins.

    I don't know if our courts are allowed to make creative punishments like that. But it probably could be a decent settlement.

    --tim

    • by SamBeckett (96685) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:15AM (#2410344)
      Why exactly is it our (the USA) government's job to fund an alternative OS? If there were money to be made for an alternative OS, people would make the OS for the money...

      But Microsoft is a monopoly you say... -- Exactly the point of the case.. Don't allow Microsoft to use their normal strong-arm tacticts (at the fear of further punishment, break-ups) so any and all competitors won't be crushed.

      That is why I think any one who wants the government to force Microsoft to open Windows' source code is on crack. Well, that and another reason-- if we all agree that Windows sucks *ss, then why do we want the source code so bad?
      • Actually, people would want the source to Office to get the ability to seamlessly export/import Office docs so all he Office-junkies could use other apps (plug: try Applixware). Also, openin the source to wDOS is the *only* way the os will ever be secured and have its holes properly patched.
      • Why exactly is it our (the USA) government's job to fund an alternative OS?



        It's not - it's the govt's job to promote the public good. In this case the govt has a law that encourages competition because it's for the public good. M$ has been found guilty in a court of law of breaching that law and is now going to be punished for doing that. Punishment often has two components - the first restitution to those hurt by a crime, and a punative component designed to hurt the guilty party in a manner intended to discourage them from repeating their transgression.



        It seems to me that fining M$, who appears to have money flowing from all bodily orifices, isn't going to have a lot of effect, unless it's a really big fine - enough to hurt their stock price (and therefore cause the company's managers to be put under pressure to change by the stockholders). I think that a having smaller fine, one that's more likely to be upheld in court, and then taking that money and using it to fund Open Source programs would be a wonderfull way to truely punish M$, encourage them to really compete, and would in the long term provide relief, in the form of a viable alternative, to those people hurt by the existing abuse of monopoly

    • by liquidsin (398151)
      As much as I think this is a fantastic idea, I doubt that the U.S. gov't would force a company to fund their competitors. Too bad though...

      • by Mr_Ust (61641)
        Why not? They've done it before. Read up on the Canadian soft lumber dispute that was still going on as of four months ago. The US thinks British Columbia is flooding the market with cheap lumber, so they put up a 30% tarrif and gave that money to competitors in the US. In effect, Canadian companies are being punished twice!
    • fine MS a billion or so dollars and use it to fund [open source alternative]

      Others here have already said what a stupid idea this is.

      So at the risk of being modded down as redundant, I'll just echo the same.

      What a stupid idea it is to fine a lawbreaker and use the proceeds in an attempt to try and undo the irreperable harm the lawbreaker has caused with their criminal conduct. Stupid man.

      The government should not be trying to take money from our poor tobacco companies to pay for health care costs caused by lung cancer. And it would be insane to try to use seized organized crime assets to fund law enforcement efforts. Where will this insanity end? Next you'll be telling me that we should use seized assets from terrorist organizations to help fund the war on terrorism.

      Don't suggest such stupid ideas here. After all, this is slashdot. We must protect our corporations. If we were to fine Microsoft it would hopelessly plunge the world economy into a downward spiral from which it would never recover and would ultimately spell the doom of everyone on the planet. And the court or govenment has no business trying to fine anyone. Or taxes either.
    • "Personally, I would be happy with a fine in the US -- if the fine could be used to support an open source consumer OS"



      ...and Microsoft in return would raise the price of windows %10 to make up for the cost. Microsoft is very good at managing money. I bet they may even put out a notice telling consumers you will be ripped off by %10 and here are the email addresses of politicians to express your concerns over this whole thing.

  • by ekrout (139379)
    that's "Fine" with me ;-)
  • We're quickly moving back to the old notion of city-states with their own conflicting sets of laws. It's looking harder and harder to do business on a global scale as you open yourself up to provincial, myopic laws of other lands (just ask Dmitry), which I guess is an interesting dichotomy from the WTO's vision of "one world, one corporation".
    I'd be happy if Microsoft had the huevos to not even bother to dispute the charges and just pulled all of its software out of the EU, flipping them the bird and leaving them to scramble for dry ground. It'd be a trial by fire for free software supporters, and I'd be very interested to see how it turns out.
    • by imadork (226897) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:16AM (#2410348) Homepage
      I'd be happy if Microsoft had the huevos to not even bother to dispute the charges and just pulled all of its software out of the EU, flipping them the bird and leaving them to scramble for dry ground. It'd be a trial by fire for free software supporters, and I'd be very interested to see how it turns out.

      We can only hope! Can you imagine all that money that used to go to MS licenses going instead to fund new software development because Microsoft is too arrogant to play nice, so it takes its ball and goes home? Something good would come out of that, I'm sure.

      The first thing that would be done is every single MS proprietaty protocol will be reverse-engineered (and legally, too, at least for Europe!). Even if those of us in the U.S. wouldn't be able to use it legally, I'm sure it would be useful to us.

    • by PastaAnta (513349) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:18AM (#2410359)
      We're quickly moving back to the old notion of city-states with their own conflicting sets of laws.

      Au contraire! The EU has its foundation in removing barriers of trade (primarily in Europe of course..). And the borders are getting less visible for every year.

      You may also say, that removing barriers of trade is all about securing a healthy competition on a larger scale in a smaller world. This is exactly the same reason for which you have laws against monopolies - to secure a healthy competition.
    • In this case, the EU would be trying MS on basically the same laws that got them into trouble in the states. I don't think that's really a "myopic law from another country" and comparing it to Dmitry's case makes absolutely no sense.

      And who would it benefit for MS to pull out of Europe? The population of Europe is probably greater than that of the US. They'd lose a huge amount of money, much more than the 10% that the EU could fine them.

      For all their faults, Microsoft know how to make money.
    • I could imagine Microsoft threatening pulling out it's software, thinking it might scare Europe and have them come back at their knees.

      Well, they might, just for short term tactics.
      However such a move would create a shock in Europe, making everyone to realise how very dangerous the current situation is, being so dependant upon the software of a single (foreign) company.

      Surely, this shock would initiate a big effort to get rid of this dangerous dependance and spell the end of MSFT software in Europe.

      I can only hope they pull out their software or at least threaten to do it. It might finally open the eyes of many.
      • I doubt MS would ever even consider pulling out of any area. A desktop without MS software is a desktop with something else. Microsofts whole tactic has been to eliminate competition whatever the cost, even at a big loss. They usually do this by displacing competative software on as many desktops as possible, not leaving any profit space for the competition to live in.

        Pulling out of the EU would create a huge profit space for competition.

      • However such a move would create a shock in Europe, making everyone to realise how very dangerous the current situation is, being so dependant upon the software of a single (foreign) company.

        Hah. Code Red, I Love You, Sir Cam, Nimda, whatever, should have tought that lesson long time ago.
    • I'd be happy if Microsoft had the huevos to not even bother to dispute the charges and just pulled all of its software out of the EU, flipping them the bird and leaving them to scramble for dry ground

      Thereby proving the point that they have not only a monopoly, but that said monopoly is a danger.
    • An economic unit's profit can only come from selling (exports, in the case of a nation) or theft (slavery, collonialism). Isolationism is not a growth-enabling attitude. If MS pulled out of Europe, jobs in the US would be lost (and in Europe too... MS do have overseas offices and labs).
  • by saridder (103936) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:07AM (#2410306) Homepage
    I like the fact that at least some gov't agencies are looking out for what's best for the people, and not big business. Please take note America.

    I think this will have a major impact on Microsoft's business practices here and overseas, as I really can't envision Microsoft making a EU compliant Windows sans IE, Windows Media, Chat, etc., for them and a bundled Windows for the rest of the world.

    And it's a testament to the impact of globalizaton, and interesting to see how foreign government's can influence American businesses in such a major way.

    Shame on the bush administraion for letting up on Microsoft. And for the record, I am a huge Microsoft fan, and believe they do make some superior products. Note I said "some". I also love some of thier business practices, and believe business students will be studing these for years to come in universities all over the USA.
    • by macsforever2001 (32278) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:45AM (#2410475) Homepage

      I also love some of thier business practices, and believe business students will be studing these for years to come in universities all over the USA.

      Which ones are you referring to?

      • Merger and acquisitions are perfectly respected and legitimate practices. I can name plenty of respected technology companies who do the exact same thing through shrewd acquisition strategies (Cisco for starters).

        Their marketing strategy to basic consumers is top notch and rival such companies such as Proctor & Gamble (in fact, they have their Marketing Director).

        They do extensive market research and consumer testing.

        Their financial practices are in order and have over $30 billion in cold hard cash (not stocks) sitting in the bank to weather any storm (most companies in the world don't have a market cap near 30 billion, never mind cash).

        I agree with some of your points. I can't stand their "Embrace and Extend" strategy, their bullying of competitors, arrogant attitude towards government and competitors, and their "Big Brother" approach to software licensing and registration. I believe they are a monopoly, but haven't destroyed all competition yet.

        Sony will still be a strong competitor in the video came console market, AOL stomps all over MSN's subscription base and Real Networks kill's MS in the digital media market.
        • Their financial practices are in order and have over $30 billion in cold hard cash (not stocks) sitting in the bank to weather any storm (most companies in the world don't have a market cap near 30 billion, never mind cash).


          According to one of Microsoft's witnesses in the trial, they keep track of their sales data on little scraps of paper :)

      • Yes, absolutely. In future years students will learn, "These are some of the historical ways a trust can gain and wield absolute control over their market. Believe it or not, at one time the venture capitalists of the era actually would consult directly with Microsoft before investing in companies in the same field, for fear of giving money to something that Microsoft had targetted! These abuses led, through slow, painful, and rabidly opposed progress, to a fuller understanding of how a healthy market operates, and what the requirements are for running a system that lives up to the promise of capitalism. Ironically, at the time Microsoft strongly felt they epitomized capitalism, though in retrospect the system they were aiming towards was more characteristic of classic Soviet Union communism, with themselves as the central authorities."

        You better believe people will be studying what Microsoft does. People study crimes, or diseases, too! You mustn't assume people will be studying Microsoft to _emulate_ them: for one, you can't. There's only one Microsoft and no room for another. Once we've straightened that out it will only be in a context where nobody else has such an easy, unopposed path to that kind of economic authority.

        Business students will be studying Microsoft as an example of an unsustainable local profit maximum, kind of like a pyramid scheme. If conditions are right you can ride such a situation to the very top- at which point, you're damaging capitalism so badly that you can't continue, and you can't expand any further, and the best possible outcome is decline and fall. Screw things up and you're looking at a crash, instead. That is of _great_ interest to business students, particularly ones that seek long rewarding careers in business.

    • Any foreign government is more likely to pound on MS than the US would. MS funnels money out of other countries and into the US. The US government likes this, the others don't. As long as MS brings in the money (read: Trade Balance) then they are doing some good for the US economy at least on paper. The fact that many US companies have also been the victim of this doesn't show up very well on the overall statistics.
    • I also love some of thier business practices, and believe business students will be studing these for years to come in universities all over the USA.

      Not to mention students of criminology :)

    • I really can't envision Microsoft making a EU compliant Windows sans IE, Windows Media, Chat, etc., for them and a bundled Windows for the rest of the world.

      You can't?? Surely you must be aware of what lengths corporations will go to [slashdot.org] in order to maximize profits in multiple markets.

    • I really can't envision Microsoft making a EU compliant Windows sans IE, Windows Media, Chat, etc., for them and a bundled Windows for the rest of the world.

      Why? I work in telecom. We make equipment that supports Sonet in Europe and SDH in the US. You have products everywhere that are customized for target markets. The EU is a HUGE, why would M$ flinch at a customized version for such a HUGE market especially when they already have customized version for French, German, Spanish,...?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:08AM (#2410311)
    Not since the French banned the word "e-mail" has Europe seemed so anti-American.
    Over the last six weeks, the European Union has given a big thumbs-down to a series of telecom and technology mergers driven by U.S.-based companies, from AOL-Time Warner to WorldCom and Sprint. Pointing to the global reach of these proposed deals, Mario Monti, the European competition commissioner, seems to have thrown down the gauntlet to a number of American companies with market-grabbing megamergers on their minds.

    By far, the most effective strike was the ruling by the EU Competition Commission against WorldCom's proposed takeover of Sprint. Monti reasoned that yoking together the companies' significant Internet backbone holdings in Europe would give the merged entity so much power that it could effectively make decisions independent of both its competitors and its customers.

    Late last week, WorldCom and Sprint formally withdrew all merger plans, officially burying any sort of union.

    The EU's move to reject the deal has raised suspicions in the United States about what the Europeans are up to. Timing is a factor in the paranoia. The WorldCom-Sprint move comes on the heels of Brussels' June 19 announcement that it plans to launch a four-month investigation into the AOL-Time Warner deal. American misgivings increased when, barely a week after nixing the WorldCom-Sprint marriage, Monti prevented Microsoft from taking a controlling stake in British cable company Telewest Communications.

    So, WorldCom-Sprint fell apart because of Monti and his gang, right? Not so fast.

    The Union's ruling was hardly the dealbreaker. It occurred after the U.S. Justice Department had already said it would block the merger and after WorldCom and Sprint had formally withdrawn their application from the EU.

    That said, suspicions of anti-Americanism persist nevertheless. After all, the EU hasn't demonstrated the same level of concern with similar deals involving European companies. It approved the merger of Mannesmann and Vodafone, reported to be the world's largest hostile takeover, once Mannesmann ditched its British mobile-phone operator, Orange. Of the dozen EU media and technology cases the Competition Commission has considered since June, four have focused on U.S. companies, and all four have led to extended investigations that blocked mergers, ultimately limiting U.S. control.

    If there is a conspiracy afoot, plenty of observers in the United States are ready to root it out. The Washington Post even goes so far as to suggest Monti is trying to stymie U.S. companies to give European telecommunications and Internet companies a chance to catch up. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, hard-core "Ameriphobes" were happy to see Europe apparently standing up to U.S. globalization.

    But between the posturing and the transatlantic bluster, the real story behind the U.S. companies' woes has less to do with favoritism than it does the regulatory obstacle course that huge U.S. and European deals will face in the future.

    Rather than gunning for American companies, the EU's Competition Commission is more likely reacting to the size of the deals being brokered. The scale of many of the latest proposed mergers is unprecedented. The companies best positioned to pull off these megadeals right now just happen to be American. But that won't be true for long.

    "I don't think there are any grounds to say the commission is out to get U.S. companies," says Olivier Kaiser, chair of the competition subcommittee for the American Chamber of Commerce's EU office. "The economy in general is American these days. It just happens to be those American companies that merge. The commission is just applying the rules, but applying them to bigger mergers."

    Even Microsoft, which has come under European scrutiny twice in recent months, bears no grudge. It is currently facing an EU investigation for anticompetitive behavior in the packaging and sale of its Windows 98 software. And after consultation with the EU on the company's plans to invest in Telewest, Microsoft agreed to restructure the terms of the deal so it would not have a controlling interest.
  • by FatRatBastard (7583) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:08AM (#2410312) Homepage
    Microsoft yet again (apparently) makes life more difficult for themselves. I'm no huge fan of the company, but even I think that they would have had a *much* better time in both the US trial and EU investigation if they didn't play so dirty (the whole video debacle at the US trial, the apparent obstruction of justice with the EU trial)

    Monopoly cases are HARD to prove (and should be, as bad as a true monopoly can be I think the bar should be set very high when determining if a company is an abusive monopoly). While under investigation Intel played ball, didn't get into a "winning at all cost" mentality, consented to a few behavioral changes, and came out of it intact.

    I wonder if the threat of a big $$$ (er.. $EU) settlement will finally piss a few of the large MS stockholders into applying a little pressure on MS management to change tactics.
    • by Surak (18578)
      I wonder if the threat of a big $$$ (er.. $EU) settlement will finally piss a few of the large MS stockholders into applying a little pressure on MS management to change tactics.

      Ermmm, most of the large stockholders are Microsoft executives, so I rather doubt it. :) Then there's always Warren Buffet, but he's not likely to make much of a stink given that he's pretty much in lock-step with BillG himself.
    • by Alien54 (180860)
      <sarcasm>I am simply shocked that that anyone at MS would do anything like this. Given the outstanding and excellent quality of Microsoft's products, you would expect the same high standards of quality product to apply to the legal and marketing departments.</sarcasm>

      Wait, it looks like they do.
    • Ahhh Microsoft sharholders meeting...

      "You Will Never Find a More Wretched
      Hive ... Scum and Villany"

    • Microsoft yet again (apparently) makes life more difficult for themselves. I'm no huge fan of the company, but even I think that they would have had a *much* better time in both the US trial and EU investigation if they didn't play so dirty (the whole video debacle at the US trial, the apparent obstruction of justice with the EU trial)

      Judging by how lucrative MS's practices are, I almost wish some of the stocks I own would get in the habit of shooting themselves in the foot. Eventually MS will tap out, but it's been a hell of a ride for a long time -- which is about all you can ask for as a shareholder. Err, other than ethical behavior, that is; but that only concerns a few eccentric cranks.

      I have on occasion been in business situations that involved ticklish ethical questions. For example in the early 90s I was involved with a group where the marketing director wanted to carpet bomb various usenet groups with postings (this was before anyone heard of spam). If I hadn't already been an old timer who could point out the damage to our reputation that thoughtless posting on what was a cooperative medium, we would have been pioneering spammers. It's hard to maintain your integrity and maximize your chances for success. More often than not these aspects of a decision get confused, which if you think about it is not surprising: if you are successful, almost nobody questions you; if you fail, then they question everything, including your ethics. And people tend look to each other for confirmation that they haven't gone beyond the pale of decency. It's normally a healthy thing. But success tends to bless any practice that would be reviled if failure followed it, independent of its own usefulness or morality. I suspect that given enough success a group of people will eventually develop a culture that is proud of things that disgust ordinary people.

      A little failure is character building; but MS is a company that has never ever had any failure that mattered. So, is it any wonder that shame doesn't figure into their corporate culture? It looks to us like they shot themselve in the foot because they acted in a way that would make anyone else blush. But it doesn't matter, because none of it has affected the bottom line. And, it seems like with the DOJ rolling over and dying, once again the bullet has missed their foot.

      Which given normal business psychology justifies everything that they have done. Like the GM chairman who said "What's good for GM is good for the country," they must have a very unshakable sense of the rightness of their cause.

      • In a lot of ways you're right. In fact, I think you hit the nail on the head with the Aim Gun, Miss Foot, Reload bit. And that's the point I guess I was trying to get at.

        Yes, Microsoft has dodged some bullets, but I wonder if it was out of brilliance or just dumb luck (I would less of the first and more of the second). The fact that they *keep* reloading and aiming for thier foot -- to me -- says that one of these days they're going to hit the target, which in this case may be the EU fine (should it ever come to be. They may dodge that one too).

        Had Microsoft (Gates in particular) not shot his mouth off on national TV the day that Microsoft signed the concent agreement with the Gov't in the early 90s one wonders whether the Gov't would have gone after MS a second time (or at least as hard as they did) (I remember reading somewhere that the DOJ were livid after seeing Gates say "This will not effect MS business practices in the least" right after the agreement).

        Remember, the first anti-trust investigation hardly played at all in the mainstream press. Gates and MS were still considered to be the good guys (well, to everyone except maybe IBM and some other software developers). It didn't tarnish MS reputation at all and they continued to do "business as usual". After the second investigation and trial there was considerable image damage to MS. Not to mention that even though it looks like they'll get a slap on the wrist at worst, they have been found guilty of abusing a monopoly position and will forever have to worry about having the Feds (and state gov't) focusing on their behavior.

        Microsoft continuing to do thing such as obstruting investigation, lying, mis-representing things, etc do *way* more harm than good. If you get caught it just sours you in the view of those who are judging you. It happend in the DOJ case, and they were fortunatle enough to have a judge who talked too much followed by a favorable change in the executive branch to help bail them out. In Europe, though, they may not be so lucky.
  • by Red Aardvark House (523181) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:10AM (#2410320)
    From the article:

    It says that bundling new features into Windows and Windows server software "has a chilling effect on innovation and competition," according to the report.

    That kind of wording is almost identical to that used by the companies which have complained to both Brussels and the US Justice Department about Microsoft's behaviour.


    The DoJ and the EU say the same thing, but only the EU will have the resolve to see this through. Opposed to the DoJ's potential wristslpa, the EU starts with a monetary fine and then gets to the heart of the problem! Instead of trying to break up the company, just break up the software, get rid of the bundling which causes the interoperability with other software, allowing other software vendors to break into the MS Windows software market.
  • by RareHeintz (244414) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:14AM (#2410334) Homepage Journal
    How nice to know that somebody's law enforcement apparatus hasn't been bought.

    Yet.

    OK,
    - B

    • No, it only means that if they were bought, it was by someone on your side of this particular debate - Like Sun, or Oracle.

      Remember that politicians and political appointees do very little unless it is influenced by either their constituents or campaign contributors. I don't see the greater public up in arms about the bunling (heck, they don't even seem to know what it means or why it is bad) so it's probably the campaign contributions. Microsoft contributed little or no money until a couple of years ago and now they're paying for it.
  • Cajones (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by GearheadX (414240)
    It's good to see that *someone* out there has the nerve to stand up to The Black Goat of the Woods With a Thousand Young of the software industry. Amazing how much of a difference politicians not owing their positions to these guys makes, isn't it?

  • by osiris (30004) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:23AM (#2410375) Homepage
    I certainly agree about the removal of programs from windows because if you look at it like this, when windows is installed, it installs media player, internet explorer, outlook express, and possibly a few other programs without much of a choice for which program you want to you. this is especially true for pre-installed versions of windows or newbie installs where they pretty much install everything.

    the average user can not be bother to go and look for better/other software and is then tied in to using the default microsoft products. in a way this is supposed to be userfriendly, but you can see it as pushing out the competition. do you really think the avererage user would try and find a different email client, even after all the security alerts, when outlook express is just sitting there ready to use?

    i think not.


    of course, i would imagine that most slashdot'ers would have the sense to use what ever program they want for the task, but not the average joe. they'll use whatever is there, or most convinient to use.

    this is pretty much the main reason why so many people use outlook/outlook express, because it's there!

    doesnt give other apps much of a chance does it.

    just my thoughts...

    • "I certainly agree about the removal of programs from windows because if you look at it like this, when windows is installed, it installs media player, internet explorer, outlook express, and possibly a few other programs without much of a choice for which program you want to you. this is especially true for pre-installed versions of windows or newbie installs where they pretty much install everything."

      Would you say the same for a Linux Distro then? Personally, I enjoy Linux coming with a ton of free apps. Saves me from downloading them. If Microsoft wants to give it to you "free", why not use it? It makes it easier for the non-techie to use. Though I wouldn't advocate having Grandma using Outlook Express to open e-mails with subjects "I Love You;)"

      Besides, I just got the final OEM version of XP Pro on my desktop. Hell, I like it. I think its better than Windows 2000 (or atleast it runs on my system better than Win2k did).

      • by osiris (30004)
        I see your point. however, even though linux distros come with a whole pile of programs, it doesnt tie you into any particular one. you have a choice.

        with windows, you still have a choice to some degree, but it certainly is a lot more inconvenient than firing up, say, outlook express.

        as for you running XP, each to their own i guess ;)
      • I used to be a die-hard Netscape user, back during Win95 days. When I upgraded to Win98, I found IE 4.0 was sitting on my drive. I had already installed Netscape, but eventually I started using IE more often. Pretty soon I stopped using Netscape entirely.

        Why did I like IE? First off, if it didn't come with the computer then I never would have used it. Second, it loaded FAST. And you know what? I _knew_ that it was because of preloading. But who cares? Why should that stop me? Bottom line is that it loaded faster than Netscape so I used it. I also used Outlook Express instead of Netscape mail. I ended up using that before I had installed Netscape, and I got used to it.

        I consider myself a techie. But if I was able to fall into this trap then how the hell would your "average Joe" ever get out? Anytime Microsoft bundles an application with the OS, it will mean the _end_ of any competing applications. It may be user-friendly and convenient for the rest of us, but it destroys competition. This is truly a problematic situation, even if you are a Microsoft die-hard.

        Linux distributions do contain a lot of bundled software. Take the latest version of any of the major distros and the number of packages included will put any Windows install to shame. However, this isn't quite the same problem as Windows software bundling. Linux distributions consist of tools coming from various sources, so there isn't this "master software vendor." Also, often times many different programs that do the same thing are included (how many email clients come with Slackware? I can count at least 6) Finally, there are many Linux distributions to choose from, so again you're not getting force-fed by the master software vendor.

        Linux distributions areall about choice. Microsoft is not.
      • Would you say the same for a Linux Distro then? Personally, I enjoy Linux coming with a ton of free apps.

        That's all a distro is. Most distributors do some leg work on the software that they eventually distribute, but by large, they don't actually produce any of it. And they don't have to have meetings and make deals to put any of it on the CD, they just do it. Such is free software.

        With Windows, though, all that stuff on the CD is either a Microsoft piece of code or some code that got on there via a hearty round of business meetings. There certainly was no end-user input on the subject of which of a particular genre of gizmo was chosen.

        Take these two examples:

        Red Hat was at one time, and I haven't followed much, but probably still is a very big GNOME supporter. That is, they employed quite a few developers who hacked on GNOME. However, since KDE is just as or more popular, it's also on the CD. Mind you that despite Red Hat's involvement, GNOME is still not a "Red Hat product".

        Microsoft produced Internet Explorer. I don't think there is any doubt that Internet Explorer is a Microsoft product, or for that matter that it is a Microsoft product to a far greater extent than even Red Hat Package Manager is a "Red Hat product". Jump back a few years and think about browser market share in, for example, 1997. Did Microsoft ever include the more popular browser in its distribution of Windows? Not until recently, when the browser it did include became the most popular browser. Exactly the same situation exists with WinAmp and Windows Media Player, with the exception that there is still hope for WinAmp if certain goverments and their appropriate organs rightly apply the law.
  • Odd stuff (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Otis_INF (130595) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:25AM (#2410389) Homepage
    I don't know this for sure, since IANAL, but how can a commission first make its own laws and then by these own laws sue a company to pay a fine to that same commission? Isn't that odd? Shouldn't an independent judge, that is: independent of the EC and EU, rule on this, instead of the EC and/or EU?

    Also, how on earth can windows media player be the KEY feature so Sun (the major complaining company in this case) sells less servers... Does the EU have any person on board with a clue or not?

    (mind you: next time these clueless morons are sueing a linux related company over what they think shouldn't be happening while they don't understand one single bit (pun intended))
    • This commission did not make the laws. they just investigate if the laws are truelly followed.

      This is by the way not a criminal thing but an economical thing. Thus a judge has very little to say in this. A judge can only weigh evidence pro and contra. And from what i have learned over the years from everything concerning MS it will be more contra than pro MS.

      And how are judges in the US independent from the government? Please do not look at what they should be but at what they are...
    • Re:Odd stuff (Score:2, Informative)

      by Denito (196701)
      While EU powers are more limited than, say, the US federal Gov., the EU is a government organization. If you replace the word 'commission' with federal government, you have a summary of the US case. The European parliment are, in fact elected by the member states. So it's really not that odd.
      For example:
      "I don't know this for sure, since IANAL, but how can a government first make its own laws and then by these own laws sue a company to pay a fine to that same government ? Isn't that odd? Shouldn't an independent judge, that is: independent of the government , rule on this, instead of the government ? "

      -Dennis

      • Members of the European Paliament are elected in free elections all across Europe. The Parliament is quite weak though. Much more power lies in the commission, which consists of representatioves of the nations (2 for the big ones, one for the small nations), and who from the "European Government" if you wish. [Though our antieuropean British friends would become hysterical if you told them there was a European government).
    • Re:Odd stuff (Score:3, Informative)

      by Yokaze (70883)
      May I ask, who fines you for speeding? A judge?
      No, the executive branch does, the police.
      But you have the right to appeal the decision at a court.

      From the official site [eu.int], more exactly from here [eu.int].

      "Although the Commission makes the proposals, all the major decisions on important legislation are taken by the ministers of the Member States in the Council of the European Union, in co-decision (or, in some cases, consultation) with the democratically elected European Parliament."

      So they don't enact law, but what is their task?
      Among other: (same source)

      It acts as the guardian of the EU treaties to ensure that European legislation is applied correctly

      As the Union's executive body, the Commission manages policies and negotiates international trade and cooperation agreements

      Don't mix the European Commission (EC) with the European Council (EC).

      It's no decision, neither an "objective statement" it's a "statement of objections". And Microsoft still has to explain its view.
      Lastly they can still appeal the European Court of Justice [eu.int]

      how on earth can windows media player be the KEY feature so Sun (the major complaining company in this case) sells less servers... Does the EU have any person on board with a clue or not?

      Well, since they've drawn their own conclusions, and not just reiterated Suns demands, it seams they have at least one.

      You're surely a competitor of the free market, please explain to me how bundling of products helps you as a consumer?
      Do you get more choices?
      Lower prices?
  • Im all for this... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by night_flyer (453866) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:32AM (#2410417) Homepage
    Its not that I am Anti M$, but that they cant compete on the open market with their product... so they bundle it up with the OS...

    would a person, if they had a choice pick windows media player over WinAmp if they had to do research and make a choice?

    would they pick (or Buy) Outlook (Express) or would they choose (Free) Agent?

    Would they buy windows compression over winzip?

    Would they choose IE over Netscape?

    How about Defrag over Norton Utilities? (even thought they use the same engine)

    let the market decide... if they dont then let those greater than them (in power anyway) punish them...

    • "would a person, if they had a choice pick windows media player over WinAmp if they had to do research and make a choice?"

      WinAmp is the most popular mp3 client for Windows. Obviously their attempt at a monopoly failed there.

      "Would they buy windows compression over winzip?"

      Again, WinZip is more popular.

      "Would they choose IE over Netscape?"

      I use to use Netscape a bit ago. Use to hate IE. However, Netscape's software around the 4.6 series turned into shit and I turned to IE. I was quite pleased with it and am running IE6 with no problems. Netscape had the market a while back, they just couldn't hold it.

      The fact of the matter is that the fact that Microsoft bundles it's own software with it's OS challenges programmers to make a program that destroys programs that Microsoft includes. A truly good program will get downloads to replace the Microsoft one, even from Average users. WinAmp is a perfect example. And while Microsoft's buisness practices are unethical, rather then bitch about it, we should see more software that is superior to Microsoft products.
    • by macpeep (36699)
      Let's see..

      I'd pick IE over Netscape (or any other browser) ANY day of the week.

      I'd pick MS Office over Star Office.

      I'd pick Netscape over Outlook.

      I'd pick WinZip over Windows CAB's.

      I'd pick Visual C++ over Power++, Borland, GCC etc.

      I'd pick WinAmp & QuickTime & Real over Windows Media Player.

      I'd also - currently - pick Windows 2000 over Linux, for use both at home and at work.

      It's not that easy. Microsoft has some good software. They have some bad software. They have some absolutely HORRIBLE software too..
  • by Stonehead (87327) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:33AM (#2410425)
    Microsoft can easily buy a small country. A fine doesn't help Microsofts victims, doesn't help end users, doesn't fix any lawsuit. Microsoft will laugh its ass off. Those Europeans! (I'm Dutch myself..)
    Why not tackle the problem itself? Microsoft is bundling its software to force competition out of the market. Why not force Microsoft to leave IE, Media Player, video editing software, hell even Minesweeper out of the default Windows package? (How much cheaper would it become?:)
    There's the application barrier. Force it down! It should be possible to run Win32-applications in a legal way under any operating system. Yes, games too - DirectX should be opened or ported too.
    Last but not least, Microsoft should cooperate with developers who struggle with Microsoft Word (or in general, OLE2) import/export filters and other proprietary Microsoft formats (NTFS, WMA, name it..)
    If you think that I am radical, you probably don't have an idea of Microsofts power, budgets and market share. Microsoft is of course not evil itself. Their software looks and works actually pretty good, except for their obvious brain damage in security. Their management, their strategy and their habits of misusing their monopoly need a hard kick.
    • Why not tackle the problem itself? Microsoft is bundling its software to force competition out of the market. Why not force Microsoft to leave IE, Media Player, video editing software, hell even Minesweeper out of the default Windows package? (How much cheaper would it become?:)

      Why not just don't choose to purchase Windows yourself? Are you really forced to buy it?

      You may be forced to USE it, but the same would be true if your office selected Linux, or Mac, or CP/M.

      Microsoft doesn't have a monopoly, because you don't *HAVE* to buy their product. This isn't like Standard Oil, where you needed to heat your house to live through the winter.
    • Microsoft is of course not evil itself.

      Worse, from an ethical point of view, than being "evil," they're amoral. Their business decisions arise from the unified goal of maximizing their return on their stockholders' investment. Period. I argue that this motivation, especially in the context of responsibility distributed and diluted over such a large organization as Microsoft, tends to blind the company to the moral and ethical contexts of the issues at hand.

      Their software looks and works actually pretty good, except for their obvious brain damage in security.

      I think shortcomings in software are inevitable and forgivable, but it's their response (or sometimes the lack of it) that's often the problem. Coming from the tech-writing side of things, I'd say the infamous "Master Document" feature in Word is the most glaring example I can think of -- it's existed since Word 6 and has yet to be fixed satisfactorily. It's treacherous: When it works, it's wonderful to have a "master" document act as a container for constituent documents. But occasionally, inexplicably, unpredictably, unrecoverably and unforgiveably, a master document corrupts itself and all the documents contained within it, rendering a writer's work useless. Savvy technical writers know this "feature" and avoid it, but every once in a while an unwarned (I hate to say "ignorant") writer innocently loses an entire manual to this dragon.

      Surely Microsoft could do better.

    • Direct X? Why?? SDL is 10 times better and faster.

      it's open spource, ported to more platforms than linux and is easy enough to write for that it makes it easy to create an app instead of fighting with microsoft's stupidly complex API.

      No thanks, I dont want their horribly written software, and i really dont want it on my OS.
  • Does anyone know how much money Microsoft is pumping into lobbying the European Union or EU government officials? Actually, if they could just argue to mitigate the "removal of programs" part of the decision against them, I wonder if 2.4 billion is less then they spend on "the cost of doing business" in Washington. yes 2.5 billion is a lot of money... but they are the teflon company... and teflon isn't cheap on the hill. (also, i would love to hear that it was 2.5 English billions (trillions to us).
  • by pubjames (468013) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @10:56AM (#2410544)
    What I don't understand is, why do Americans seem to be so complacent about their corrupt legal and political system?

    I'm not an American, and haven't spent much time there, so I'm only going by what I see and read on the web and newspapers. But it seems to me that a great number of Americans believe their politicians and law makers are highly influenced by the men with the money. In Europe, that kind of thing is seen as very corrupt and not worthy of a modern, democratic society. Frankly it is viewed as a bit backward and a sign of a democratic system that hasn't matured yet. Italy comes to mind as a country in Europe that has a similar reputation.

    How is it that Americans are so convinced of the superiority of their country, say it is 'the land of the free', has a large number of intellectuals, etc, and yet don't seem to be worried about such a corrupt system?

    This isn't a troll, and I'm not bashing America (both Europe and the US have their good and bad points), but I would like opinions about why Americans seem to have this blindspot.
    • Me: Republican party! I'm outraged at your obvious back-scratching of microsoft! I'm going to send the Democratic party $100 and vote Democrat next election!
      Microsoft: Republican party! Thank you for scratching our back. We'll give you $500,000,000 for the next election!

      You see the problem? Personally I think prohibiting any corporation from making any political contribution would be in order but I also know that hell will freeze over before that happens.

    • Americans feel this way because we're stuck.

      There are effectively two governments here: the corporations and the true government.

      The corporations own the people. If we fight them, we lose our jobs, and everybody gets hurt in the long run, because money isn't in it economy, and blah blah blah.

      The government is de facto controlled by the corporations due to lobbying interests and the way political campaigns are financed in the USA. If we fight the government, we are criminals, and with the interlocking of law enforcement, credit reporting, and the continual effort to learn as much about us as they can, there is literally no recourse.

      Lobbying was meant to bring the people to Congress to for oversight of our representatives, but it's become an auction of legislators. Corporations hire lobbying companies to push their agendas.

      So we're stuck in a cycle. Fight the corps, lose your money. Fight the government, lose your money AND your freedom. The only thing that could fix it is a catastrophic deconstruction of the corporate system that controls us, but the government will always quell such things in the name of the economy and keeping their pockets full.

      So you tell me - short of a second civil war, what COULD we do??
    • In Europe, that kind of thing is seen as very corrupt and not worthy of a modern, democratic society.

      I'm an American who's lived a decade in Europe. You are both right and wrong on this point. Americans simply accept that to believe that we live in a utopian society with government officials motivated purely by the desire to serve the public is utter nonsense.

      Money corrupts. It does so in Europe and it does so in the United States.

      We don't accept it. We don't condone it. We just don't delude ourselves into believing that it doesn't apply to our country.
    • The problem isn't one that can easily be defined as right or wrong.

      For one, the people with the money are not all rich businessmen representing massive American and foreign megacorporations. A huge chunk of that money comes from citizen-based interest groups known as PAC's (political action committees). In 2000, the top donor was not a corporation, but a labor union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, who gave twice as much as Microsoft did that year. It should be noted that labor unions made up 6 of the top 10 contributors (AT&T, Microsoft, Citibank, and Goldman Sachs the other 4). Other notable groups include issue-based coalitions such as the NRA (the pro-firearms lobby). Any radical funding reforms would be extrememly dangerous for PACs in the United States, not just corporations.

      And as much as many Americans may bash special interest groups, many of these interests provide a strong collective voice in the political system for large factions within the United States populace. Many of the intellectuals you mention are active, but they decide to play the game and battle their opponents in the political arena.

      I'm not saying reform isn't necessary; like any human endeavor, the American system isn't perfect. However, the system does work... you just need to know how to play it. It's a lot more complex and gray than many people percieve it to be.

      Perhaps we should take lessons from the NRA... I'm sure collectively, tech workers can scrape together more money than a bunch of guntotin' blue collar workers.

      Oh... FYI

      http://www.opensecrets.org/2000elect/storysofar/ to pcontribs.asp?Bkdn=Source
      • What you fail to mention is this.

        While it's true that a Union doles out cash to political parties the members of that union usually don't hand out wads of cash (mainly because they have mouths to feed and bills to pay). A corporation on the other hand not only has a lot of money but also has some very rich shareholders. The corporation gives money, the shareholders give money and they also sink unlimited amount of funds into so called think tanks. That along with the soft money funds adds up to a mountain compared to a unions ant hill. Think about it like this.
        When was the last time the US chamber of commerce backed a democrat? When was the last time the cato institute backed a democrat?. These organizations are thinly veiled fund raising arms of the republican party and you can give them an infinate amount of money and you don't even have to report it. The corruption in the system is vast and deep.
  • by bryanbrunton (262081) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @11:01AM (#2410575)
    Microsoft's profits last year in its European, Middle East and Africa region:

    4.8 Billion.

    Microsoft's profits from two years ago in its European, Middle East and Africa region:

    5.1 Billion.

    This was the only region in which MS profits declined over this period.

    Microsoft's Quarterly Reports [microsoft.com]
  • Or did it? Seems I heard once the IBM got in trouble for their attempts to 'lock in' customers by playing games with connectors, similar to Msft's API's. All I can find is this:

    [from: http://163.18.14.55/datapro/06090-1.htm]

    "A System/390 plug-compatible system is a mainframe computer or other device (such as a storage or tape subsystem) supplied by a vendor that interfaces to IBM's systems or which can substitute for IBM's equipment and run the same programs and peripherals without modification. The original IBM PCM market was effectively created over 40 years ago with the 1956 Consent Decree--the landmark U.S. antitrust legislation that forced IBM to share its technology with other manufacturers. The terms of that decree were largely revoked in January 1996, however. PCM manufacturers are sometimes called "IBMulators" or software-compatible vendor (SCVs)."

    I think that antitrust action is necessary to create an "Msft Compatible Application" MARKET (not "monopoly") which will encourage competition, innovation and ultimately benefit the consumer, similar to action taken with IBM to create the Plug Compatible Mainframe MARKET.

    Cf. also connector conspiracy [tuxedo.org].

    • And they lived in fear of the consent decree for years after that. I believe it was only lifted a couple of years ago.

      Microsoft managed to wiggle out that spanking. I believe they're even more dangerous that IBM was when they were slapped with the consent decree.

  • by AllInOne (236413) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @11:25AM (#2410749)

    Watch out! This could be like putting a "sin tax" on Microsoft.

    Sin taxes are leveled on products and services that the government wants to discourage but is afraid to outlaw: gambling, liquor, tobacco...

    At first the money that comes in is just "surplus", but very soon it gets its own constituancy -- the money is earmarked to support specific programs.

    Next thing you know you can't afford to restrict the "sin" because it is supporting essential social programs.

    You hear: "We can't outlaw the lottery (even tho it is essentially a tax on those who can least afford it ) because without the lottery would wouldn't have funds for X (in PA it's senior citizens, in NY it's schools)"

    When the government collects 10% more from the sale of Microsoft products through a sin tax than they do from a Microsoft competitor they are no longer indifferent between a Microsoft product and a competitor, they favor Microsoft! This ends up having the exact opposite from the effect indended.

    As other posters have submitted, it would be very important to watch where the collected funds would go, especially for this reason...
  • by null_session (137073) <ben@noSPAm.houseofwebb.com> on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @12:26PM (#2411105) Homepage
    Check the Reg -

    it has the details [theregister.co.uk] of the obstruction charge. Apparently they were writing letters from various companies in support of themselves and submitting them as evidence. This is misconduct of the grossest nature - here is an excerpt of an email I wrote a friend (I don't want to retype my point)

    Look at the very last part. I've talked to you about this before... Microsoft has now been confirmed to have created misleading commentary and opinions in the following areas: Letters to congress, state officials (recently, in support of dropping the antitrust case); Random individuals writing opinion letters to various local papers (came out in the first antitrust investigation in the win 3.1 days), creating fony "trade groups" to lobby and publish opinions, and now they have been caught submitting false opinions from other companies. It really is the boy who cried wolf, you can't believe pro Microsoft (even deserved) information in any context because they have a history of buying reports and opinions in almost every context. This is a good trick if you can handle it, but it appears that it is going to backfire on MS.

  • This whole software bundling issue. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Linux AND Windows NT sysadmin. At home, I use Windows most of the time because the software I use to create music in my spare time (Cubase) does not run on Linux (yet). But anyway, that's not the point...

    I just wanted to say that I actualy like the fact that all this software is included in Windows 2000, why? Because it's all "windows friendly" in the way that all is connected with everything else in OLE and DDE. I know these are usable for other software vendors but for some reason, it's just not as transparent as when it is Microsoft native stuff. All their software looks and acts the same (if it works well is another story...), I feel confort in the fact that I won't have any interface surprises with them as opposed to some other vendors who put stuff "just because it can be done".
  • by WillSeattle (239206) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @12:40PM (#2411195) Homepage
    One of the key mistakes MSFT has made is in trying to avoid having a US court rule on punishment. By doing so, they forced the EU (EEC) to act, and unlike America where MSFT has some support and lobbying dollars, the EU does not like MSFT.

    It's better to be punished by people who think you're a good guy than by people who are convinced you are bad. But they still persist in thinking that they can escape punishment through trickery.

  • Unlike many other posters, I believe that, should MSFT pull out of the EU, that the EU (EEC actually) would force the local companies to public domain the software that existed up to that date.

    Realize that the EU trade rules apply to many other countries than Europe, including Mexico.

    This would be a serious mistake by MSFT, although I'm sure the Open Source folks would love it.

  • by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @03:10PM (#2412121) Homepage Journal
    Those of you who remember the IBM antitrust years may recall one of the outcomes of that debacle: IBM was forced to unbundle its services from its products, and forced to document its interfaces. The birth of a reasonably fair aftermarket soon followed.

    Let's home this happens to Microsoft too, and they have to completely remove all mentions of Passport/Hotmail from Windows, as well as IE and Media Player.

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