Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Microsoft turns to U.S. for EU Antitrust Help 333

Posted by Zonk
from the but-daaaaaaaaaaad dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The NY times reports that Microsoft has asked U.S. goverment officials to intervene on their behalf in the EU antitrust case. The US (through diplomatic channels) has asked the court to be 'fair'." From the article: "Microsoft has complained frequently in recent months that it has been denied the right to a fair defense in the continuing antitrust case with the European Commission. It has also accused the commission of collaborating with its rivals in the software industry and denying it access to what it contends are vital documents it needs to prepare its defense. A memo written by unidentified government officials in Washington stated that Microsoft's complaints raise 'substantial concerns' about the way Microsoft is being treated, according to a person close to the commission who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the memo."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Microsoft turns to U.S. for EU Antitrust Help

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 31, 2006 @09:58AM (#15033374)
    Asks GWB to help win their hearts and minds with an arial bombardment.
  • Until the memo actually shows up going to have to take this story with a pinch of salt. This sort of story wouldn't fly in the EU, you would need at least something to back it up.
    • This is how things work, though. As the observers dissect each piece of news more exhaustively, the newsmakers try to fine-tune the news they make. For example, once upon a time, the Fed would get together and shift the prime by a point. Now it's a quarter point and they have to put out a dozen press releases prior to actually doing it so as not to startle the financial pundits. Imagine if the Fed made no announcements prior to their next meeting, then raised the interest rate a full point without warni
  • by spockman (532973)
    Because the judge said no in an earlier story are they now hoping the government officials will somehow help them? I do think they should have rights to see any information relevant as long as it strictly conforms with the trial.
    • The judge said "no" to subpoenas for Microsoft to gather certain information from some its large competitors. The judge felt that the case was outside the juristiction of the United States. And if you think about it, the "E" in EU is for Europe which is not a part of the U.S. that last time I looked.
      • And if you think about it, the "E" in EU is for Europe which is not a part of the U.S. that last time I looked.

        Except the E that is for England.

        • Woo you mean we now have a supernation called the USAA - United States of American Asskissers? :p Nice of you to exclude Scotland, and only have it being England, I like that :)
      • And if you think about it, the "E" in EU is for Europe which is not a part of the U.S. that last time I looked.

        Sure, except England is a major player in the EU, and Tony Blair is George Bush's bitch. Sovereignty and jurisdiction don't matter when you have a puppet in the UK.

    • That was a judge. TFA is about Microsoft sucking up to the other two branches of the US government.
  • A memo written by unidentified government officials in Washington stated that Microsoft's complaints raise 'substantial concerns' about the way Microsoft is being treated

    What, they take Microsoft's word for it just like that?!

  • by nomi42 (879034) on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:03AM (#15033405) Homepage
    Why doesn't M$ just defends itself with good arguments instead of requiring help from US government. If you're sure of your case, don't need to be scared ;-)
    • "If you're sure of your case, don't need to be scared"

      I'm sure there's an important point in there somewhere... if you have a good defense, you dont need to be scared.. Microsoft are running scared.. hmm.. definitely something that can be deduced here.. =_=
    • by diegocgteleline.es (653730) on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:44AM (#15033722)
      Because this will help them to look like they're the poor guys at the eyes of everybody. "Help us, the EU is paranoid and we can do nothing to stop them!"

      The EC is asking them to do things like ie: Documenting some propietary protocols which they use between windows clients and windows servers, because 95% of the clients are windows clients and hence non-microsoft servers can't compete fairly even if they're able to build better products than microsoft. Other companies document things [apple.com] but they know that if they start to be fair with competition and document things their competitors may break their monopoly. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft is trying to do everything they can to stop it, because even if they document those things only for european programmers, they products created with that documentation can be sold in the rest of the world. So Microsoft is trying to look like the poor guy and make the EC look like it's being obssesive and hates US companies (like Europe cares about that, Microsoft competitors are all american companies aswell).

      Hey, fighting worked in the US when the US government failed to protect true competition, why wouldn't it work again.
      • Interesting question...

        This will be a good time to see to what extent there is still a difference between the EU and the US concerning the entanglement of politics and business. I for one sure hope there still is one.

        J.
  • who lies more (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:06AM (#15033428)
    who lies more? the government or microsoft. beats the crap out of me. but if they are both saying the same thing, then this is easy.
  • Why?! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DarkMorph (874731) on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:06AM (#15033430)
    Why the hell does the government care how they're treated? I think it's ridiculous, the US says "Please be nice to Bill." What the hell? All the bullshit they pull, like getting patents awarded for stuff a lot of us know they never created themselves, all the stunts they pull to weasel their way into wherever they want more control just to have it, to try to screw over whatever alternatives in the field (you name it, from browsers to consoles.) I say screw them, let the EU be as unfair to them as they want, as if they've been fair with anybody else. About time someone pushed MS around and made them cry for fairness instead of the other way around. Besides, the EU does what it feels it should, (right?) I don't think they'll do things differently because MS requests it.
  • by MartinG (52587) on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:07AM (#15033434) Homepage Journal
    They are wasting an enormous amount of time and effort trying to stop Microsoft crushing their competition reactively, when they could take a much more preventitive measure.

    All they need to do is clearly legislate that software patents are not allowed in Europe and the rest will take care of itself. Open source alternatives will establish themselves more quickly in the mainstream and competition will accellerate like there's no tommorrow.
    • by molarmass192 (608071) on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:38AM (#15033678) Homepage Journal
      I disagree, Microsoft didn't get to where they are using patents, it's their dirty business practices that given them their edge. Yeah, I'd like to see business process, method, and broad moronic patents banned, but that won't help in taking Microsoft to task anytime soon. If they REALLY want to hurt MS, simply ban their products in Europe. What a monster blow that would be, a minimum $6B dollar hit to annual revenue, but likely even higher since many US corps outfit their EU offices from US sourced software. I think an immediate 25% drop in total MS revenues wouldn't be unrealistic .. however ... given the incredible collateral pain that would cause for EU businesses, I can't in any way shape or form see anything even remotely close to that happening.
      • I agree that's not how MS got where they are, but their traditional anti-competitive practices are not effective against their main competetion in the OS space (i.e. open source distros)

        Patents however will do. That's what I mean when I say they the EC are concentrating too much on what has already happened, and not enough on what different tactics are open to MS for future abuse.
      • given the incredible collateral pain that would cause for EU businesses
        Umm, how exactly would that cause incredible collateral pain?

        Nobody would have to stop using existing installations. There would be some upgrades in progress that might have to stop, but not too much. Certainly now, before Vista ships, would be a good time to do such a thing.

        After all, its not as if everyone in the EU is using all the so-called advanced (read deliberately non-interoperable) features of windows servers.
      • given the incredible collateral pain that would cause for EU businesses, I can't in any way shape or form see anything even remotely close to that happening.

        It needn't cause any pain. Instead of banning Microsoft's products in the EU, the commission could just declare that the copyrights on all of Microsoft's current products are null and void in the EU, placing them in the public domain. Then ban sales of all new Microsoft products. Businesses would be able to get done what they need to in the short

        • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Friday March 31, 2006 @02:19PM (#15035565)
          Oh, the EU have a whole lot of other options that might very well happen.

          For example, if the US went berserk and threatened the EU with economic sanctions if poor, poor Microsoft wasn't met with a bit more forgivingness the EU could settle the case with a slap on the wrist and then ban software (and related) patents in any form, commence a continent-wide government IT switch to Linux/BSD/OS X, decree that each and every document used for conversation between/with governmental bodies has to be in Open Document format (or another open standard where apprpriate) without vendor-specific extensions of any kind and set money aside to subsidize FOSS and companies deploying/switching to FOSS solutions.

          Entirely unquestionable, entirely doable and entirely a huge raised middle finger. Not to mention that a lot of ISVs would see this continent-wide switch to *nix as a reason to port their software to *nix, which would not only weaken Microsoft's position in the OS market but also take away one of Windows' biggest strengths.


          In the end the result is always the same: Microsoft has to make sure they don't anger the EU enough to warrant serious action against them, even if it would save them in the short term. Microsoft is big but not nearly big enough to stand up against a continent.
    • "All they need to do is clearly legislate that software patents are not allowed in Europe and the rest will take care of itself."

      This has nothing to do with software patents. Microsoft was found guilty of (non-patent) monopoly abuses, and now is whining about being punished. If the EU is lucky, Microsoft will pick up all its marbles and leave. I would be very envious of the EU then.
      • This has nothing to do with software patents.

        I agree, it doesn't, but I believe that patents are what MS will use in their future abuse. I just think the EC need to look forwards as well as back in how they deal with MS abuse. Punishing them for past abuses while granting them the weapons they need to crush their new competition is hardly a good use of EC time and money.
  • A United States official denied that the American government was coming to Microsoft's aid in the antitrust dispute. "Our interest is less that than wanting to see that everything is done properly," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the tenuous nature of the matter.

    Coming to Microsoft's aid or not, they are basically saying that they don't consider the EU responsible enough to make decisions on its own. It's like a gracious parent trying to help a child - except the US

  • Odd sequence (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Moby Cock (771358) on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:09AM (#15033455) Homepage
    Interestingly enough, the next chapter in this story was published on Slashdot LAST NIGHT!

    The US courts told MS to go pound sand. [slashdot.org]
    • Try RTA.. (Score:3, Informative)

      by 3.5 stripes (578410)
      It has 0 to do with the court decision, this is microsoft going through diplomatic channels, asking the EU court (not the US court) to be fair to microsoft.

      Took out the F, because I don't see the need to be rude..
      • "Fair" == "agreeing with Microsoft", right?
        • I'd say, bending over like the DOJ did, but that's just my cynical side speaking.
        • I'll admit to only the scanty knowledge from reading the article, but if Microsoft really is being denied proper legal defense, that is an issue. Just because someone employs criminal practices doesn't mean you should allow criminal practices back at them. That way leads legal vigalantism and rubber-hose beatings. I personally don't like Microsoft, but the right to a fair trial is something espoused by the EU, right?
  • by VendettaMF (629699) on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:10AM (#15033464) Homepage
    "Yeah, they've outlawed buying off their legislature, so we're having to work in the back channels to get our decision barged through, but half the time these guys ain't even speakin fuckin English, so we're being blocked out from the bribery channels unfairly..."

    I can see how that might be an issue.
  • Writing memos. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Matilda the Hun (861460) <flatsymcnoboobs <at> leekspin <dot> com> on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:11AM (#15033468) Homepage
    Yeah, sure. I'll listen to them as soon as I can send them a memo asking them to start "being fair" with their pricing schemes and monopolistic practices, and they actually listen to it. Until then, forget it.
  • by oh_my_080980980 (773867) on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:12AM (#15033482)
    Yes this was reported earlier, though I do not remember if Microsoft "formally" requested help from the U.S. An official from the DOJ was telling the EU that they should treat Microsoft fairly and that official held up the U.S.'s Anti-trust case as an example on how to treat Microsoft.

    Thankfully the EU, so far, has told the U.S. (in some many words), to go F@$# itself. Rolling over is not the way to treat Microsoft. The EU has legitimate gripes with MS. MS failed to deliver documentation explaining one of their APIs, with which program can be made to work with Windows. This is gross negligence on MS's part.

    The irony is it takes a foreign governmental body to discipline a mis-behaving U.S. company.

    Oh Teddy Roosevelt where are you when we need you!

    • Thankfully the EU, so far, has told the U.S. (in some many words), to go F@$# itself.

      No surprises there. There's nothing that annoys the average Eurocrat more than being told what to do by Americans, except possibly corruption inquiries. If the US government is seen to lean heavily on Brussels, then there'll be another trade war. Trade wars with the EU are extremely damaging - nobody gets killed, but some very rich people don't get even richer quite as quickly as they otherwise might, which is far more im

  • by boule75 (649166) on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:13AM (#15033496) Homepage
    FTA: ""[Microsoft] lawyers mentioned the success of the settlement with the Department of Justice at least 15 times during their presentations today."

    Well, which success are they speaking about? Has Microsoft monopolistic behaviour changed anyway since this "successfull" rulling has taken place? In some PR speech perhaps.
    The DOJ settlement was only successfull for Microsoft, its shareholders, and for nobody else.

    Has anybody heard of any positive effects it would have had?

    I am not so sure the EU will buy such a weak argument. At least I hope it does not.

    • by ScriptedReplay (908196) on Friday March 31, 2006 @11:34AM (#15034104)
      FTA: ""[Microsoft] lawyers mentioned the success of the settlement with the Department of Justice at least 15 times during their presentations today."
      Well, which success are they speaking about?


      Why, of course it was a success. They managed to escape Judge Jackson's decision to have the company split and have it replaced by a joke. Then managed to also get rejected the objections Mass. raised to said joke. Overall, I'd say it was a huge success ... for MSFT.

      Heh, this quote of Jackson's from wikipedia puts it clearly enough:
      Microsoft executives had "proved, time and time again, to be inaccurate, misleading, evasive, and transparently false. ... Microsoft is a company with an institutional disdain for both the truth and for rules of law that lesser entities must respect. It is also a company whose senior management is not averse to offering specious testimony to support spurious defenses to claims of its wrongdoing."
      Yet the DoJ rolled over and played dead. How's that for success?

      Now, of course, they'd like the EU trial to be just as ... erm ... successful. So far, the above quote accurately describes MSFT's behavior in this case as well.
  • by leuk_he (194174) on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:14AM (#15033505) Homepage Journal
    It has also accused the commission of collaborating with its rivals in the software industry
    You would get paranoid too if everyone is against you.

    -- AC because everyone is against me.
  • by Orrin Bloquy (898571) on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:15AM (#15033511) Journal
    "Steve Ballmer was quoted as saying, 'I'm gonna fuckin' kill(R) Europe!' It's the final countdown!"
  • Conflict of Interest (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Foofoobar (318279) on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:17AM (#15033520)
    Since Microsoft is still under government observation for being a Monopoly, it would be a conflict of interest to interefere. Plus, what the US Government is getting is a one sided story and as any good diplomat will know is to get both side.

    Politicians may want to get involved but diplomats will not. Watch the days coming to see which politicos are dumping their Microsoft stock and that will give you a good idea of what is to come.
  • What??? Is Microsoft now a ward of the state??
  • "An anonymous reader writes...a memo written by unidentified government officials...according to a person close to the commission who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the memo."

    Is there anything that could possibly be more relaible than a story submitted by an anonymous reader about unidentified officials relayed by some anonymous person? That's about as iron-clad and trustwrthy as you can possibly get...

    Seriously, I bash Microsoft about as much as any Mac user, but that summary was so free of content that it might as well have been penned by the bureaucrats of the Neutral Planet on Futurama.

  • by Aceticon (140883) on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:30AM (#15033620)
    Given the current public opinion in Europe about the current US Administration, i kinda doubt that what amounts to a request from the Bush administration to "Cut some slack with Big American Company" would actually produce any positive results.

    Most likelly it will make no difference.

    Possible it might actually make things worse for MS.

    Additionally that they even asked just reinforces the widespread opinion here in Europe that the US administration (and by association the Americal people) believe that the whole world should play by made-in-US rules except themselfs.

  • "Microsoft has complained frequently in recent months that it has been denied the right to a fair defense in the continuing antitrust case with the European Commission."

    We can't bribe the prosecution like we did back in the US!
  • Boeing vs Airbus

    Microsoft vs ???

    • Boeing vs Airbus Microsoft vs ???

      Is this one of those "puppy is to dog" as "kitten is to cat" type questions?

      In which case the answer must be "Linux".

      i.e. Boeing is to "really old technology designed by Americans" as Airbus is to "new technology designed by Europeans". Windows is to "old technology designed by Americans" as Linux is to "new technology designed by Europeans".

  • by kabocox (199019) on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:48AM (#15033755)
    You know although one always hears about politicans being bribed/lobbied in one way or another. I doubt that the US could do anything if the EU decides to impose a large hefty fine of several XX billions on Microsoft. I don't know if anyone here kept track of the dividing of the spoils after that tobacco lawsuit a few years ago? The US states were more than happy to take that money. If the EU basically puts down a fine of several billion or a flat ban on the sale of any MS OS in the EU, you'll see MS either shutting up and trying to pay as quietly as possible or yelling and screaming while paying the EU.

    I hate to be really cruel, but if they really wanted to pound it into MS that they've been bad, they'd set up a percentage to be used funding open source government software solutions for nearly ever level of EU government. Actually, in several respects it makes sense for the EU to do that anyway just to stick to a US company and use the money to fund domestic EU programing groups.

    I'd actually be shocked if MS didn't try to use the US government to get around other government's fines if at all possible. Part of me wants to say that it would be a bad idea preventing/limiting the sale of MS OS and Office apps in the EU, but then there is the other part of me that says that the EU has just as many able programmers as the US and should be able to come up with their own EU version of MS in 3-5 years. I'd also be interested if India or China developed their own OS and/or office products. Both markets should be able to support a lively local OS/Office suite.
    • I doubt that the US could do anything if the EU decides to impose a large hefty fine of several XX billions on Microsoft.

      I agree with your points except for this one statement. There are a lot more anti-trust cases going on in the US and the EU, and I'm pretty sure the US could retaliate by blocking the activities of European firms in the US. In fact, I think this is already going on. Everyone has noticed the souring of US/EU relations, and sadly I think it is showing up in some anti-trust cases.

      I had a
  • by golodh (893453) on Friday March 31, 2006 @10:53AM (#15033798)
    I have two points here. My first point is that the "US" here is the current administration. The same administration that made the DOJ drop its case against Microsoft. The same Microsoft that had launched an all-out lobbying offensive after it was convicted by judge Jackson, and had made substantial campaign contributions.

    As far as I can see, the DOJ did not drop the case for juridical reasons, but for political ones. As in the new adminstration didn't want this case to go any further.

    Why might one ask? Well ... one consideration might be that on the whole it wouldn't be in the US interest at all to see its great software champion cut up into "Opsco" and "Appsco" (an Operating System division and an Application Software division). So that competition laws would have to take a backseat to National Interest (which certainly would be a legitimate point of view). I'm sure though that conspiracy theorists could come up with other, less savory, alternatives.

    Therefore, err ..., might the EU be justified in expressing "substantial concerns" about "US" motives for having such 'substantial concerns about the whether Microsoft is being treated fairly'?

    My second point is that this whole charade began 2 years ago. In 2004. After Microsoft was found guilty of violating EU competition laws and was ordered to disclose publish the API's that allow Windows Clients to interact with Windows Servers, so as to allow others (SUN, IBM, HP, and Samba) to make their OS act as Windows Server to Windows Clients and to allow their clients to log into Windows Servers.

    Does that seem reasonsable? I think it does. Because if that sort of inter-operability isn't available then anyone trying to sell a competitor to Windows Server will have to convince their prospect that their (ubiquitous) Windows desktop machines will be running crippled when logging in to their proposed servers. And because anyone pushing Linux desktops will have to explain why it isn't important that they won't be able to work well with their prospect's (widely used) Windows Servers. Either way Microsoft would be using its current monopoly position as a competitive weapon, which is illegal.

    Therefore requiring the API's to be published, open, and usable sounds like honest enforcement of competition laws to me. Now Microsoft had 2 whole years to come up with the required documentation.

    And what did Microsoft do? They:

    1. published an API documentation that its own appointed expert described as useless, and an independent software auditing firm characterised as "designed to maximise pagecount while minimising the amount of useful information"
    2. produced a load of reports from large universities stating that no-one could rightly expect anything as complicated as Windows Client-Server communications to be adequately documented
    3. offered source-code on conditions that were characterised as "poisoned offerings" by their (US !) competitors and whose licensing terms preclude Open Source products from ever being able to use them.
    4. shouted loudly they had "more than complied"
    5. tried to open the proceedings so that they could play to the gallery

    Now does that sound as if they were trying to comply with a reasonable request or if they were just trying to get things done their way? I think the latter.

    And now that they seem to have lost traction in the EU courts and have reached the deadline they chant that "fines are not the solution" and bring in their big brother to apply some pressure. Well ... it would be a good stunt if they get can away with it, but I'm not sure if this is something we should be happy with.

    • The same administration that made the DOJ drop its case against Microsoft. The same Microsoft that had launched an all-out lobbying offensive after it was convicted by judge Jackson, and had made substantial campaign contributions.

      1) The DOJ did not drop its case against Microsoft. MS was proven guilty and punishment was handed out. Whether you agree with the settlement terms is a subject for a different debate.

      2) Judge Jacksion was removed from the bench for discussing an on-going case with the media. E
  • by MosesJones (55544) on Friday March 31, 2006 @11:11AM (#15033917) Homepage

    What MS are after is the same fair treatment that received in US courts, they find it unbelievable that they should actually have to PROVE compliance with a courts decisions and that being found as a monopoly engaged in deliberately predatory approaches should have any punishment doesn't make sense for an organisation used to dealing with the good ole DoJ.

    Its quite simply ridiculous that the EU should find a company guilty of being a monopoly that uses that position to crush its opposition AND THEN require the company to change its behaviour. This is a very childish position for the EU to take in this globalised era, sure it might have been okay back with Standard Oil and Bell to force monopolies to change, but that was a different time when goverments actually had some say in how the world worked.

    The EU should clearly back down, pay Microsoft compensation for wasting their time, sign software patents into Law and give Microsoft the job of validating them.

    Its either that or Microsoft would have to operate legally.
  • Contrary to popular believe amongst some US people, not the whole world runs their justice system. Some countries have sensible ones. Like, where judges are elected by the people, not the prez. Like, where laws are made by experts and not in courtrooms.

    So what is "fair" first of all depends on the justice system you're dealing with.

    Now, if you don't want to deal with a justice from some country, stay away from it. It IS actually that simple.
  • One expensive memo (Score:2, Informative)

    by mflorell (546944)
    Since they started dumping money into political campaigns and hired their own lobbying group about ten years ago Microsoft has become one of the most generous contributors to politicians in the country:


    LXer: How Microsoft wastes its money on anything but software
    http://lxer.com/module/newswire/view/55497/index.h tml [lxer.com]


    Election 2004: How to Excel in DC
    http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/0438/040922_news _microsoft.php [seattleweekly.com]


    A Bug in Windows GOP (Seattle Weekly)
    http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/0522/050601_ [seattleweekly.com]
  • by Nyh (55741) on Friday March 31, 2006 @11:35AM (#15034123)
    The EU competition commissioner, Neelie Smit-Kroes, will not give in under pressure. She was responsible for bringing down the Dutch coalition government Lubbers II. She had proposed to abolish tax dedution for over 10 km daily commuting. Het own party couldn't agree. She held her ground resulting in the end of the coalition.

    I think Microsoft knows by know she will not give in so they are trying other ways to get it's own way. She will be fair. She will make Microsoft to do what she told them to do. And it is clear Microsoft doesn't like that at all.

    Nyh

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"

Working...