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EU/Microsoft Antitrust Case Delves Into Tech 181

Posted by Zonk
from the need-some-acid-reduction-there dept.
oscartheduck writes "ZDNet is reporting on the Microsoft/EU case, and things aren't going too well for the software giant. The Commission is delving deeply into the technical issues surrounding the case. In addition to 'a record $617 million' that may well be leveled against the American monopolist, Microsoft is also standing accused of knowingly going forward with marketing practices 'that had already been judged illegal by U.S. courts when it was used on Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.'" More from the article: " The founder of the Samba team of developers, which took years to create print and file server software that works with Windows, said his team is held back and playing catch-up. 'The tiny device I have here in the palm of my hand is the sort of product that could emerge if the information required by the Commission were available,' Andrew Tridgell said, holding a paperback-size storage server that he said could be turned into a work group server. Once it gives over the information, 'Microsoft no longer has a stranglehold over the world's networks,' he said. "
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EU/Microsoft Antitrust Case Delves Into Tech

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  • by Osrin (599427) * on Thursday April 27, 2006 @11:57AM (#15213545) Homepage
    ... I'm not sure that the markets are as worried about this as Slashdot readers are.
  • It seems like... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by scenestar (828656) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @11:59AM (#15213569) Homepage Journal
    That MSFT is gonna get kicked in the nuts for just more than bundling a mediaplayer and a browser.

    It's time to finish their sleezeball business practises once and for all.

    Windows has become such a huge part of European infratructure that we can no longer rely on a shady corporation.
  • by jfclavette (961511) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @12:00PM (#15213583)
    Once it gives over the information, 'Microsoft no longer has a stranglehold over the world's networks,' he said. "

    Uh, we got to make up our minds here folks. Either Linux is prevalent in the server market or Microsoft has the stranglehold there too. You can't have it both ways...
    • by x2A (858210) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @12:06PM (#15213650)
      There are different types of networks. Samba team are complaining about file/print/etc sharing between windowsother OS's, which is a quite specific part of networking needs around the world. When you're not talking an MS language (eg, tcp/ip + http + html etc) Linux/OSS (eg, apache, perl/php, mysql) is very prevalent.
      • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @12:24PM (#15213855) Homepage
        "specific part of networking needs", yes, but important. I don't think the claim is that they're holding the world's network (singular, meaning the internet) in a strangle-hold. The problem is they have a strangle-hold on loads of networks around the world. Think about every business that has a few Windows components, and so pretty much everything on the network needs to be Windows in order to preserve interoperability. Projects like Samba give us a lot more options.
    • Just a minor correction but if everyone is communicating the same way, it does not make one platform have a stranglehold over the other. It merely means that they all are allowed to freely communicate.

      For example, English could be considered an open standard and businesses from all over the world use the english language to communicate with each other regardless of who invented the language.

      If English were proprietary and all businesses required it, every company that wanted to conduct business would have t
      • Erm ... actually, the fact that English is such a prevelent language is partially due to it being the linguistic equivilent of an open source product - there's never been a central body to regulate the English language, and thus it can take in a foreign word whenever it doesn't have a good word for what it is describing. Contrast to French, which is like a proprietry language, regulated, kept French, as it were - I'm unsure about where the term "ordinateur" came from, but I'm sure that it's from the same b
    • So um, clients aren't part of the network? Are you reading /. from a Linux server?

      Microsoft's stranglehold is on the client. Since everyone uses a client to get onto the network Linux can simultaneously be prevalent in the server market. Microsoft also has huge market share for large corporate file servers.
    • Where open standards prevail, Linux has a sizable market share in server systems. Webservers, routers, etc, all work on open standards and there, Linux is for many the system of choice.

      MS holds a grasp on the fileserver market for the simple reason that their clients, i.e. the systems that are dominant on the user end of a network, don't understand any network protocol but their own. And this is decidedly NOT an open standard.

      That's where they have a stranglehold. And certainly not because their server syst
  • Fines don't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by x2A (858210) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @12:02PM (#15213597)
    MS just work it into the price of the OS, so the consumer ends up paying for it anyway. So it basically turns into a consumer tax on copies of Windows.

    • Fines don't matter...MS just work[sic] it into the price of the OS, so the consumer ends up paying for it anyway. So it basically turns into a consumer tax on copies of Windows.

      Fines are only one piece of the puzzle. First, where does the fine money go to? Is it used to promote alternatives? Second, the ruling opens MS up to yet another round of lawsuits from all the companies they illegally screwed over. MS will have to get out its checkbook and settle with all of them in civil litigation, thus providin

    • The price of Windows is already artificially high as it is. Compare to hardware prices and Windows should cost about 5-10$ today at most. By baking in more and more functionality Microsoft has been able to not lowering prices. If this business model is shot to pieces they will be forced to lower their prices and thats what this case is about. Fines are just the first step. Ignore them and more destructive punishments go into action.
    • MS just work it into the price of the OS, so the consumer ends up paying for it anyway. So it basically turns into a consumer tax on copies of Windows.

      That's a common misconception, but economics says otherwise. Price and quantity are determined by the intersection of the supply and demand curves. At a higher price point, there's generally less demand to the point that MS loses money relative to what they make if they eat some of the price increase. Microeconomics says that the new equilibrium will d

      • Maybe, in most cases, but things can change, when you *need* something, you have to pay whatever it costs. OEM's will roll it all into their "one price for all of this!!!" where it's less transparent. Businesses will "need" the extra security (yeah, I know, I said "security" while talking about MS). Web developers will need it to test their websites work on the latest OS+browser (this is where I fall under).

        At the end of the day, the money's gonna come from someone's wages, and it's not gonna be any of the
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 27, 2006 @12:03PM (#15213607)
    Microsoft is also standing accused of knowingly going forward with marketing practices 'that had already been judged illegal by U.S. courts when it was used on Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

    And how exactly does US law apply to EU courts? Do EU courts ever use US laws? That would seem utterly stupid to me.
    • I don't know why this was modded as a troll.

      This is a very valid point

      I have seen several instances is U.S. politics where people in some circles stated "We should use law-foo because it is used in Europe so it must be fair". Only to hear the argument "Since when do we use E.U. laws in the U.S. and when does it matter what other countries do?"

      So it seems very hypocritical on one side or the other

      • AxXium,

        There is a big distinction between applying foreign law to questions where involved matters cross jurisdictional boundaries and using foreign precedent to guide the interpretation of domestic law in domestic applications, and between either of those and using the success of a particular foreign law to seek to have similar law enacted in your own country.

        Your post, it seems to me, conflates all of these into the same issue, and then goes on to say that since some people argue on side, and some peo

    • An EU prosecutor can use the finding of facts just as it can use any other material for proving its case. This has nothing to do with laws, its just evidence. Good evidence in most peoples minds since it stems from a US courtroom and not some random rumour.
    • In fact European Competition Law is derived to a considerable degree from US law. (Well, when the EU was founded, what other example of a democratic federalised state did they have to work with?) It is entirely reasonable that a court should be informed that a litigant has been convicted of a similar offence in another jurisdiction. Furthermore, Microsoft has been trying to go behind the back of the EU courts by trying to get information disclosed in the US. The US courts have (very properly) refused under
    • Illegal in the US is (fortunately) not (yet) automatically illegal over here. I'm far from defending MS, but using a verdict in the US as the foundation of one here could quickly backfire.
      • The point is that these point made in the findings of fact are illegal in the EU just as they are illegal in the US. Because they were declared illegal in the US, the EU does not have to go through a lengthy court case of the exact same kind as happened in the US. The EU is respecting the 'findings of fact' from the case.
    • by golodh (893453) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @04:45PM (#15216228)
      No, not as such.

      But ... it seems that the EU has a healthy respect for the ability of US courts so determine matters of fact (as opposed to matters of law), which doesn't seem stupid at all.

      If a US court, after about 3 years of discovery, expert witnesses taking the stand on both sides, concludes (as judge Jackson did) among other things that Microsoft:

      - had a monopoly on desktop operating systems

      - used this monopoly to prevent new entrants from entering the market

      - lied in court when it stated that IE was needed for Windows to function (remember that video that was supposed to show Windows crashing after you removed IE? The video that was doctored to show the desired effect? Now I think that any ordinary person would have been prosecuted for perjury for pulling something like that, but apparently a company can get away with it.)

      And if you further note that none of these findings were overturned on appeal ... then I believe it makes sense for a body such as the EU to take heed of it. And apparently the EU thought so too. How is this bad? What exactly is your complaint?

  • by Billosaur (927319) * <.ten.enilnotpo. .ta. .rehtorgw.> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @12:04PM (#15213617) Journal
    On Wednesday, Microsoft argued that the Commission's decision had shackled its ability to compete, an argument that Europe's top antitrust authority dismissed as "absurd" and "frivolous."

    "We...submit that the (Commission) decision is an attempt to reconfigure (how the) market works by handicapping the leading player in perpetuity," Forrester told the court.

    Perhaps "levelling the playing field" is a better way of looking at it. Look, I'm all for innovation and the right to make money off your ideas, but when it comes to computers and software, you have to bite the bullet and admit that people need choice. Admittedly, you want that choice to be your software or your server, and you can ensure that by dominating the market. Just as we've seen though, that makes you the target of everyone's wrath, whether from competitors, governments, or hackers.

    So yes, Microsoft has a "right" to its intellectual property within reason, but when it come to interoperability, they need to rethink their stance. Ultimately they could conceivably eliminate most of their competition, but then that would spell the end of innovation on the grand scale, and force them to become even larger and more bloated than they are now. It's bad enough that one hand doesn't seem to know what the other is doing in Redmond, without consigning the rest of us to oblivion. MS needs to take its lumps, fix the interoperability/bundling issue, and move on.

    Won't happen anytime soon.

    • If Microsoft would play fairly, then these demands to peak into source code to make sure it's playing nice wouldn't be an issue. As Microsoft has repeatedly demonstrated nothing but contempts for the courts, the time has come to take out the ten thousand pound sledgehammer to knock the 800 pound gorilla down a few pegs. The only way to make sure that MS isn't playing games to cripple competitors is to have access to the source code.

      This situation is entirely Microsoft's own doing. They kept on abusing

      • "If Microsoft would play fairly, then these demands to peak into source code to make sure it's playing nice wouldn't be an issue."
        "The only way to make sure that MS isn't playing games to cripple competitors is to have access to the source code."


        I am not sure if you are trolling or if you are simply uninformed. I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt. At no time did the EU ever demand, or even request, that MS release source code of any type for anything. What the EU did demand of MS is that they
    • by Tom (822) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @03:53PM (#15215835) Homepage Journal
      an argument that Europe's top antitrust authority dismissed as "absurd" and "frivolous."

      This is where I got ears, you know? Lawyers, like tech people, use a very precise language that only happens to have a larger overlap with the everyday language, so it isn't so much noticed as "tech jargon". But like your average RFC's "must" or "should", the word "frivolous" has a very precise and strong meaning when a lawyer uses it.

      IANAL, but I judge this as a warning shot across the bows of the M$ lawyers. They might be in for a hard time personally if their arguments are indeed challenged as such and found to be frivolous.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You know, they could have said what the device was at the beginning of the quote, because when some geek type talks about the tiny device in the palm of their hand that may "emerge" if certain conditions are met, well, I just get the wrong impression....
  • FTA:

    To achieve this so-called "interoperability," the Commission requires Microsoft to provide protocols--the rules of how to communicate between the so-called "client" computers and servers, and between the servers themselves.

    But providing that information sweeps away Microsoft's intellectual-property rights, the company said.

    "The Commission calls for functional equivalence," Microsoft lawyer Ian Forrester said, referring to the level of smoothness software needs to work well with Windows. "In orde

    • Not if all your friends speak that language and you're in a position to persecute anyone who isn't fluent.

      Microsoft isn't shooting itself in the foot when it breaks with standards and insists on it's own hidden protocols and such-- not until customers start refusing to buy MS products.

  • by nixkuroi (569546) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @12:17PM (#15213763)
    Ok, so if I get this right, if I create an interface to provide interoperability between my programs, and my programs become popular enough that people want to connect to them for reasons I didn't intend (and don't want to have to support), why is it a good business decision to release an API for that interface? It seems like that might shooting myself in the foot if I'm giving it to others who intend (as the linux community does) to supplant me with my own technology. To me, that's like bring a tank to war and then giving the enemy the keys to it. Flame on!
    • O.K. Nixon, way to be completely ignorant of the whole M.S. anti-trust case.

      I'm sick to death of ignorant fools who can't be bothered to do a little research to understand a topic. Then they come up with the most asinine analogies to prove their ignorant point. Why don't you do us all a favor and shut the fuck up and do some research before you spout off some half baked idea.

      I'll give you a little help - the word is monopoly.
    • Its not a problem if the possesion of the API's do not form a significant barrier. For new companies to enter the market they are quite frankly toast if they dont speak "Microsoftish". Regardless if they are in every way superior, cheaper, more secure they cant enter the market without very good support for Microsofts protocols. The reason others need the recepies for the communications is not to compete with Microsoft on Microsofts protocols, its for being able to enter the market and compete with other be
    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @12:44PM (#15214091)

      Ok, so if I get this right, if I create an interface to provide interoperability between my programs, and my programs become popular enough that people want to connect to them for reasons I didn't intend (and don't want to have to support), why is it a good business decision to release an API for that interface?

      First, MS did not "invent" the interface they copied an existing open standard then intentionally broke it. Second, it is not a "good business decision" but it is required by the law if one of the two products you are talking about is in a market you have monopolized.

      It seems like that might shooting myself in the foot if I'm giving it to others who intend (as the linux community does) to supplant me with my own technology. To me, that's like bring a tank to war and then giving the enemy the keys to it.

      No it's like bringing a tank to the mall and then arguing when the cops arrest you for breaking the law by crushing other people's cars and driving a vehicle banned on public roads. "But officer, my tank lets me park more easily and closer to the doors! I'm special and rich, I don't have to obey the laws! I did the same thing in Kentucky and after I bribed the governor they let me go!"

      Please, if you make up anymore analogies, don't forget to include that you are a monopoly and do a little research on what monopolies can and can't do and why. Bundling and tying are illegal actions for monopolies because they remove all the benefits provided by a capitalist free market. You may be ignorant, but you can bet MS isn't and they decided breaking the law was a good business decision. No sympathy for the devil.

    • The difference, as always, is that Microsoft is in a monopoly situation. The rules change for how you can conduct your affairs when your dominance in the desktop world is 90%+ market share. That's the price of success.

      But it isn't just MS's own protocols, it's what it does to other protocols and standards, such as the way it mutilated Kerberos or the way in which it undermined Java. It may very well be that not doing these things would have meant MS was shooting itself in the foot, but the interests of

    • Don't get me wrong, that's not supposed to be an attack on YOU when I say, you don't matter.

      UNLESS you start to have a monopoly.

      If your tool is so dominant in the market that it's virtually impossible for another company to actually compete with you, this is of course beneficial for you (hey, you could charge whatever you want, you could do whatever you want, and people would STILL have to buy your crap), but the general user base and the industry itself will suffer from it.

      Private monopolies are by the sta
    • Let me ask you a question.

      Is it a good idea to open the phone networks, so that any company can sell you a home/mobile line. (PS, this results in cheaper phone calls)

      It is a good idea to open up gas and electricity suppliers?

      Are these good ideas? Maybe not for the busines who has the monopoly, but for the consumers of said products.
  • by MemoryDragon (544441) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @12:34PM (#15213986)
    That the article mentioned SMB as the example where Microsoft is screaming, this is our IP, it is not. SMB was originally defined by IBM and an open protocol, Microsoft embraced and extended it until it closed the doors and now it is a Microsoft we own it and do not give the specs protocol. Guess who is on the payroll of the original inventor currently. Yes some of the SMB core devs. This behavior reminds me of someone who goes into a house throws the owner out, replaces the locks, the owner hires a guy who opens the locks, the thief goes to court and cries, this is my house, this guy has no right to go in there.
  • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @12:38PM (#15214020) Journal
    I get the distinct impression that Microsoft being tardy to release the documentation for their protocols isn't purely due to malice - or even not malice at all. I get the impression that things like this simply aren't documented INSIDE of Microsoft, and the original developers of the code have left, and MS staff are now busily trying to document a gigantic mass of source code.

    I have direct experience of Microsoft having none or inadequate internal documentation (see my latest JE for the full discussion - http://slashdot.org/~Alioth/journal/133996 [slashdot.org]). A quick precis is that we were working with the GINA in the NT 4.0 days, and we had an expensive support contract with Microsoft (IIRC, numbers bandied about were US $40K) because of what we were doing with the GINA. We actually ended up speaking to Microsoft developers - who couldn't answer our questions. We ended up reverse engineering the MS GINA to find out how to set everything up correctly. It was interesting to note that the publically available GINA documentation improved substantially a couple of years later when Windows 2000 came out. Perhaps the developers felt ashamed that their customers had to resort to reverse engineering because this expensive support contract fell flat.
    • I get the distinct impression that Microsoft being tardy to release the documentation for their protocols isn't purely due to malice - or even not malice at all. I get the impression that things like this simply aren't documented INSIDE of Microsoft, and the original developers of the code have left, and MS staff are now busily trying to document a gigantic mass of source code.

      That could be, but it is not any excuse for continuing to break the law. MS made billions breaking the law and when ordered to s

      • Oh, I'm not trying to excuse Microsoft for this - in fact, it's really a pointer to why the quality of Microsoft software is so variable, and why Windows and IE has so many serious security problems and other bugs - despite highly talented developers, the suspected lack of any kind of software engineering process almost inevitably results in the kinds of problems we see with their software -- and the difficulty in getting decent support for more obscure parts of Windows even when you're paying for a very ex

    •   "we were working with the GINA in the NT 4.0 days"


      Was that the Veteran's Administration GINA?


      You know, the VA GINA?

      :)


      MjM

    • I doubt this.

      There's no way they could've received EAL4 (see the product list [commoncriteriaportal.org]) without good documentation. The CC have a very strong focus on documentation and EAL4 is not something you'd get with shoddy and incomplete docs.

      Now I haven't studied the evaluation target, so I can't say for sure just which APIs it includes and which ones not. Also note that the certifications are for 2000, 20003 Server and XP only and your experience predates those, so yes, M$ has probably cleaned up shop.
    • In an earlier post (http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=178439&cid=1 4 794487) I noted that Microsoft had produced reports (annex 3 and 4 at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/legal/02-23-06R esponsetoECSO.mspx [microsoft.com]) from very reputable scientific institutions to the effect that the EU can't reasonably expect "standalone" documentation that would allow e.g. a Linux machine interoperable with MS server.

      There were 2 main replies to my post:

      - one stating that in all probability the protocol wasn't so much d

    • Heh, I went through the EXACT same experience regarding Windows File Protection - was working a customer support case for a backup software company.

      Customer was reporting some odd behavior when they were restoring "damaged" system files, and I confirmed that the same thing happened in our test environment, but that the behavior ran counter to Microsoft's documentation of how WFP worked.

      Thank god for Sysinternal's Filemon. I basically had to reverse engineer it myself. Because I had called Microsoft suppor
  • by couch_warrior (718752) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @01:15PM (#15214482)
    When the Bush administration took over here in the US, a wave of corruption swept through this country like sugar through a diabetic, stunning our enforcement agencies and causing public insitutions like the Patent Office to roll over and play dead. The Justice Department, which had already won and had Microsoft on the ropes, dropped the anti-trust suit like a hot potato, settling for a useless slap-on-the wrist penalty.
    Thankfully the EU has some *balls*, and is not emasculated by the cult-of-monoplists that has shredded the integrity of the US government.
    Hopefully, the massive inflation that is snowballing due to price-gouging in the oil industry and the resulting collapse of the real-estate balloon market will shock the US populace into sweeping the Republicans out of both houses of Congress while they clean out the White House.
    Then there will be a chance that the US Dept. of Justice will get back into the business of enforcing the law.
    It is my dearest fantasy to believe that I will someday see "Ballmer and Butthead" being led off to jail in handcuffs.
  • Aw, dammit! (Score:3, Funny)

    by AriaStar (964558) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @01:23PM (#15214555) Journal
    Bush illegally spying on us, Microsoft illegally marketing, what next, gas companies illegally price-gouging us? Is there no one we can trust?!
  • Hate M$ but... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kuazz (959596)
    When I first heard of the EU slamming M$ I was excited that someone finally did it, but it has turned into a farce. As much as M$ disgusts me I think the EU has over stepped its bounds. I think this is just the EU's way of America bashing. M$ is a big US company and the EU wants to take them down a notch.

    The only thing stifling innovation in the EU is the consumers themselves. If the EU doesn't like M$, they should not #$%@ing buy it. I bet if the EU used all non M$ products it would be few short months
    • The only thing stifling innovation in the EU is the consumers themselves. If the EU doesn't like M$, they should not #$%@ing buy it. I bet if the EU used all non M$ products it would be few short months before M$ was compatible with them and doing anything to win back the market. Just because the EU has not come up with a viable option to M$ doesn't mean they have the right to mold M$ into the product they want.

      Well I think that much of that is the point you are arguing against. The reality is that Micro

    • There's nothing so sinister behind it. It's just we aren't so ridiculously Capitalist here in Europe. We've a thing called social democracy where we realise that certain market restrictions are necessary for the general population's benefit.

      You may suggest this is bad for business because France, Germany and some other European countries aren't doing so well economically. But plenty of other European countries that just have more sensible labour laws, etc. are doing fine, like the Scandinavian countries and
  • James Flynn of the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS [e-c-i-s.org]) about the value of the SMB information:
    ...these information are not kept secret because they are valuable, they are valuable because they are kept secret.

    Source in german from heise.de [heise.de]: ...die Informationen würden nicht geheim gehalten, weil sie wertvoll seien, sondern seien wertvoll, weil sie geheim gehalten werden.

    • Sorry, but your translation is faulty. The use of the word 'seien' expresses uncertainty about the truth, it expresses the belief of the one making the statement, not a fact.

      So the correct translation would be: "The information is not being kept secret because it is supposed to be valuable, but it is supposed to be valuable because it is being kept secret".

      This is a significant difference, so I felt it needed correcting.

      Mart

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