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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 @12:57PM (#15213545) Homepage
    ... I'm not sure that the markets are as worried about this as Slashdot readers are.
  • by jfclavette (961511) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @01:00PM (#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...
  • Fines don't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by x2A (858210) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @01:02PM (#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.

  • by x2A (858210) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @01:06PM (#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 Foofoobar (318279) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @01:09PM (#15213677)
    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 to pay a fee to whoever invented english.

    Big diff.

    Using your above statement within the metaphor, an open english language would not mean that China and Korea would instantly have an advantage in the market place over America (or England), it would just mean they would have equal footing to compete.
  • by truthsearch (249536) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @01:10PM (#15213683) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by nixkuroi (569546) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @01:17PM (#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!
  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @01:24PM (#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.
  • by AxXium (964226) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @01:29PM (#15213917)

    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

  • by oh_my_080980980 (773867) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @01:33PM (#15213971)
    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.
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @01:55PM (#15214247)
    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 people argue the other, that this is hypocrisy rather than disagreement.

  • Re:Screw the EU (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @02:11PM (#15214425)

    I'm not usually on Microsoft's side but screw the EU on this one. This is a simple case of extortion. I mean there is no downside to fine a US company. They are fining MSFT just because they can and its somewhat fashionable to do so.

    So let me get this straight, you think the EU is fining MS for intentionally breaking the law, after MS was judged guilty of doing the same thing by the US courts, because it is "fashionable?" MS broke and continues to break the law. The EU has a history of going after all sorts of companies both European and foreign for breaking antitrust law. To whine when they apply it to MS, means you probably have bought into some of MS's ridiculous propaganda.

    Your nationalism is just moronic. You might as well go hang out with all the rednecks that think Americans should be above the law when visiting other countries.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 27, 2006 @02:14PM (#15214461)
    They are fining MSFT just because they can and its somewhat fashionable to do so.


    If Microsoft don't like it, they can stop breaking the law.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 27, 2006 @02:44PM (#15214769)
    It's a matter of principle. If they are forced to abide by a principle by US courts, and they are aware of the fact that the same principle is at play in other jurisdictions and for other products, and go ahead and /run afoul of that principle/ though they have every reason to have been aware that they're running afoul of that principle ... It shows a bad faith effort, not merely negligence or lack of due diligence.

    Practices that are designed to produce or strengthen a monopoly are monopolistic in the US and are monopolistic in the EU.

    A rose is a rose is a rose.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 27, 2006 @02:44PM (#15214771)
    A better description would be that 95% of the world's airports only let "Airbus-compatible" planes take off and land there and Airbus is constantly trying to make it hard for other plane manufacturers to make their planes compatible..
  • by Frequency Domain (601421) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @03:04PM (#15214947)
    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 distribute the "tax" between the producer and the consumers, with the proportion payed by each determined by elasticities of supply and demand. The nice thing about making MS open their standards (such as Samba) is that it gives consumers greater choice, which changes elasticity favorably for us consumers. Check any text on micro-econ if you don't believe me.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @03:04PM (#15214949)
    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 system is superior to Linux. They simply have it because the client forces people to use a Server that is capable of delivering support for those "dumb terminals".
  • by ScriptedReplay (908196) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @03:59PM (#15215338)
    Yet I believe you could use it to argue intent. Leaving aside the matter of jurisdiction, MSFT continued a type of business practice that was deemed illegal in a court of law. This is hardly the behavior of an innocent company. So one can argue that if the EU finds MSFT's behavior illegal in their jurisdiction as well, their punitive measures should be stronger than the ones US imposed, which did not appear to have the intended effect (that is, stopping MSFT from abusing their position, whether you want to call it monopoly or not)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 27, 2006 @04:43PM (#15215753)
    "After reading a little about the case, my understanding was that the commission is asking Microsoft to publicize their protocol standards so that it encourages competition. As my understanding goes, competition is not based on knowing how your opponent does what he/she does; it is based on if you can do better than your opponent."

    Well, the first sentence is accurate, so I assume the second one, about your understanding, is as well.

    The problem is in your understanding.

    If I have a monopoly, and in order for you to conduct business in this particular field, you HAVE to conduct business using my tools, and I REFUSE to provide those tools, then I am using my monopoly to prevent you from conducting business in this particular field.

    We're not talking about somebody trying to write an OS to replace Windows, we're talking about someone trying to write Microsoft Networking compatible software in order to provide "network appliances", which have no real direct user interface at all. Microsoft doesn't make money by selling enterprise disk space on a netowrk, but they DO make money by selling the OS to run a server where that disk space can be hosted.

    By refusing to provide the protocol definition, they are preventing people from competing with the companies that sell servers, ensuring additional sales of the Microsoft Server OS as a side effect.

    They are generating extra income for themselves by preventing new products that do not compete in their direct territory from existing.

    Microsoft is destroying competition for the hardware vendors that purchase the Microsoft OS.

    This is not the only exmaple of what is going on, but it is the situation described in the articel in question.
  • by Tom (822) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @04:53PM (#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 golodh (893453) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @05:28PM (#15216116)
    See my earlier note at http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=181789&cid=150 33798 [slashdot.org] for a description of the issues at stake.

    Please note that at no point was Microsoft ever required to give out sourcecode. It was required to publish an API.

    It was Microsoft itself that offered sourcecode (with licensing strings attached) just so it wouldn't have to publish the API specification. And perhaps also to confuse the issue ... so that half-informed people could make snide remarks about poor Microsoft being required to hand over their precious IP.

  • by golodh (893453) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @05:45PM (#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?

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