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EU Prepared to Fine Microsoft $2.5 Million Per Day 659

Posted by Zonk
from the i'd-get-on-that-guys dept.
Lord_Slepnir writes "The European Union is unsatisfied with Microsoft's compliance with their anti-trust compliance from 2004, and is preparing to fine them 2 million Euros ($2.5m US) per day until they comply. Under that ruling, Microsoft must open up parts of their operating system to competitors, and change how they bundle Media Player." From the article: "On Monday, Microsoft said it had begun to provide the information Brussels had demanded, but the Commission has signaled the company acted too late. In December, Brussels informed the software giant that it had failed to comply with the original ruling it issued in March 2004."
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EU Prepared to Fine Microsoft $2.5 Million Per Day

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  • by justkarl (775856) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:50AM (#15613071) Homepage
    That's for sure. This has been going on for quite some time. I think it was at least a year ago that the EU would fine microsoft every day.
    • by justkarl (775856) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:52AM (#15613089) Homepage
      I think it was at least a year ago that the EU would fine microsoft every day.

      Scratch that. If I RTFA, I would know that that was exactly what they said in 2004.
      • by HaydnH (877214) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @05:01AM (#15619429)
        Scratch that. If I RTFA, I would know that that the warning which told them about fining them 2m Euro everyday was actually in December 2005. It was in relation to failing to comply with the 2004 ruling, but the fine was only mentioned in Dec '05.

        One thing the article didn't mention however is that the fine can be issued retrospectively, i.e: if they issue the fine today it would be back-payable to December '05!
    • Spare the rod... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @12:03PM (#15613175) Homepage Journal

      ... spoil the megacorp.

      Seriously, it seems that the entire history of antitrust action against MS in the US and Europe has been a colossal waste of time and effort. All it has done is show that governments don't really have the teeth to cut into Microsoft's anti-competitive behavior. I originally thought the DOJ action was going to curb MS, but it didn't.

      When push came to shove, the US government wasn't truly prepared to make one of the crown jewels of American business suffer in order to make it change its ways. The EU is likely unwilling to push too hard for fear of invoking the wrath of the US government, which is just further proof that if a business becomes big enough, it can only very rarely be constrained by government.

      Market forces are doing a far better job of constraining Microsoft. Perhaps if Microsoft's competitors hadn't relied on antitrust lawsuits to save them, they might have fought MS more aggressively and effectively in the past. Apple learned its lesson. Sun (belatedly) learned its lesson. The lesson is that the government isn't going to help you fight Microsoft, so you have to figure out a way to do it yourself.

      • by Cleon (471197) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <24noelc>> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @12:25PM (#15613354) Homepage
        I don't think it's lack of teeth, it's lack of will.

        In the US case, the justice department got a conviction against Microsoft. Then the Bush administration was sworn in, and the incoming DOJ whittled the punishment down into a "don't do it again, *wink* *wink*, *nudge* *nudge*."

        In the European case, the EU is still finding its legs as an entity/pseudo-government. Any action they take against MS is going to be debated, re-debated, whined about, etc. They have the teeth, it's a question of whether they have the will to take a bite.
        • Where might I find the information indicating that it was due to the "Bush Administration", as opposed to life-long government workers that keep their jobs even when the President swaps out? If the directive came from a Bush-insider, or at least a Bush appointee, then your insinuation has some theoretical founding. If, however, the lack of strong punishment was directed by a long-term bureaucrat, or a Clinton appointee, then I suggest that criticism should be placed on those actually responsible.



          I don'
          • by StormReaver (59959) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @04:45PM (#15615803)
            "Where might I find the information indicating that it was due to the "Bush Administration", as opposed to life-long government workers that keep their jobs even when the President swaps out?"

            I can't point you to the interview source, but Bush indicated in his first campaign, during a Press interview, that he believed the anti-trust suit against Microsoft should never have been brought. When he got elected, he then appointed an anti-trust chief who went on record saying he didn't believe in anti-trust. This same chief then resigned the position just days after his department essentially dismissed the case against Microsoft.

            It's not a smoking gun, but Bush's fingerprints are all over the crime scene.
      • by Foofoobar (318279) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:02PM (#15613705)
        Seriously, it seems that the entire history of antitrust action against MS in the US and Europe has been a colossal waste of time and effort. All it has done is show that governments don't really have the teeth to cut into Microsoft's anti-competitive behavior


        It's not that they don't have the teeth... it's that they don't have the BALLS! And sad to say, Europe is showing it has a helluva lot more balls than the US. Of course, this is mainly because lobbying is an industry of corruption here in the US. I'm honestly amazed that the EU hasn't been bought off yet or bribed into submission.
        • by dargaud (518470)

          this is mainly because lobbying is an industry of corruption here in the US. I'm honestly amazed that the EU hasn't been bought off yet or bribed into submission

          In the country where I currently live, France, 'lobbying' translates exactly as 'corruption' and is indeed illegal. Of course it still happens under the table (politicians will always be politicians, right ?). As to the EU, I'd be curious to know what the stance is on this whole lobbying/corruption thing. Like they say:

          "Campaign contribution is th

      • US antitrust (Score:4, Insightful)

        by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:27PM (#15613966)

        Seriously, it seems that the entire history of antitrust action against MS in the US and Europe has been a colossal waste of time and effort. All it has done is show that governments don't really have the teeth to cut into Microsoft's anti-competitive behavior. I originally thought the DOJ action was going to curb MS, but it didn't.

        The Clinton admin had MS on the run but with the change in admin's things changed. The Bush admin went easy, and basically let MS go free.

        Falcon
      • by l3v1 (787564) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:27PM (#15613969)
        don't really have the teeth to cut into Microsoft's

        And this is exactly why no corporation should ever be allowed to have such a huge influence on a specific field like MS has now on the os/sw market, and indirectly on everything else. I hope one day somebody will succeed in kicking MS in the ass - not because I dislike MS, but to show to everybody else that there are limits you should respect, no matter how much money you have.

    • If only there were another option; some kind of operating environment one could install on one's computer to do one's work. And maybe some other bits and pieces of software that could go with that environment that would still let one perform one's computer-centric duties.

      If only there were some way we could get from beneath the crushing foot of this megacorporation and have the freedom to choose. To choose the programs that met our needs, our budgets, and our requirements.

      Man, if only.

  • I don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by utopianfiat (774016) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:50AM (#15613073) Journal
    If they comply right away, do they not get fined?
  • Bundle? I lol'd (Score:5, Interesting)

    by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:51AM (#15613082)
    change how they bundle Media Player.

    I don't think you can bundle anything more than making it completely uninstallable.

    //open to pointers on how to excise MP10 from my new machine completely.
    • People want enriched OSes. They do not want an OS that is specified only as a kernel, with everything optional. To them an OS is a UI, and a web browser and so on. Linux isn't the Linux kernel, it's that + the shell tools + X + Gnome + Firefox and so on. Windows is hardly unique in specifying an OS in an enriched context. MacOS is the same way, as is Solaris.

      Now the other side of this is that programs depend on the services the OS provides. They don't reinvent the wheel all the time, they use what's there.
  • Oh noes! (Score:4, Funny)

    by JoeLinux (20366) <joelinux AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:52AM (#15613088) Homepage
    Poor, poor Microsoft.

    How will they come up with enough change out of Bill Gates' couch to pay that daily?

    They might have to pull directly from the company coffee fund!
    • Re:Oh noes! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by LnxAddct (679316)
      Heh, that is over 900 million a year (and I believe this fee is retroactive). I'd like to see *any* corporation justify to its stock holders that they are blowing nearly a billion a year (unless of course Microsoft realized significantly more buisness oppurtunities as a result).Either way, I'm sure the EU wouldn't mind a billion extra on the books.
      Regards,
      Steve
  • by Noryungi (70322) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:52AM (#15613091) Homepage Journal
    ... Than the limited (though enormous) fines the EU was talking about the last time. Last I recall, the total fine was around 50 million dollars.

    US$ 2.5M per day should be enough to get Microsoft full and undivided attention and, hopefully, make it play nice with other software suppliers. Or at least put on a better show of compliance.

    Yes, I am rabidly anti-Microsoft... How could you tell? :-)
  • Respect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:52AM (#15613092) Homepage Journal
    It's all a questions of respect. The US government barked, but when it came to biting, they didn't. As a result, MS does not and will probably not ever again have respect for them.

    Apparently, someone in the EU has some soft skills and knows that at this stage it isn't about being right or wrong or fair or blablabla. If the EU doesn't bite after making so much noise about it, they'll have a hard time ever getting MS to comply with anything.

    • Re:Respect (Score:4, Interesting)

      by HaeMaker (221642) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @12:38PM (#15613462) Homepage
      Keep in mind, that the US had a regime change between the bark and the bite. MS has not been able to find the right politician or political office to influence in the EU to make this go away.

      In the US, under Clinton, there was an overwhemling victory against MS. When the judge could not keep his mouth shut and the case was up for retrial, under Bush, the government struck a sweetheart deal.

      I, personally, did not see any problem with a judge calling a bunch of criminals, criminals, after he had seen all the evidence, but hey, what do I know, I live in the real world.
  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:52AM (#15613094)
    at that rate, they can only hold out for 33 years!!
  • If I did my math right, isn't that like 9-something-billion per year in fines? And doesn't MS generate something like 40 billion per year in revenue? I say they won't even notice....
  • by LodCrappo (705968) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:56AM (#15613117) Homepage
    So they fine MS... assuming MS actually pays (seems kind of unlikely), what are they going to do with the cash? I RTFA and it didn't mention it. I'd love to see it go to aiding the folks that MS's anticompetitive tactics have hampered, but how would that work? Or would they give it to charity, use it to lower taxes a tiny bit, something positive for people?
  • Clarification (Score:5, Informative)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:58AM (#15613134)

    Under that ruling, Microsoft must open up parts of their operating system to competitors, and change how they bundle Media Player.

    Just for clarification before anyone gets on their soapbox about how Microsoft shouldn't have to open their code to competitors, that is not the parts that the EU wants. They want MS to dislose API type information so that competitors can better interface with Windows. i.e. Samba.

  • Dear EU, (Score:5, Funny)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:58AM (#15613135)
    Thank you for fining us. Enclosed you find our offer about Windows Vista special EU edition, the ONLY edition the EU parlament and its associated organs may use. A license costs 2*10^6 USD a day.

    Or, could we talk that fine thing over, maybe?

    (it's fun to have a monopoly, ain't it?)
    • by Daneboy (315359) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @12:28PM (#15613378) Journal
      Thank for your recent letter. Regretfully, we must decline your offer of your special edition software and its license.

      Apparently you are not aware of our country's recent legislation addressing software license rules. In order for a software company to legally sell ANY software in our country, it will now be required to provide, free of charge, a number of fully licensed copies of said software to the government, that number to be determined by the government and revised at the government's discretion.

      (Having a monopoly sure sounds like fun. But writing your own laws is even more fun, we think!)
  • claiming that the Commission is forcing it to divulge valuable trade secrets.

    • Bloat the software as much as you like, consumers will just buy more hardware.
    • Rush the release date, we can always fix bugs later.
    • Don't be helpful to anybody outside the company unless they threaten to sue you.
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @12:02PM (#15613165)

    "Microsoft must open up parts of their operating system to competitors, and change how they bundle Media Player."

    This is ambiguous and misleading commentary. MS has been ordered to document the APIs of the interaction between their monopoly desktop OS and their non-monopoly server OS to allow competition. This is not "opening up" any part of their OS. They have not been asked to provide any source code and in fact they offered source code as an alternative to the documentation (under terms that would have gutted the benefits of the punishment) and it was rejected as unsatisfactory. To reiterate, MS was not ordered to open up any code, only to provide documentation on the interaction of their OS's.

  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @12:03PM (#15613174) Homepage
    I'm not sure what Gates's net worth is at the moment, but let's say he's got 40 billion in the bank, which is probably about right.

    At 2.5 million dollars a day, he'd be bankrupt in 54 years, assuming absolutely no income or other expenditures.

    I'm sure the company's pockets are much deeper than Gates's personal fortune.
    • The fine itself is relatively modest. But think of the knock-on effects that charging it will have.

      The fine will inevitably hit Microsoft's profitability. That in turn will hit their stock price, as a company already struggling to increase profitability, whose stock is traded in a market already very cautious about the value of the US dollar and interest rates. If MS stock prices start to slide, then that will have three dramatic effects.

      Firstly, the MS executives will suddenly become a lot poorer. Bill

  • by jdb8167 (204116) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @12:03PM (#15613179)
    Microsoft has about $35 Billion in the bank. At $2,510,800 per day, that works out to about 38 years with its current cash. I'm thinking that the EU might want to up the fine if they want Microsoft to take them seriously.
    • Microsoft has about $35 Billion in the bank.

      MS is not as financially well off as many might think. Sure $35 billion is a lot of money, but MS's expenses are about $9 billion a year. All it would take is 4 unprofitable years and that cash is gone. Not likely but not impossible.

    • It's not about how long it will take them to run out of money, it's whether it's more profitable to pay the fine or continue to break the law.

      I assure you, Microsoft shareholders won't be saying "it's okay, we can last for years like this" to the Board of Directors, they'll be saying "why are we paying a billion dollars per year fine?"

  • Gates can give every Slashdot user $1000 and not feel it. $2.5 Mil isn't going to get his attention. He'll put it down as the cost of doing business in Europe.
  • Smithers! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Fiachra06 (945611) * on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @12:13PM (#15613244) Journal
    Get my wallet!
  • by Nagus (146351) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @12:42PM (#15613495)
    TFA didn't say it, but other sources [betanews.com] do:

    The fine will be applied retroactively from December 15th.

    This means on July 12, they will need to pay 209 * 2.0M EUR = 418.000.000 EUR, or 524.339.200 USD. Following that initial payment, they will continue to pay 2 million EUR each day.

    It doesn't state anywhere whether the fine applies only to business days, or also to weekends and holidays. I've assumed it also applies to weekends and holidays since the laws are just as applicable on these days as on any other day.
  • by Baki (72515) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:21PM (#15613899)
    Just let the market sort it out: do NOT grant companies protection for patents, copyrights, reverse engineering. Then the problem will solve itself.

    Many people are against monopolies, including myself. In fact I think monopolies are one of the few areas where state intervention is needed in the economy. However, even most monpolies only come to life and continue to exist not because the state doesn't do something against them, but because the state SUPPORTS them. They are supported by laws regarding patent, copyright, trade restrictions (e.g. against imports) and lately even against reverse engineering. Without such harmfull state intervention in the market, not many monopolies would survive for long.

    The EU need only abolish copyrights, and the problem shall be quickly solved.
  • To all the people... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Phil John (576633) <phil@webst[ ]ltd.com ['ars' in gap]> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @02:25PM (#15614559)

    To all the people smoking crack and spouting that Microsoft should pull out of Europe - as a whole we're the largest economy in the world (see European Union on WikiPedia [wikipedia.org]).

    Here's a choice tidbit for anyone too lazy to click:

    If considered a single unit, the European Union has the largest economy in the world with a GDP of 12,427,413 million USD (2005)

  • by bazorg (911295) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:50PM (#15615319)
    The european commission should have a draw every week to pick the fiscal number of a lucky european who would be entitled to keep 1 day of Microsoft fines.

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