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'No Alternative' To Microsoft Fine 394

Posted by Zonk
from the pay-up dept.
An anonymous reader writes "News.com is running an interview with Neelie Kroes, the competition commissioner for the EU. She confirms that the massive fines to Microsoft are absolutely necessary, and goes into some of the commissions reasons for slapping the giant down." From the article: "Microsoft has claimed that its obligations in the decision are not clear, or that the obligations have changed. I cannot accept this characterization--Microsoft's obligations are clearly outlined in the 2004 decision and have remained constant since then. Indeed, the monitoring trustee appointed in October 2005, from a shortlist put forward by Microsoft, believes that the decision clearly outlines what Microsoft is required to do. I must say that I find it difficult to imagine that a company like Microsoft does not understand the principles of how to document protocols in order to achieve interoperability. "
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'No Alternative' To Microsoft Fine

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  • Oh boy... (Score:5, Funny)

    by PixelPirate (984935) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @01:29PM (#15728725)
    "I must say that I find it difficult to imagine that a company like Microsoft does not understand the principles of how to document protocols in order to achieve interoperability."

    You must be new here...
    • I think interoperability will hurt the bottom line more than the fines, cause they are a multinational that operates all over the world and not just in EU. Full interoperability would obviously hurt sales of Windows licences, esp in the enterprise. And its just what the fine is about, that they are using their market share on the desktop to monopolize the enterprise sector too. Its not about security, which is a technicality and can be improved. Its all about revenue..
    • by OpenSourced (323149) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @03:10PM (#15729126) Journal
      "I must say that I find it difficult to imagine that a company like Microsoft does not understand the principles of how to document protocols in order to achieve interoperability."

      The principles? They cannot even grasp the concept!

      • Sure they do... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @06:26PM (#15729749)
        "I must say that I find it difficult to imagine that a company like Microsoft does not understand the principles of how to document protocols in order to achieve interoperability."

        The principles? They cannot even grasp the concept!

        I have heard enough of their sales pitches to know that Microsoft's concept of interoperability is simpe and they grasp it quite well: "Throw out every piece of software that you currently operate that isn't made by Microsoft and exchange it for equivalent Microsoft products. After that everyting will inter-operate just fine so long as you don't stray form the yellow brick Microsoft road."
    • Re:Oh boy... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by morie (227571)
      She is, but she definately is not new to harsh meassures, and neither is her office.

      In the Netherlands, she was one of the politicians that actually got things done when she was in the government.

      Not my political colours, but effective nontheless...
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Sunday July 16, 2006 @01:30PM (#15728727) Homepage Journal

    [Microsoft's] obligations in the decision are not clear, or that the obligations have changed
    to imagine that a company like Microsoft does not understand the principles of how to document protocols in order to achieve interoperability.

    What's so hard to understand about this? This is a company which regards their software as "most secure ever" just before a several years of gaping security flaws are revealed and exploited. Many of the security flaws are in the gaps between divisions, where one division sees the appropriate way to validate passed paremeters is to trust everything is just peachy.

    It's a cultural thing, sieze markets today, and bluff your way past the carnage tomorrow. e.g. revealing Windows security flaws should be halted by the Department of Homeland Security as it represents a threat to businesses which use the software (no liability is expressed or implied by the jokers who make billions selling it, however)

    Microsoft should license rights to use those egg-headed Precious Moments figurines and release one each time they're caught bullshitting on trying to quash other markets with bundled give-aways or why some open standard isn't for the best. "Me sowwy!" It always has been and always will be about promoting Microsoft, to keep it relevent and necessary to guarantee the gravy train never ends. Thanks EU for having some balls, which the US DoJ doesn't.

    • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @01:38PM (#15728770)
      The Department of Justice did at one point (I mean, they did win the antitrust case against Microsoft you know) but when the regime change occurred their priority system got readjusted. At least, that's how it appeared to me at the time.
      • by ackthpt (218170) * on Sunday July 16, 2006 @01:42PM (#15728789) Homepage Journal

        The Department of Justice did at one point (I mean, they did win the antitrust case against Microsoft you know) but when the regime change occurred their priority system got readjusted. At least, that's how it appeared to me at the time.

        Oh, obviously. It's like Bush hung out the shingle "Open for Business with Business" when the greatly watered down justice was finally meted out, and astoundingly Microsoft continues to violate even those terms with seeming impunity.

        • And that's just what they're waiting for with the EU. Or did you think Mr. Gates was hiding his money over in a huge non-profit for no reason? It protects his bank accounts, it makes a bunch of people grateful, and it gives him a great way to "hint" that Microsoft should be treated nicely to encourage support from the new Gates foundation.

          That's how this game is played, folks.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        At least, that's how it appeared to me at the time.

        Only if you ignored the appeals court ruling, which Microsoft mostly won. Bush probably did go easy on MS, but the government did not have the court rulings to impose EU-style penalties. This would have been true if Gore was elected also.
        • True, but they still managed to get themselves ruled an illegal monopoly ... it was the penalties phase that was largely altered by the appeals court.
          • it was the penalties phase that was largely altered by the appeals court.
            And the US Court of Appeals, as we all know, is part of the Executive Bra--oh, wait.
    • by Tim C (15259) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @01:46PM (#15728804)
      This is a company which regards their software as "most secure ever" just before a several years of gaping security flaws are revealed and exploited.

      They said that it was the most secure Windows so far; are you disputing this?

      revealing Windows security flaws should be halted by the Department of Homeland Security as it represents a threat to businesses which use the software

      I can actually see the logic in that. I do not agree with it (if one person has found an exploitable flaw, chances are someone else has or will), but it's not an entirely stupid idea on the face of it (you have to think about it to realise how dangerous it is).

      no liability is expressed or implied by the jokers who make billions selling it, however

      Very very few software licences do not disclaim liability, the GPL included. It's extremely hard (and time consuming, and so expensive) to create software that can be guaranteed exploit-free, and this difficulty increases as the complexity of the software increases.

      Thanks EU for having some balls, which the US DoJ doesn't.

      Well there's one thing we can agree on. I personally think that MS's software often gets too raw a deal here, but some of their business practices are deplorable. It's nice to see that someone finally has the guts to stand up to them and actually impose the punishment they threatened them with for a change.
    • by arminw (717974) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @05:54PM (#15729664)
      .....Thanks EU for having some balls, which the US DoJ doesn't.....

      I wonder if the issue really is the vaunted MS protocols. Are there no clever people in the EU or elsewhere who could reverse engineer these and make them available to anyone? The EU, or any government for that matter, could amend their laws such that copyrights or patents are not violated if done for the purpose of interoperability. Even if someone distilled or even outright copied the protocols for the SOLE purpose of ensuring interoperability, their laws could be changed to allow for this. France recently went after Apple and their music DRM protocol. Instead of forcing Apple to give that up, why did they not simply rescind DRM protection laws similar to our beloved DMCA? In short order someone like DVD Jon would come up with a way of stripping DRM protections and there would be no law protecting Apple's or any other DRM system.

      Doing this of course would subject everybody, including their companies to the same rules. It appears that the EU is singling out the most successful American companies and punishing them because their own businesses are not managing to compete on the open market.
  • How does that go? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by symbolic (11752) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @01:30PM (#15728729)

    Something about "old dogs" and "new tricks."

    At least this is a bit more than the wrist tap Microsoft received for its anti-trust violations in the US.
  • 280m Euros (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Durrok (912509) <calltechsucks&gmail,com> on Sunday July 16, 2006 @01:31PM (#15728734) Homepage Journal
    Great, they slapped Microsoft hands for this but who is getting all this money and what are they gonna do with it?
    • Re:280m Euros (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Frosty Piss (770223)
      but who is getting all this money and what are they gonna do with it?

      The problem with the EU is that they will let Microsoft drag this out indefinitely, their "diplomatic" process allows for it. The likelihood of Microsoft forking over this money is nil.

    • Re:280m Euros (Score:3, Insightful)

      by flacco (324089)
      Great, they slapped Microsoft hands for this but who is getting all this money and what are they gonna do with it?


      is that even remotely as significant as the fact that someone is finally standing up to microsoft? imagine the precendent set if large corporations could thumb their noses at the law at will in the manner microsoft is doing. (yes, i know, i know.)

    • Jesus, does it have to be asked in every story related to the EU vs MS saga?

      It will simply go into the EU budget. The budget's size will remain the same, the member states have to pay less.
    • by kfg (145172) * on Sunday July 16, 2006 @02:28PM (#15728975)
      who is getting all this money

      The EU, of course.

      and what are they gonna do with it?

      Hookers and beer, just like always.

      The more important question is where is the money going to come from?

      Got a mirror?

      KFG
      • I don't buy anything from Microsoft (Linux user), so I'm definitely not paying for it. I build my own computers (or buy Macs), so I don't get hit with the Microsoft tax anyhow.
        • by kfg (145172) *
          Microsoft's finacial tentacles run far deeper than a few bits of software. Can you say "tentacle rape?"

          Can women block pops up for you? No. Can Firefox show you naked women? Yes

          Have you tried putting a naked woman in front of your monitor? Works for me.

          KFG
    • Why do you care? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Seriously.

      Do you worry where your speeding ticket goes?

      Why do you care about where this goes.

      It'll go the same place they always go.

      would you prefer MS kept the money?
    • Re:280m Euros (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kegetys (659066) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @03:24PM (#15729191) Homepage

      From the FAQ [itsecurity.com]:

      Where does the money go?
      The penalty payment is paid into the EU Budget. It does not increase the Budget, but reduces the contribution from Member States. The fines therefore reduce the overall tax burden on individuals.

  • by bogaboga (793279)
    ...Yes, if I were Microsoft, I'd simply have a so called "news leak" to the press suggeting that we, as Microsoft, are considering withdrawing our offending products from the European Union market. This would allow us "test" the waters and make EU officials think twice about their actions.

    How about that?

    • Given the size of the EU market for Microsoft software nobody in their right mind would believe such a story. Besides, Microsoft has used that particular tactic so many times in the past that nobody takes it seriously anymore.
    • by pfdietz (33112) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @01:40PM (#15728782)
      If you were Microsoft, and you tried that, you might see your copyrights voided in Europe. Oops.
    • by Hrunting (2191) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @01:41PM (#15728784) Homepage
      If you were Microsoft ... you'd be stupid.

      Wow, I'm trying to think of a better way to make a continent that's already antagonistic towards you migrate even faster to other alternatives like Linux. I can't do it. You're going to threaten to pull out of a multi-BILLION dollar market over some fines, alienating your customers and moving them to consider non-Microsoft solutions.

      No, the good idea for Microsoft is to publicly bluster and privately strike a deal with the EU to come into compliance and pay a reduced fine. Microsoft essentially made a gamble and lost and will now minimize its losses.
    • I'd like to see MS cope with all the refunds it would have to pay out in order to remove its customers licenses. Or did you mean that Microsoft would threaten to stop selling any new products into the EU? Hmmm, I can just see that one "Yes everyone in Europe will have to continue to use XP, we won't sell Vista, or new versions of office". That certainly sounds palatable to MS, I don't think.
    • by 1u3hr (530656) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @01:54PM (#15728844)
      ..Yes, if I were Microsoft, I'd simply have a so called "news leak" to the press suggeting that we, as Microsoft, are considering withdrawing our offending products from the European Union market

      Some idiot suggests this every time this case is mentioned. No matter how big a company you are, you can't fuck with sovereign governements. They can unilaterally write their own contracts, and enforce them with the full power of the state (i.e., all the way to lethal force). If they want MS software, they can take it and pay whatever they like.

      In any case, they could use existing software indefinitely, while assessing the several alternatives begging for a chance to take the market. And that would be the end of MS's monopoly everywhere.

    • by gnasher719 (869701) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @02:39PM (#15729014)
      '' ...Yes, if I were Microsoft, I'd simply have a so called "news leak" to the press suggeting that we, as Microsoft, are considering withdrawing our offending products from the European Union market. This would allow us "test" the waters and make EU officials think twice about their actions.
      How about that? ''

      Excellent idea. The next time some government agency in Europe has to decide whether to use open source software or Microsoft software, we can just point out that Microsoft is considering withdrawing their products from Europe, so clearly Microsoft software has to be avoided at all cost to be future proof.
    • by houghi (78078) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @04:24PM (#15729349)
      Sugesting? I would just do it and see them begging M$ to get back, because no European is smart enough to make his own OS.
    • M$ owns the home user market sure, but they only care about it as it relates to their real bread and butter, large corporations. Microsoft likes owning the home and school markets only because it helps them control mind share and make sure when corporate decision makers look to alternatives they appear forigen and scary. M$ is all about sell expensive licenses for their backoffice products, and the Office products. Which is why the work so hard to obfuscate document formats and network protocols.

      They get
  • Legal circles? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Guanine (883175)
    When does this become more than a case of he-said she-said? Microsoft claims its obligations were not clear, others claim they were. Isn't that the ideal situation for keeping this in the courts indefinitely? I have to think that we would have seen this all across the usual news channels (TV, newspaper, magazines) if this fine was really going to have teeth this time around. The whole case seems destined to simmer beneath the surface. I hope that the fine actually will be paid, but can anyone outline how
    • Re:Legal circles? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by KokorHekkus (986906)
      MSFT paid the earlier fine on time (which they are appealing now) so I suspect they will pay this one as well but appeal the decision. So they could run the legal game but they will not profit directly from it and I suspect there is a very finite types of appeals they can file.

      About the unclear obligations I think that Microsoft has one really major hurdle to overcome: their non-compliance wasn't decided by EU appointees but the person was choses from a shortlist provided by Microsoft.
    • sn't that the ideal situation for keeping this in the courts indefinitely?

      MS can appeal, but they have to pay anyway. If their appeal is successful, they'll get a refund.

      • by chromatic (9471) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @04:05PM (#15729290) Homepage
        If their appeal is successful, they'll get a refund.

        I hope it's in the form of a coupon for 15% off the upgrade to the next version of the fine.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      When a sovereign country (or the legal representative of something like a dozen or more sovereign countries....) says you're wrong, you're WRONG.

      Your characterization is the equivalent of Charles Manson saying the reason for his prison term was that he didn't understand his obligations.

      Microsoft knows damn well what's expected of it, they just don't want to do it because they won't survive in an open market. Too damn bad they're fighting against the commodization of software - a type of fight no one in the
  • by gluecode (950306) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @01:47PM (#15728814)
    I do not agree that paying up the money is a big deal for M$. It will not change it's behavior. I was at M$ one day presenting them a Field Service system. The first quest the program manager of that group asked me point blank was - "How much is it going to cost us so that you do not do this on the Palm?" This is their attitude. Money no matter. The best method to cut this monster to size is to seperate it into parts - OS and development platforms, Office apps, Business Apps.
    • What about the 3 million euros per day fine if they don't comply after July 31st? Will that make them blink?

      What I'm wondering is how do they make them pay. MS is a US-based company so it's difficult for the UK to shut them down if they don't comply.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    NO INTEROPERABILITY: This is their established mode of business.

    Even this fine is nothing. Equivalent to ten days profits.

    All this is is a simple tariff on doing buisiness in the EU.

    Paying the fine is the most economic alternative for MS.
    • by MooUK (905450) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @02:56PM (#15729081)
      The fine is around 2 million euros PER DAY, not a fixed amount. Dating from the original ruling.

      It's also a punishment. Even if they turn round now and obey their instructions, they will still have to repay the fine. If they don't obey the law, they will not suffer just this small daily fine but will likely have further punishments.

      It's not a "Pay this amount and we'll leave you alone" deal, it's "Pay this, AND fix stuff, or we'll make you pay even more".
  • by Mutatis Mutandis (921530) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @01:58PM (#15728864)

    Obviously, Neelie is not a programmer and has never tried to write a program in a Microsoft environment, or even tried to figure out what their documentation is supposed to mean... If anything.

    The example below is my favourite piece of Microsoftism, from the "I cannot believe that I am actually writing this" department:

    IXMLDOMDocumentPtr pXML = NULL;
    HRESULT hr = pXML.CreateInstance(_uuidof(DomDocument40));
    pXML->async = VARIANT_FALSE;
    pXML->validateOnParse = VARIANT_FALSE;
    ...
    pXML.Release();

    And yes, this compiles and works. Surely there must be other gems of Microsoft protocols out there. Any other proposals?

    I believe the Comission is wrong, and the companies that are lobbying the commission to get access to these protocols are even more wrong. We should not want more software that relies on more Microsoftisms. Au contraire.

    I wish I had a list of the companies that are sueing for these protocols being made public. Then I would at least know whose software I certainly do not want to buy.

    • Obviously, Neelie is not a programmer and has never tried to write a program in a Microsoft environment, or even tried to figure out what their documentation is supposed to mean... If anything.

      Nope, that she isn't. She only takes the word from the person appointed to decide if Microsoft is compliant or not.

      And, oh, that person was selected from a shortlist provided by Microsoft.
    • Phehehe, so what you're saying is that writing that documentation is impossible, because said protocols are so abhorrently wroten that they are undocummentable?

      Well, well, in this case we're seeing a nice phenomenon when a big company is being fined for writing bad code?
    • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Sunday July 16, 2006 @04:24PM (#15729348) Homepage Journal
      The petitioners are asking for the details of the protocols, not the exact implementation of those protocols. Maybe their code is ancient and crufty and you could reimplement it in 10,000 lines of C instead of 150,000 if only you knew exactly how they worked. That is what they're requesting.
  • by bhima (46039)
    I don't see what everyone is getting all worked up over.

    This isn't all that much more than the EU fined the company I work for... That didn't really change things for the other divisions so I expect MS won't change much either.
  • by rucs_hack (784150) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @02:03PM (#15728886)
    There is a big difference between the people at microsoft knowing how to document protocols and microsoft the corporate entity knowing how to document a protocol.

    The main difference is that a corporate entity of the size of microsoft is represented by Lawyers, not engineers.

    If they say say they cannot comply, and the lawyers provide lots of reasons which keep the facts in dispute, then they get to pay a nothing fine and maintain their advantage.

    Losing their monopoly position would potentially mean the collapse of their major product lines, in terms of market share.

    I'd be willing to bet that if microsoft the corporate entity felt this was something they desperatelly needed, they'd throw the engineers at it.
  • My proposal (Score:5, Funny)

    by ElephanTS (624421) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @02:14PM (#15728934)
    Great, they slapped Microsoft hands for this but who is getting all this money and what are they gonna do with it?

    I propose that there's some fund so that every time you have to spend 3 hours 'weeding' Windows for your parents or Auntie Doris or whoever you can bill the fund at $100 p/h for your time. Collectively this would make /.ers tens of millions wouldn't it? Oh yes, VOTE FOR ME!
  • by Tango42 (662363) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @02:33PM (#15728989)
    Do we know how this fine will be paid? In the past, MS has always tried to pay in gift vouchers, as far as I know - will they be allowed to do so this time? The mention of a blocked account would seem to imply cash, but does anyone know for sure?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      like they do in Texas, they demand all others to pay cash anyways.

      The EU's "monopoly commission" (equivalent to the FTC in the US) does have teeth, and regularly does impose fines that are larger in proportion to the company size than those imposed against Microsoft.

      Most of these, however, are imposed for illegal price-fixing between different companies.

  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Sunday July 16, 2006 @03:02PM (#15729095) Homepage Journal

    It seems to me this is really about whether governments have the ability to enforce the laws they create. Whether EU legislators truly represent the will of the people of the EU nations is debatable, but the EU is a governmental body that in theory speaks for the people it represents. Here we have a governmental body telling a corporation that it has violated the rules of doing business. The EU isn't telling Microsoft that it can't sell its products anywhere. It is sending a clear message to Microsoft that if the company does business in the EU, it needs to do so under the EU's rules.

    It isn't a surprise that collectively the EU prioritizes cultural, economic, and political issues differently than the United States, so it seems absurd to me to expect that they'll change their rules just for you when you do business there. Apple can elect to stay in the EU market and deal with the ramifications of iTunes/iPod-related legislation, or it can stop doing business there. The same thing is true of Microsoft. They make billions of dollars in Europe. They can forgo making those billions, or they can stop whining that they didn't know exactly what the EU wanted, and start complying. It's obvious what the EU wanted, and it's obvious that the EU tired of Microsoft's endless legal maneuverings. Now Microsoft is seeing that the EU is serious. Massive corporations do not have unlimited power, even when they think they do.

  • by Em Ellel (523581) on Sunday July 16, 2006 @03:06PM (#15729113)
    Revoke M$'s IP rights/copyright in EU as a remedy. Seems right given the issue at the heart of this. That'll get their attention... Doubt thats actually possible, but damn, it could be fun to watch....

    -Em
  • There are some rules in the financiaæ world thet requires proper documentetion of allmost everything. Now MS just said to the public that they do not have the proper documentation for the product they sell... so there may just be several large financial institutions (at least in the EU) that may not use MS software due to the now officcally known lack of documentation.

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