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EU Gives Microsoft 8 Days Until Fines 537

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the can-we-reposess-something-shiny-and-expensive dept.
kaysan writes "European Commissioner Neelie Kroes has presented Microsoft with an ultimatum: Before Thursday next week, Microsoft must hand over all secret information on Windows protocols to its competition. Should the company choose to ignore this demand, it will be severely fined. Microsoft's history with EU fines so far amounts to approximately Euro777.5 million. Both linked websites are Dutch, but then again, so is EU commissioner Neelie Kroes."
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EU Gives Microsoft 8 Days Until Fines

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  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:06PM (#16853018) Homepage Journal
    While I know that what I say might come off as a troll or a Microsoft-fanboy (I am neither), I really don't understand the State in this situation at all.

    First of all, the State creates laws which give some companies preferential treatment over ideas or the way a person can use their hands and mind to create something. We call these useless laws "copyright," "patent" or "trademark." The State is the only way to enforce these laws which govern how you think and use your body, it is impossible to cover these restrictions without force or the threat of force.

    So companies go out of their way to try to protect their easily-distributed-and-duplicated resources. In a free market, if a widget was hard to make and reproduce, but everyone wanted one, it would be very expensive. If someone else discovered a way to mass produce widgets to outstrip demand, the price would plummet down to near $0. This is why software and music and content has a very small value compared to future work -- once the product is produced, it falls to worthless except for the law.

    These companies that create content also know that even with the law, it makes sense to try to keep competitors from discovering how their products work. If I invent a new engine, I'd want to obfuscate the operation enought to keep my competitors from duplicating it, at least until I've made it more efficient. This is how manufacturing works -- you want to be the most efficient, but you also want to fight off competition who wants to be more efficient than you. This is why the market is great -- people work hard to make more efficient products.

    Now, we have various competitors that are locked out of a market because the State decided to give preferential treatment to certain companies (in this case, Microsoft). Copyright, patents, trademarks can all be used to keep other people out of a given market long enough for a company to grow to a size that makes it hard to defeat. This is not what happens in a relatively free market (I'll say most deregulated). If Microsoft didn't have the backing of idiotic laws like the DCMA (in the US), overextended copyright, overencompassing patents, and overbearing trademark laws, other companies would have had access to compete many, many years ago. Microsoft itself was able to get into the information market from the start by developing products and acquiring products before the laws became unbearable in terms of the barrier to entry.

    Microsoft is not a monopoly, it is just able to use the preferential treatment of the law better than their competitors. If you voted for the State, you are part of the reason that Microsoft has grown. Sure, some will say that they violated anti-trust laws, but those laws have enough loopholes to let any big company get around them.

    Let's look at reality here. The State wants these fines to pad their own accounts -- they same laws will exist, and the same problem will repeat itself. This is basically a legal form of asking for bribes, and Microsoft will be happy to comply. Any changes Microsoft makes will only be enough to make the State happy, and the next run against them will be strictly for income for those making new laws. That income helps provide for more loopholes and better preferential treatment for the companies that can afford it. Microsoft is being forced to hand over "secrets" but those are past secrets -- not future ones, right? They'll just make new secrets, or obfuscate the old ones in new ways so that anything they share isn't useful in the long run (everything changes every 18months right?).

    The problem isn't in the bribe money, the problem is that you all are voting for the State to be more and more powerful, which means that it can do more and more damage to your freedoms.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by tomstdenis (446163)
      If it's easily distributed than it's not of value.

      Scary thought ... isn't it?

      The value isn't the bits, it's the process.

      In the ideal world, people would invest in a software product, then the product would be free to download and use. The release would be dependent on achieving some level of investment. Then each revision follows it, e.g. Product version 2 will wait until another $X dollars are invested.

      That's the REAL way to do it. Not by selling copies of bits that are of NO VALUE.

      As for the anti-trust
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dada21 (163177) *
        As for the anti-trust issue, it's because MSFT is doing things that are AGAINST THE INTERESTS OF THE CUSTOMERS all in a guise to raise their vendor lockin (through no valid technical need) to raise profits. Prosecuting anti-trust violators is about giving the customers freedom of choice, so they can decide how to invest their money. e,g, sure I'll run Windows, but I'd rather use Lotus, not Excel, etc, etc....

        How so? The customers have about 20 different developers for spreadsheets, word processors, databas
        • by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:33PM (#16853556) Homepage
          Why must the file formats be secret?

          Why must the tools avoid standards in their respective fields? (typesetting, ISO C99, proper W3C XHTML...)

          Why must the tools only work in Windows?

          etc, etc, etc....

          The problem with Microsoft is that it creates these tools which only serve to further insider goals (e.g. Visual Studio only exists to sell Windows) then pumps it with shady deals and the like. Why must I get Windows with my Dell Laptop? Why can't I get a discount to go with a blank HD? (note: I think Dell is a lousy anti-trust violator too)

          In a truly free market, you'd see Visual Studio (which is an awesome kit) that runs under Linux/BSD and can be bound to other compilers (e.g. Intel CC, GCC, etc). In a truly free market, you'd see Office work in Linux/BSD and use well documented file formats so people could create 3rd party tools for working with the data... In a truly free market, Windows would strive for UNIX/POSIX compliance underneath so that programs written for it (under the GUI level) would be more portable, ...

          In short, Microsoft writes software that looks shiny, attracts users (usually by first taking away choice, then motivation), then locks them in with tools that are not interchangeable or portable.

          I'm sure if the PC revolution occurred WITHOUT Windows being forcefully bundled with EVERY SINGLE PC we'd see a different history here.

          And for those who say people can buy their own parts and build a PC, imagine if every car was bundled with an engine that only ran with Shell fuel. Sure you could build your own car, but is that really realistic?

          Tom
          • by Kenja (541830) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:47PM (#16853834)
            "In a truly free market, you'd see Visual Studio (which is an awesome kit) that runs under Linux/BSD and can be bound to other compilers (e.g. Intel CC, GCC, etc). In a truly free market, you'd see Office work in Linux/BSD and use well documented file formats so people could create 3rd party tools for working with the data... In a truly free market, Windows would strive for UNIX/POSIX compliance underneath so that programs written for it (under the GUI level) would be more portable, ..."

            No you wouldn't. You'd see software written for the platform that had the best chance of a high return on investment.

            You'd see people wanting to protect their work so that outsiders couldn't take it and undersell them by not needing to recover devlopment costs.

            What you're talking about is the oposite of a free market, where people are forced to support everyone and everything despite what the market demands.

            Microsoft is a buisness, it exists to make money. If there was a market demand for Microsoft products on Linux/BSD they would exist.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tshak (173364)
            In a truly free market, you'd see Visual Studio...run on Linux...

            No, in a truly free market MS is free to do their own market research and determine what platforms to support. In an idealists market a company would be forced to create products or alter products in ways which do not benefit the company.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            In a truly free market, you'd see Office work in Linux/BSD and use well documented file formats so people could create 3rd party tools for working with the data...
            By your same argument, you'd see GM parts work in Hondas. So why don't they? And why aren't hefty fines levied against GM for not producing parts to meet all possible auto specifications?
            • by testadicazzo (567430) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @02:54PM (#16856226) Homepage
              Wow, the discourse on this topic is always so painfully stupid and emtional. None of this anything to do with Microsoft vs Linux. It has to do with monopoly abuse, which is always harmful. Having a defacto standard is a good thing. Things like vendor lock in are obnoxious, but less harmful when there exists a viable competition. GM doesn't have a monopoly on automobiles, so there's no real point in levying anti trust suits against them. If GM, Honda, Daimler Chrysler and Volkswagen and whatever other major manufacturers out ther get together and do price fixing, this fucks up what little pretense of a free market we have, and screws everyone over. So we've made laws against that kind of behavior, because experience has taught us that this kind of this is just so goddamn bad for our economy. That's all.

              Even if it had happened by accident, which it didn't, the monopoly would be harmful. Microsoft could have attempted to be a benign monopoly, and set things up so that other people could at least compete with them on NEW APPLICATIONS, but they don't even do that. They set things up so whatever becomes the next big thing, they are in a position to dominate it, because it's so damn hard to get interoperability information from them. And it's getting worse with Vista. It's not enough that they have the incredibly huge advantage of their monstrous cash flow and brand recognition, not to mention the expertise of the programmers who developed their software in the first place. No, they have to result to tactics which are plainly and openly illegal, preferring instead to subvert democratic processes. It blows my mind that people defend them.

              I want to propose a new figure of speech, and I want credit for it: The "Microsoft Syndrome". Like the Stockholm syndrome, where victims of a kidnapping begin to sympathize with their kidnappers, the Microsoft Syndrome describes that process where victims of a corporate monopoly are so brainwased by that monopoly's marketing they sympathise with and defend them.

        • by Foofoobar (318279) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @01:04PM (#16854208)
          Speaking as someone who works in a mixed environment, everytime SAMBA makes any progress, Microsoft makes major changes which effectively locks peope out all over again. Being able to get your MAC machines and LINUX machines to be able to fluidly talk to your Windows machines would be a nice thing. As is, Linux and Mac make it very easy for other machines to talk to them but Microsoft deliberately hides, and obfuscates its technology making it difficult to interface with if you are not also running a windows machine.

          Aside from that, Microsoft has gotten in trouble in the past for using SHADOW API's. They tell competing vendors one way to interface with the machine and then use a better way themselves so all Microsoft's products run super fast and vendors products run slower and not as well.

          These are all things that the EU is talking about and has been talking about. Getting our machines to play well together shouldn't be something that should have to be enforced. As engineers, it should be the obvious choice. So when you say you dont get it, maybe you don't understand why machines should talk to each other or share data with each other or work together. However working in a mixed environment, I'd rather not have to force our designers off MAC and our servers off LINUX merely because Microsoft can't play well with the other kids on the playground.

          It's sad to think that a multi-billion dollar company like Microsoft still needs to be babysat.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by chill (34294)
      Microsoft is not a monopoly...

      They are in the United States. They were legally convicted of being such in a court of law.

      All else stems from that -- the rules are different for a monopoly.
      • A company can't be 'convicted of being' a monopoly in a US court because there are no laws that make being a monopoly illegal.
    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:20PM (#16853292) Homepage
      > Microsoft is not a monopoly

      Oh, beg to differ. Microsoft is a convicted monopoly abuser [bbc.co.uk]. And down comes your pretty house of cards.

    • by gid13 (620803)
      I am not necessarily agreeing with you, but you answered your own question: According to your post, this helps the State (they get more power and income), and to some extent MS (they can continue to pay the bribe for preferential treatment). Yes?
    • First of all, the State creates laws which give some companies preferential treatment over ideas or the way a person can use their hands and mind to create something. We call these useless laws "copyright," "patent" or "trademark." The State is the only way to enforce these laws which govern how you think and use your body, it is impossible to cover these restrictions without force or the threat of force.

      Okay, but you could say the same thing about physical property rights that you just said about "copyrigh
      • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:33PM (#16853546) Homepage Journal
        Okay, but you could say the same thing about physical property rights that you just said about "copyright," "patent" or "trademark." (Usefulness is a matter of opinion.)

        You are right about that in some ways, but the way I see it, there are vast differences between physical property and intellectual property -- in fact, I'd say they're not even on the same level.

        My belief in physical property rights comes from the thought of being able to better that property and maintain it. I find land that is unused, I develop it in some way (farm, natural resource, home, office, whatever) and I maintain it. That is my land from a physical property stance. I have my body, I have my tools, and I have my land. If I use my mind to channel those 3 physical properties to make something that duplicates what you've done, the new physical product is something I can sell. Also, if I have techniques to make your physical property better, you can hire me to maintain it.

        But intellectual property means mind control, plain and simple. If I have a certain way to mow a lawn, or a certain way to design a toilet, or a certain way to put musical notes together in a certain order, all those are covered by thinking and action. If you can't mimic my actions more efficiently than I can, you can hire me to do it for you (mow your lawn, create your toilet, produce music). If you CAN mimic my actions more efficiently than I can, why should you hire me? Just do it yourself -- unless the State says you're not able to think or act that way because I have a right to those thoughts or actions, dig?

        If I create a series of musical notes and put it on a disc, you can buy that disc if it is more efficient than you making those notes yourself, or discovering another copy of my disc and using your mind, hands and tools to duplicate the disc. The cost is the labor, not the initial creation. The guy who mows the lawn had to learn how to mow the lawn, but you don't license that lawn mowning -- you pay me for future labor or current labor, not past labor. Mowing a law, installing a toilet, and writing music or software are the same actions in terms of labor. No one cares what you know or what you did in the past as long as you can do something more efficiently than they can TODAY.
        • Pardon me, but I don't think you answered my question. All you did was explain the implications of your position on property rights, when I was looking for the justification for your distinction between physical and intellectual property. The closest you came was in alleging that IP is mind control, which appeared to be more of a scare tactic than an actual distinction.

          I discuss this distinction frequently on the mises blog where I post as "Person". Here [mises.org] is the most recent thread.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          If I can improve your property even more than you can, should I be able to take it from you? Or maybe more accurately, should the State be able to take it from you and give it to me, since it was the State that gave it to you in the first place?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lawpoop (604919)
        "You believe that physical property rights are different in that "people naturally respect them anyway". But I'd say there's the same general respect for the principle of "don't copy without permission"."

        I disagree. People generally have respect for personal property -- you can't take something that doesn't belong to you. You wouldn't want somebody taking something that belonged to you.

        However, digital copies, in the popular mind, work pretty much like knowledge, information, or word of mouth. You are pr
    • ... can result from State *or private actions. Discuss.
    • by Silver Sloth (770927) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:25PM (#16853400)
      So if Ford created a car that would only use Ford tyres, only burn Ford petrol, etc. you would be OK with that? This parallel is not trivial. Over her in the UK there was an attempt by motor manufacturers to claim that new car warranties were only valid if the cars were serviced by authorised (read overpriced) dealers. The EU stopped that in exactly the same way as they are attempting to stop Microsoft from trying to prevent, for example, Open Office from reading MS Office documents.

      So, who does it help? Me, the EU citizen. I may not be the greatest EU fan but they've got this one right.

      • by dada21 (163177) *
        So if Ford created a car that would only use Ford tyres, only burn Ford petrol, etc. you would be OK with that? This parallel is not trivial. Over her in the UK there was an attempt by motor manufacturers to claim that new car warranties were only valid if the cars were serviced by authorised (read overpriced) dealers. The EU stopped that in exactly the same way as they are attempting to stop Microsoft from trying to prevent, for example, Open Office from reading MS Office documents.

        This example is problema
      • by Trelane (16124) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:40PM (#16853692) Journal
        So if Ford created a car that would only use Ford tyres, only burn Ford petrol, etc. you would be OK with that?

        I would be fine with it. The problem comes when they do that and are super-dominant (aka "are a monopoly").

        In the presence of real competition, there are many other cars that run just fine and do the exact same thing or (more likely, since it'd decrease overall costs for everybody concerned and only takes one producer to do it to get the ball rolling), the competitors would be more interoperable, and so Ford would be committing corporate suicide. Heck, there'd be a whole add-on market to convert Fords to Chevys and back and forth (provided they each tied you to their own platform), since there would be a large market for each car and hence a large demand for interoperability.

        But when a single player is super-dominant, they are practically immune to market pressures. If they make their car uninteroperable, the add-on market would be tiny, since there would be little demand from the drivers to switch car vendors. Sure, there'd be some, but not very much at all, and they'd be struggling to make a living. The other cars could interoperate as much as possible, but nobody would switch to them, because they'd be more expensive (economies of scale), and not able to interoperate 100% with the superdominant competitor (e.g. Excel macros in OpenOffice). Sure, they could maybe get up to 99% compatibility, but reverse-engineering the proprietary interfaces would require a huge effort, while (again due to their small market size) they're still strugging to survive. And since they're superdominant, almost all gas stations, roads, and service stations would only work with the superdominant competitor (the "ecosystem" built around the superdominant competitor), further excluding cars which don't comply with their proprietary interface 100%.

        The real kicker, though, is this: to the driver, who Just Wants to Go Somewhere, is familiar only with Fords, and has learned all of the quirks of his/her current Ford, will find any competitor annoying due to its differences and (however minor!) incompatibilities, and will blame the competitor for the market situation!

      • by Ogrez (546269) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @01:01PM (#16854126)
        And where is it you purchase your Microsoft electricity from? Where do you get your Microsoft computer cases from? I guess i could just say your analogy sucks... a better and more appropriate analogy would be ... What if Ford created a car and you had to use a Ford starter in it, or if you had to use Ford door pannels. Oh.. wait... you do. Yes there are aftermarket parts not made by ford, but those parts were made by a 3rd party who reverse engineered them. Parent post is correct, its laws that our lawmakers make like the DMCA that makes it illegal to reverse engineer most software. In the words of my hip and cool friends... dont hate the player, hate the game.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I guess i could just say your analogy sucks... a better and more appropriate analogy would be ... What if Ford created a car and you had to use a Ford starter in it, or if you had to use Ford door pannels.

          I agree his analogy sucks and so does yours. You both miss the same thing everyone misses when they make analogies in these monopolist threads. They always make an analogy, except they don't include a monopoly in said analogy. Neither you nor the parent included one. The reason for this is simple, mono

    • This is not a criminal offence. It is a civil offence. Fines a valid punishment for such an offence.
      I don't really see this as a problem. Microsoft is as everyone has pointed out a convicted monopoly.
    • Vast corruption in the EU, spanning both legislature and judiciary? Government officers only wanting to make money by prosecuting large corporations?

      Or did somebody not take their meds this morning? Let's review:
      1. Microsoft is a monopoly, they have used their monopoly position to stifle the competition and deliver lower-quality products to the consumers. As a result of this monopoly, consumers have little freedom of choice in their software, and the security-deficient nature of the software has allowe
    • by Tony (765)
      Unfortunately, in even such an idealistic free market, big companies can game the system. There has to be *some* regulation, just like there has to be laws against murder, and theft, and placing weasels down your trousers for the purposes of gambling. (Ahh, Chief Wiggum.)

      Just as true communism is a wonderful idea that will never work on a large scale, so is a truly unfettered market such as you describe. Now, we certainly could come closer to the ideal than we currently are, but in truth, copyright isn't su
    • by tshak (173364)
      I really don't understand the State in this situation at all

      It's called extortion.
    • No, actually, the problem is that the state(s) dont have enough .. coljones .. to break-up big guys like microsoft anymore, the way they did with standard oil "back in the day".

      Your anarchocapitalist (most decidedly NOT free market) dreamland would create more, not less, big monopolists. Especially if you combined the situation where the state didnt have enough power to break up abusive monopolies with very loose "defend yourself" crime/firearm laws, we start to run into problems simmilar to the street wars
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Silverstrike (170889)
      I'm going to respond to a lot of things I see scattered throughout this thread, not just in the parent post. Let's start with "reverse engineering is illegal"

      In the United States, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act exempts from the circumvention ban some acts of reverse engineering aimed at interoperability of file formats and protocols, but judges in key cases have ignored this law, since it is acceptable to circumvent restrictions for use, but not for access.[4] Aside from restrictions on circumvent
  • English article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Aphax (727653) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:08PM (#16853082) Homepage
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:09PM (#16853094)
    Bill Gates responded "Okay, we'll just use our auto-update feature to turn off all Windows copies in every EU country. Hope you all know how to install Linux, fuckers!"

    -Eric

    • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:14PM (#16853180) Journal
      Which would be extreme wishful thinking on the part of Bill Gates. Microsoft would be crucified by their shareholders if they did anything to even slightly endanger their existence in the European market - which has a population of almost twice the United States. Indeed, the shareholders could easily sue Microsoft's board if they were to take such an ill-advised act. Not to mention, the rest of the world would be scrambling to migrate away from Microsoft products so they don't get extorted in the same manner.

      It would also demonstrate to the EU the urgency of which Microsoft's monopoly would need to be broken - so even the rumour of such a threat would be severely damaging to the value of Microsoft as a company.
    • by Phil246 (803464)
      as has been mentioned lots and lots of times beforehand, such a move would do microsoft more harm then actually complying with the law would.
      • Wow, you Septics really don't understand the European mind set, do you?

        Even your bestest friends the British don't actually like you, and the Europeans proper despise you even more.
    • Every time this comes up on slashdot I'm happy to remind you people that the EU is Microsoft's biggest market.
    • Yeah, because nobody in Europe knows how to get around Windows' auto-update features and run it as a pirate copy. Nope; only Americans and Asians know the secrets to that.

      All that would happen if Microsoft did something (clearly insane) like that, would be that the European governments would have to invalidate Microsoft's copyrights over Windows, effectively legitimizing pirate copies. People would continue to use Windows, they would simply no longer pay for it.

      It would actually be terrible for everyone con
    • by hey! (33014)

      Bill Gates responded "Okay, we'll just use our auto-update feature to turn off all Windows copies in every EU country. Hope you all know how to install Linux, fuckers!"

      Splendid! We can add that to our collection of "words to regret for every occasion":

      • Hijinks with your drunken pals: "Hey, watch this!"
      • At the traffic stop: "If you're so smart, how come you're just a cop?"
      • Lost in the hood: "Which way to Denny's, boy?"
      • In the board meeting: "They're the government. What could they do to us?"
      • To the judge: "I'm
  • http://www1.worldlingo.com/SH0gfCf2o9dP9D6Mf0Gbs_1 Xz7f6YuCsH/translate [worldlingo.com]
    http://www1.worldlingo.com/SH0gfCf2o9dP9D6Mf0Gbs _1Xz7f6YuCsH/translate
    If anyone can help these poor folks out with a mirror so we don't melt their servers, I'm sure they'd appreciate it.
  • by NineNine (235196) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:12PM (#16853148)
    Slashdot continues its editorial nosedive towards irrelevance as they now ignore their own FAQ [slashdot.org]!. I wasn't aware that there is a significant portion of the American Slashdot reading public that could understand Dutch. Interesting.
    • by Tribbin (565963)
      RTFA
    • I wasn't aware that there is a significant portion of the American Slashdot reading public that could understand Dutch.

      I can't read Dutch, but I can read Japanese*, and can tell you that Slashdot Japan not only rotate their polls [slashdot.jp] more reguarly, but they're also more interesting.

      *This is a complete lie. I have no idea what's going on, something about spam and something that's probably funny on some level...
    • At least now we have a reason for not reading TFA.
  • Why the Dutch? (Score:5, Informative)

    by spellraiser (764337) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:12PM (#16853152) Journal
    A simple Google News [google.com] search turns up a whole lot of items on this story in English.
  • What-EVER! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by overshoot (39700) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:19PM (#16853286)
    Well, it looks like Bill is going to have to turn over some pocket lint.

    Face it -- the fines aren't even petty cash. MS expects the Court of First Instance to rule in a few months, and it would be stupid to turn over information that can't be recalled before then.

    At absolute worst, the fines are worth less than the ability to hold off competition for the same period; it's just part of the cost of doing business.

  • by krell (896769) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:21PM (#16853312) Journal
    " so is EU commissioner Neelie Kroes."

    But what about his cousin Mie Kroes Offt?
  • simply stop marketing Microsoft products in the EU marketplace. No, no . . . hear me out . . .

    Think about it - if Microsoft doesn't market Windows et. al. in the EU, the EU has no standing to impose fines on Microsoft. European customers will be obliged to purchase Microsoft products in the USA and to find a way to get their shiny new copies of Vista home (as I've never heard of a way to force a company to do business in a given geographic region). The EU will be forced be economic pressure to either 1)

    • by Slashcrap (869349) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:48PM (#16853868)
      Even if the EU were more economically powerful than it is, I doubt that it could afford option #2

      Before assuming that the EU is a relatively insignificant part of Microsoft's market which they could easily do without, you may want to work out the total population of the EU. Then calculate what percentage of the developed World's population (i.e. the people who actually pay for expensive operating systems and office software) it makes up.

      Of course, being American you will probably first want to find an atlas and work out what country the EU is in.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Der PC (1026194)
      What exactly would the U.S. government be putting tax on ?

      Windows ? Nah, the E.U. isn't buying Windows according to your plot.

      Linux ? But Linux isn't "Made in U.S. of A.".. They'd just buy SuSE Linux, or go ftp://ftp.funet.fi [funet.fi]

      Methinks the EU wouldn't actually be in such a bad shape, even if Microsoft really would stop shipping Windows to the EU. The already sold licenses are still valid ( although they'd be a virus trap on the scale of O(n$) once the patches stop appearing in the EU :) )

      There would b

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ledow (319597) *
      Option 1: If it happened, it's not good for the EU at all (to be seen as toothless would let any monopoly run rampant). The EU is more than just a single unit, it's a collection of lots of countries - most of whom have absolutely no interest at all in seeing an MS monopoly. Plus, the chances are that it will end up costing an awful lot of "important" people in an awful lot of countries their jobs. Plus, currently, the financial incentive to the EU alone is worth continuing pursuing the case, even if it t
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hxnwix (652290)
      Remember the energy crisis? While the US went on to become even more dependant on middle eastern oil, Europe realized that the mid east had them by the short and curlies. France replaced their fossile fuel power plants with nuclear systems and Norway tapped into its undersea oil and natural gas fields.

      I posit that word documents are less addictive than midddle eastern petroleum and that, should Microsoft force the EU's hand, Microsoft software shipments to Europe would be as common as crude shipments to s
  • Time for Microsoft to apply for patents on anything and everything described by these protocols...Otherwise, they're up a creek.
    • Time for Microsoft to apply for patents on anything and everything described by these protocols...Otherwise, they're up a creek.

      Well, since for the most part these protocols are intentionally broken copies of preexisting open standards, I don't think it likely they will be patentable. Also, since this is an antitrust abuse case, they would be forbidden by law from exercising any such patents or possibly even using patented protocols at all between their desktop and server since that would be a violation

    • apply for patents
      They better lobby the EU to consider those patents valid aswell, otherwise they are useless.
  • by badger.foo (447981) <peter@bsdly.net> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:22PM (#16853346) Homepage
    The last time the EU demanded that Microsoft produce usable documentation (as in, sufficient specs to program at least a working prototype implementation of the relevant network protocols), they kept insisting that the EU had demanded that they hand over all their source code. And of course large chunks of the press believed them.

    I wonder what story they'll try to feed us this time around.
  • by pair-a-noyd (594371) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:22PM (#16853352)
    They will ignore the demands and accept the fine.
    Then they will say they will pay with vouchers for MS software.
    Same shit, different day..

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SEMW (967629)
      Uh, no. This is a legal fine. MS can't pay a fine to a court with vouchers for their software any more than you can pay a parking fine with a book of coupons.
  • Awesome! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Phoenix666 (184391) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:24PM (#16853378)
    I'm rooting for the EU to crack the back of this beast. It's high time that multi-national corporations learn that they are not above the law. Arthur Andersen doesn't seem to have been enough of an example, because corporate officers and billionaires in this world still play like they think they're masters of the universe.
    • Why bother?

      Linux is already just as good, and we can get work done just as well. All that really matters is that some people use MS apps that arent compatible with much, BUT many of those apps also have export to standard data types.

      What I worry about is the customer backlash when they fuck over their media collections with default-DRM on Windows. That will pissoff more people than ANY EU or US judgement.

      Having ravaging hordes of pissed off cusomers is bad for any business, let alone when there's a viable a
  • Reality? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wev162 (721318) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:28PM (#16853440)
    What power does the EU ultimately have to enforce the fines at this point if MS simply doesnt pay the fines: Are they prepared to ban the importation of MS products and quit the MS Windows habit cold turkey? I can't see many businesses appreciating being deprived of a standard business environment/tool such as Windows or Office. I'm fairly ignorant of EU politics but is there enough strength in the political system to push an embargo though and make it stick?
    • I'm sure the various Microsoft subsiduaries in the EU member states have some nice assets like bank accounts and property that could be seized.
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      Are they prepared to ban the importation of MS products and quit the MS Windows habit cold turkey?

      Never mess with a government. Whoops, Windows and Windows PC's have a new, special "tax" of $150 until the fine is paid. Computers from OEM's that have Windows now have a new "tax" as well. Oh dear, all of Microsoft's assets in Europe have been seized REGARDLESS of whether the fine gets paid, etc... They've gone right up to the very limit with this one. Microsoft is a big big corporation,
    • Re:Reality? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @01:16PM (#16854432)
      What power does the EU ultimately have to enforce the fines at this point if MS simply doesnt pay the fines:


      Most governments give some agency the power to enforce judgements by ordering the seizure of property that is within their jurisdiction in order to satisfy the judgement: while that obviously applies to things like bank accounts held in banks subject to the government in question, and real estate, it also can extend to tangible personal property and to intangible personal property like, say, intellectual property.

      If for purposes of EU law, the the EU itself was the copyright owner of all previously-published Microsoft software, or that Microsoft software was in the public domain, that would be a pretty serious penalty for Microsoft.
    • Re:Reality? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @01:21PM (#16854534)

      What power does the EU ultimately have to enforce the fines at this point if MS simply doesnt pay the fines...

      They can confiscate MS property and assets in the EU, and they can throw corporate executives that fail to comply in prison.

      Are they prepared to ban the importation of MS products and quit the MS Windows habit cold turkey?

      There is no need to do this. They could simply confiscate MS's copyrights if so inclined.

      can't see many businesses appreciating being deprived of a standard business environment/tool such as Windows or Office.

      That's not going to happen. MS broke the law to hold businesses hostage, the EU is not going to let them suffer for MS's crimes and there is no reason to do so.

      I'm fairly ignorant of EU politics but is there enough strength in the political system to push an embargo though and make it stick?

      Again, there will be no embargo. The commission does have the clout to throw people in jail, and eventually they'll get far enough down the line so that someone will comply. In a worst case scenario they will order MS Europe to be formed from the assets, personnel, and funds MS has in the EU and grant that company the copyrights within the EU. The EU cannot afford to let a big company flaunt breaking the law or they will lose credibility and power and they know it. They have the authority and the guns and they will use them if they have to, but they won't.

      MS will comply with the EU, even if they are slow about it. They would be idiots to walk away from the huge revenue stream that is the EU, in order to save a tiny portion of that in fines. It would also necessitate a huge new competitor to fill the space, destroying their stranglehold elsewhere. Do you want to buy Windows Vista from MS USA or Windows EU (with the same features) from MS-EU? Which will lower their price the most?

      Speculation is fun and all, but really, this isn't going to happen.

  • by jonwil (467024) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:28PM (#16853444)
    Can someone give me some examples of microsoft propriatory data formats, network protocols or APIs that:
    A.Would be covered under what the EU is asking MS to release
    and B.Would actually be benificial to competitors of Microsoft (including open source)
  • Fine European Wine (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Eco-Mono (978899)
    Does anyone else see this as an incredible boost to projects like Wine [winehq.com] and ReactOS [reactos.com]? Given that up until now they've had to use Chinese Walls [wikipedia.org] and so forth to figure these things out, it seems to me that this court order is going to save them a *lot* of effort.
  • Euro 777.5 million

    That's quite a sum. To put it into perspective, the CAP budget for 2005 (CAP=Common Agricultural Policy, think of it as a big black hole that eats money) was €43 billion.
  • by Dunbal (464142) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:33PM (#16853560)
    next week, Microsoft must hand over all secret information on Windows protocols to its competition.

          But, but, your honour - we don't HAVE any competition...!
  • by smooc (59753) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:34PM (#16853568) Homepage
    quick translation:

    New Ultimatum for Microsoft bu the EU

    LONDON - The Eurpean Union has issues a new ultimatum against the American software giant Microsoft: before next Thursday the company has to turn over all (bdb: information about the) secret protocols in its Windows-OS to its competitors.

    If Microsoft does not comply with the demands, the company risks more fines, threatened EC Neelie Kroes in Wednesday's edition of the British newspaper the Guardian. "I do not live forever" Kroes said about the tightened pressure.

    Accoriding to her Microsoft has not given all relevant information yet. She compared it to a puzzle from which certain pieces are missing.

    In March 2004 the European Commission already fined Microsoft by an amount of 497 million euros in alledged abuse of market power. In July an additional fine was set which can go up to 280,5 million euros.

    original story in the guardian: http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,1947759,00 .html [guardian.co.uk]
  • by moria (829831) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @12:44PM (#16853778)
    Why give them another 8 days? Isn't it a long time since the last "warning"? The whole give-you-another-two-year thing is stupid. Look at what happened in US. If they do not cooperate, apply *heavy* tax on every windows sales. This is another way to give advantage to competitors. When MS is trying to kill competitors and refuse to cooperate, you can *help* competitors to effectively reverse the situation.

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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