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Microsoft

EU Think Tank Urges Full Windows Unbundling 712

Posted by Zonk
from the fly-be-free-little-components dept.
leffeman writes "An influential Brussels think tank is urging the European Commission to ban the bundling of operating systems with desktop and laptop computers. The Globalisation Institute's submission to the Commission says that bundling 'is not in the public interest' and that the dominance of Windows has 'slowed technical improvements and prevented new alternatives entering from the marketplace.' It says the Microsoft tax is a burden on EU businesses: the price of operating systems would be lower in a competitive market. This is the first time a major free-market think tank has published in favour of taking action against Microsoft's monopoly power."
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EU Think Tank Urges Full Windows Unbundling

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  • by phantomcircuit (938963) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:14PM (#20723821) Homepage
    I can see it now... waves of people returning their "broken" computers....
    • by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:26PM (#20723911)
      You know, I don't find this post funny as much as I find it insightful. If I had a nickel for every time someone called me about something "catastrophically wrong" with their computer and it turned-out to be something as dumb as an icon missing or something wasn't installed at all, I would have enough nickels to buy slashdot!

      My $0.02 on unbundling Windows is that it would be a bad thing for the reasons the parent specified. The thing about Windows is: it just freakin' works for the non-technically-inclined. Take this bundling away from them and POOF! They're lost.
      • by hedwards (940851) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:52PM (#20724101)
        I agree, I don't think that this is really the right solution to the problem. The OS makers should just be required not to subsidize computers and to provide a full refund for anybody that doesn't want their software.

        Requiring computers to be sold without an OS is just asking for trouble. Most people out there, even today, and probably worse than in the past, aren't going to want to install one. And that assumes that they even know how. Worse still are the times when the authentication server for Windows is down, and people have to call in.

        If this is put into place, I rather think that MS is going to do better, and that Apple will probably sell more computers, just fewer people will use OSX. I could be wrong, but it seems like this would damage OSX far more than Windows.

        I just don't see how this is ultimately in the best interests of the anybody.
        • by mithras invictus (1084169) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:17PM (#20724307)
          OS installation is pretty straightforward nowadays. If unbundling were to become a reality the procedure would rapidly become even simpler.
          Microsoft having trouble with their authentication servers can't be a reason not to allow fair access to their competitors. They will either get it fixed or lose business.

          There is no reason to make people get their OS elsewhere, just offer a choice of (customized) OS installation CD's to be included at full retail price.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by sydneyfong (410107)
            > OS installation is pretty straightforward nowadays.

            Except perhaps for MS Windows. Ever tried hunting for drivers? It would definitely be a headache to install windows with a vanilla Windows installation CD... (instead of the vendor supplied recovery disks that includes all the drivers etc.)
      • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@NOspAm.hotmail.com> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:00PM (#20724169) Journal
        The thing about Windows is: it just freakin' works for the non-technically-inclined.

        There was an article in our local paper last week about people throwing away malware infested computers because it cost more to clean them than replace them.

        Does that sound like Windows is "just freakin' working"?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      We need to privatize the government so these kind of ideas don't happen. I for one think Microsoft is an awesome company that sells really good operating systems at an affordable price. Hell, Microsoft lets me post on Slashdot with a pirated copy of Vista. Uh oh, 24 hours? What is this? NO CARRIER

      Anonymous Coward Sig 2.0:
      --
      Write George W. Bush in for president in 2008!
      Linux is communist!
    • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@NOspAm.hotmail.com> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:41PM (#20724037) Journal
      I can see it now... waves of people returning their "broken" computers....

      But why?

      Have a look at this laptop from a second-tier computer builder's website [pioneercomputers.com.au]. Scroll about a third of the way down the page to the "Operating Systems" checkbox. Note that you can choose between None, Ubuntu, XP, and a collection of Vista versions.

      Imagine a future version of the same field, but with "MacOS XVIII", "Plan 10" "FreeBeOS", "ReactOS Hurd", "AmigaOS Phoenix", etc, etc in the list. Real choice, in other words.

      Now imagine a world where you could click any one of those OS choices and be confident your data would be usable, that you could connect to any network you needed to, that your investment in software would be portable. A world where you could choose your OS based on price, performance and personal taste, not on format lockin and obfuscated communication protocols.

      That's the world Microsoft is fighting against.

      • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:59PM (#20724163) Journal
        Now imagine a world where you could click any one of those OS choices and be confident your data would be usable, that you could connect to any network you needed to, that your investment in software would be portable. A world where you could choose your OS based on price, performance and personal taste, not on format lockin and obfuscated communication protocols.

        Great, when you can find me that version of Alibre 3D design software that runs on Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu, let me know... Heck, when you find a common version of a spreadsheet program that runs on those three platforms let me know! I know this is /. and hating MS is de rigeur, but in some cases having a monopoly platform is what enabled the explosion in IT and the penetration of computers into the corporate and home worlds. I remember the way things were back in the late 70s and early 80s. I remember headaches trying to get a Wang document to translate to an Osborne CP/M system. Having a common platform, and for some applications a completely common interface, is really a good thing. Think cars, road dimensions, and gas nozzle sizes. Standardizing is the important thing here - your car can pretty much drive on any road, and stop at any gas station because of these standards. If you want to do the BEST thing for the consumer world, don't push to add lots more choices to the OS platform; that's going to end up with the BlueRay/HD-DVD issue where J6P doesn't know what to buy, so chooses not to participate. Push to get a stable, common API exposed on that platform - whoever supplies it - and go from there. Push to standardize the meanings of common icons - file save/open/new; copy/cut/paste; help/e-mail/launch web; and other common tasks. So that J6P can sit down in front of your application and intuitively know what to do. Otherwise you'll always end up with people sticking with what they know. Because the reality most people simply want to do the task at hand with the least amount of effort - INCLUDING effort to learn a new application interface. If they're familiar with the Excel interface, then getting them to change to something else is near-Herculean. Choice is only useful to those who understand their choices; to the rest, it's needless obfuscation, anxiety, and yet another barrier to entry.

        • by digitrev (989335) <digitrev@hotmail.com> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:58PM (#20724591) Homepage

          Standardizing is the important thing here.
          Fair enough. But if you're going to standardize, don't let the guy in charge of selling choose the standards. Would you trust Hagen-Das to set the standards for ice-cream? Would you trust the government to set the standards for government transparency? Hell, would you trust the guy in the meat shop down the street to set the standard for meat?

          Of course you wouldn't. Because it's just plain stupid. So why on god's green earth should MS be allowed to create the standard for the computing world? They shouldn't. Someone else (say, ISO, only without the bribery) should be in charge of the standards. And then let people choose on which company best delivers on those standards.

          As for you comment about too many choices, give Joe SixPack default options and recommendations. Or hell, let him go into the store and ask what he should get for his computer. If he's not smart enough to know what his computer should do, then why is he customizing a computer? That's like letting me try and customize a car. I don't know enough about it, and I will either do my research, or ask for the opinion of the salesman. The point is, Joe SixPack should be given the opportunity to pick what he wants, but also offered a default option should he not fully understand his choices. It's like default/advanced install options. The default is good for the average user. For those who know what they're doing, let them screw with the advanced options.

          But hey. That's just me and my two cents.
        • by w000t (1141427) on Monday September 24, 2007 @12:30AM (#20724791)

          Great, when you can find me that version of Alibre 3D design software that runs on Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu, let me know... Heck, when you find a common version of a spreadsheet program that runs on those three platforms let me know! I know this is /. and hating MS is de rigeur, but in some cases having a monopoly platform is what enabled the explosion in IT and the penetration of computers into the corporate and home worlds. I remember the way things were back in the late 70s and early 80s. I remember headaches trying to get a Wang document to translate to an Osborne CP/M system.
          you don't need a monopoly to have interoperability, that's what open standards, documented formats and protocols are for (and those works reasonably well, they just are not used enough -specially by some players).

          Having a common platform, and for some applications a completely common interface, is really a good thing. Think cars, road dimensions, and gas nozzle sizes. Standardizing is the important thing here - your car can pretty much drive on any road, and stop at any gas station because of these standards.
          some of that would be good, but i don't see why a monopoly would help with it. or did we need to have only one company building all the cars and making all the roads to come to the current situation?

          If you want to do the BEST thing for the consumer world, don't push to add lots more choices to the OS platform; that's going to end up with the BlueRay/HD-DVD issue where J6P doesn't know what to buy, so chooses not to participate.
          that's never going to happen... J6P might be a complete ignorant when it comes to computers but, at the very least, he knows he needs one.

          Push to get a stable, common API exposed on that platform - whoever supplies it - and go from there. Push to standardize the meanings of common icons - file save/open/new; copy/cut/paste; help/e-mail/launch web; and other common tasks. So that J6P can sit down in front of your application and intuitively know what to do. Otherwise you'll always end up with people sticking with what they know. Because the reality most people simply want to do the task at hand with the least amount of effort - INCLUDING effort to learn a new application interface. If they're familiar with the Excel interface, then getting them to change to something else is near-Herculean. Choice is only useful to those who understand their choices; to the rest, it's needless obfuscation, anxiety, and yet another barrier to entry.
          standards, protocols, frameworks and common sense has already taken care of most of that, but for other things it's never going to happen, which i think it's a good thing ("let's stick with what people already know" should not become the driving force behind any standardization). in any case, a monopoly is no guarantee of what you propose (just look at what microsoft has done with the user interface in the latest office version).
        • by Dr. Donuts (232269) on Monday September 24, 2007 @02:24AM (#20725413)
          Funny, every car manufacturer I know has their own "standards". With the exception of the locations of the steering wheel, gas pedal, brake pedal, and the fact that it has four wheels, just about every other thing is different from one vehicle manufacturer to another. Yet, somehow people still manage to choose the vehicle that is best for them.

          Is driving a car intuitive? No, you must first be taught and learn how to do so. After you acquire the basic knowledge, you then have the cognitive tools to be able to adapt.

          Is that to say things have to be needlessly complex? No, but then let the *market* decide that for themselves. It's one thing to give people choice, it's totally another to *remove* choice. And that's what Microsoft has done, using any tactic possible to hinder or outright prevent any choice other than Microsoft.

          Yes, choice is only useful for those who understand. Now ask yourself the question, how useful is understanding when you have no choice?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by marcello_dl (667940)
      Think about being a l'aptop dealer: you get unbundled laptops and windows OS licenses. what do you do?

      A - sell the laptops as is and wait for clueless customers to call back in an angry mood, or

      B - put a free linux cd together with the laptops ordered without the windows option?

      What if the linux cd doesn't work well with the hardware, you say? I say that if Microsoft is not allowed to strongarm hardware makers anymore we will see hardware which is easier to get to work under linux, like friggin old hardware
  • Bad News For Macs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:15PM (#20723827)
    Sounds like this would be more of Apple's problem if this actually went through.

    Why should Windows be the only OS singled out to be unbundled? Let's stop these double standards.
    • Exactly (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dlenmn (145080)
      It doesn't make sense for modern operating systems to come without a web browser, media player, desktop search, etc. The problem with Windows is not bundled software.
      • by catbutt (469582)
        No one said it had to come without the OS installed. As long as the one with the OS pre-installed costs as much as buying the computer without OS and the OS alone, they should be fine.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Exatron (124633)
        But *whose* web browser, media player, and desktop search? And can it be removed? Those are the problems with Windows and bundling. Boxed copies of the OS should contain whatever software MS wants, but OEMS and end users should be free to configure the OS as they see fit.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dryeo (100693)
        Its not the bundling, in 1994 OS/2 came bundled with a Web Browser (even called Explorer) mostly in the form of a large DLL so other apps could use the integrated browser. Thing was it was just a standard HTML 1.0 browser and could be replaced.
        Same with the bundled media player, pretty simple, played all the common formats, was extensible which is why it happily plays oggs now. And the included high performance video player had its format and example code available so you could write your own implementation
    • by Nossie (753694) <IanHarvie@[ ]vel ... t ['4De' in gap]> on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:51PM (#20724093)
      I don't think it would be a problem for Apple... in fact it might be the best opportunity for apple to sell OSX on beige box PCs. Contrary to popular belief, before jobs left to start up Next, he wanted to open up the OS to other vendors. It was his successors that brought the idea at Apple to fruition and nearly bankrupted the company at a time when Microsoft was bullying vendors with threats and pay offs. Having brought Apple back into the black, I cant say I blame Steve for having changed his mind since being at Next.

      Rhetorical hypothetical question... but is it sheer coincidence that both BeOS and NeXT became liabilities when they decided to target x86 architectures and unbundle their OS? OR, was this destined to happen anyway due to their own proprietary platforms and was a last gasp for air from any desperate company before sinking with their ship?

      (I'm not suggesting NeXT failed in the market place, but you have to admit I think Steve was relieved when they merged with Apple.)

      The reason apple have gotten away with it so far is that they dont bundle apps with the OS, but more apps with the hardware like dell 'bundles' AOL, Windows etc -- Apple bundles iLife and iwork trials.

      YES the new policy would mean Apple would have to think about changing strategy, but I do believe that making it illegal to bundle an OS with a computer would be one of the best things to happen in recent times for the Consumer.

      You could argue that Apple only has its name left to protect..... but if that argument is true then OSX is always associated with Apple. The reality of it is, I don't believe the majority of those valid OSX licenses own the Vista license they bootcamp from. XP yes? but you could hardly turn a corner without XP being peddled almost free of charge once.

      I do however think that the price of OSX would go up to the $180 -$200 mark because in the past the hardware and limited marketshare subsidized the price of the software. I might even consider putting it on my Linux box.... or maybe not.

      Yes,I like my Linux and my macs... I'm no apple fan boy but I despise what MS has done to the industry more than I love Steve Jobs.
      I for one, welcome our new hardware overlords without Pre-installed crap, just think! this would mean no more AOL and Norton trials :P (a plus even for windows users)

      What I've said for years is that "Software should be written for the hardware, NOT the other way around" Would we all not be happy if soft 'win' modems never existed? In the vision the EU wants.... they never would have.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by aliquis (678370)
        OS X comes with Safari and Quicktime and Itunes, how is that better than IE and Windows media player?

        Or well, how they are better I already know, but you understand my question ;D
    • Eh, I don't think it would be as much as a stumbling block as you'd think. Apple would just include a "Run me first" DVD that would install everything without prompts. If they did it right, it would only be 10-15 minutes additional setup time. I think they'd make that trade for the opportunity for a much more level playing field.
    • Apple isn't...

      It is not necessarily illegal to have a monopoly. However, it is illegal to exploit the monopolistic position in certain ways, to the detriment of the free market. MS has been found guilty of various transgressions and has paid out billions of dollars in fines and settlements. MS became a monopoly by illegal coercive means and maintains its position through the same illegal coercive means. That is the problem.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:02PM (#20724185)

      Why should Windows be the only OS singled out to be unbundled? Let's stop these double standards.

      Sigh. How many times must this be pointed out? Apple don't have a monopoly on consumer operating systems. How in hell do you think it makes sense to protect the market from monopoly abuse by placing limits on non-monopolies? There is no double-standard, there is one standard: if monopolies harm the market they have restrictions placed on them.

      • If they don't (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sycraft-fu (314770)
        Then neither does MS. You have it one of two ways:

        1) Windows and MacOS directly compete. They are two different OSes for the same basic market (average home users). The fact that Apple is a one vendor solution isn't relevant, it is still competition in the same market. Well, if that's the case, MS doesn't have a monopoly. Apple has a small but stable (and even growing lately) marketshare. They've been around for decades, so clearly MS is not a monopoly and hasn't forced them out.

        2) Windows and MacOS do not
        • by danaris (525051)

          Um, dude, you're just wrong. Microsoft has been legally found to be a monopoly, Apple has not. End of story.

          Even aside from that, "monopoly" doesn't mean strictly "There is absolutely no one else in the world you can buy the product from." If they have a dominant market position, and are able to abuse that dominant market position to gain dominant positions in other markets, push other companies around, etc, that is what's illegal.

          According to my non-lawyery understanding, anyway.

          So no, Apple is not

    • Uh, no. (Score:5, Informative)

      by russellh (547685) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:14PM (#20724275) Homepage
      You must not have read the report. They say:

      To be clear, this paper deliberately concerns itself with the commodity computer market, where products are aimed at the mass market. We consider the Mac to be a premium, niche product, like a Bang and Olufsen television, which is difficult to justify in the business world outside of the publishing sector. We therefore do not think that the Mac, despite claims of its superiority, provides a meaningful competitive threat to Microsoft.
      Note that word "commodity", confusing geeks world wide. It means distinguished only by price.
  • by tgatliff (311583) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:15PM (#20723829)
    My Little Opinion??

    To create true competition in this sector, the way to handle it is to allow their base Win32 API's to be implemented or copied... (Meaning, complete legal protection) In short, legalize Wine and similar projects... Plain and simple.. If they were to officially protect the Wine project, and similar API projects, this would allow for huge amounts of investment into this sector. Within two years nearly ever version of linux would be able to run "cleanly" virtually any Win32 application. This would also force M$ to once again compete by trying to get people to buy windows because it is better rather than because they are simply doing it..

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zombie Ryushu (803103)
      The regulators are not technical people and don't understand that. To make the playing field level, you would have to mandate all hardware makers make all their hardware specs completely available. Bundling or un-bundling Windows won't help so long as you have legions of hardware makers making only Windows drivers for their hardware.

      Another thing is, it would have to be mandated that ActiveX on the Public Internet be banned, WMA DRM banned and AAC DRM banned. That would level the playing feild.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ozmanjusri (601766)
      in short, legalize Wine and similar projects

      Wine is already completely legal.

      Wine is a re-implementation of the Win32 API, and is VERY carefully reviewed to ensure it doesn't infringe on copyright. That's one of the reasons why it's such a difficult task.

      A problem with reverse engineering Win32 is the lack of information. Microsoft has consistently refused to provide this, and even removes older documentation, so a significant effort for Wine is in writing independent documentation of the Windows API.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      My dust (since I'm not betting any money on this) is on open standards.

      Let the EU mandate open standards for use in their own communications (both internally and to citizens). Since no one vendor will control the standard, vendor lock-in is avoided* and freedom of choice provided.

      In my opinion, that is all we should aim for. Let people be free to choose the product they want. If that is a home-built PC with a custom-built Linux installation, fine. If it is a Sun workstation that comes bundled with Solaris,
  • by smegged (1067080) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:16PM (#20723833)
    The real issue with banning the bundling of operating systems is that it will incur extra cost and frustration for non-geeks (i.e. mums and dads everywhere) who don't know how to install an OS. Picture this: a random person decides to buy a computer and take it home. They get home, plug in and boot up. They hit a black screen with or something similar on it. They complain, try to take it back only to find out that they need to spend another $x on labour costs. The consumer is unhappy, the vendor is unhappy because they have an unhappy customer. But at least M$ gets shafted!

    Really, vendors should be forced to ask the consumer which operating system their client wants and give prices for them to their customer for every new PC sale. That would promote fair market better than "banning bundling".
    • by Sir Homer (549339) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:24PM (#20723889)
      Exactly. The only thing we really need is the ability to easily purchase a computer with no operating system. This doesn't need a law change either, just enforce the Microsoft EULA. If you refuse the contract (EULA) you are entitled to a refund on the software, and the fact that you have to jump through hoops and get denied repeatedly before you get a refund for Windows can be considered illegal.
    • Mod parent up. The idea of choice - real choice, not simulated choice, will be the key to forcing MS to put its phenomenal resources into developing an utterly stable OS. Of course, once this happens, we won't be able to talk about how bad windoze runs....which could result in the end of the world. Or not.
    • You know, when you first get a TV, TiVO, or VCR, it doesn't come fully set up. In fact, usually it involves you doing some stuff to get it to work at all. I don't see why they just can't read a box that says: "Requires Operating System" or something along those lines. Hell, even for any software, you have to know what its minimum requirements are. Mac users can't just walk in to a computer shop and expect any software they pick up to work with their computer; they have to look for something that says i
    • by sapgau (413511)
      Mirosoft has PC vendors by the ba##s by stopping them from integrating a non-Windows OS. There won't be a competitive market if you let the bully hold on to it's unfair practices.
    • by markdavis (642305)

      The real issue with banning the bundling of operating systems is that it will incur extra cost and frustration for non-geeks (i.e. mums and dads everywhere) who don't know how to install an OS.

      Oh please. Turn on computer, it says "insert disc", you insert disc and wait a while. That is all there would be to install the OS if a kickstart wrapper were used. Think of it as an OS-loader program, already able to provide any missing drivers, custom for that hardware, supplied by the manufacturer. It is no l

      • by ciggieposeur (715798) on Monday September 24, 2007 @01:01AM (#20724967)
        Oh please. Turn on computer, it says "insert disc", you insert disc and wait a while.

        I wish the pre-installed Vista "experience" that came with my friend's new HP Pavillion laptop was that simple. Instead, it was:

        1) Boot up. Wait a LONG time to enter name. Wait a VERY LONG time to get to desktop.

        2) Immediately see "Warning! Your computer might be at risk!" popup from taskbar.

        3) Wait for flash video from HP to load long enough to close it.

        4) Select "Register Later" on a *different* HP popup form.

        5) Select "No Thanks" on Norton Internet Security 60-day trial nagware screen.

        6) Select "Get Connected to Internet" on a *third* HP popup dialog.

        7) Connect to wireless.

        8) OMG FOUR programs want to update RIGHT NOW! HP "Computer Care" something or other wants an nVidia update, Windows Update wants updates, Java wants updates, and Norton Internet Security trial version wants updates.

        9) Did I mention that this computer was running slower than a 386/16 MHz running Windows 95? Turns out defrag has been running since the first boot because it is scheduled to run every Wednesday night and it is ridiculously late getting to it.

        10) Cancel Windows updates, allow nVidia update, allow Java update, cancel Norton updates. Reboot.

        11) Uninstall Norton. This takes 20 minutes to complete with nothing else happening. Reboot.

        12) Uninstall Real player. UAC. Reboot.

        13) Uninstall Wild-something-or-other gaming package. UAC. Reboot.

        14) Begin Windows updates. UAC. UAC. UAC. Reboot. UAC. UAC. UAC. Reboot.

        15) Uninstall Office 2007 trial edition nagware. UAC. Reboot.

        16) Uninstall MS Office product agent purchase/activation thing (yes, it is left over after uninstalling MS Office). UAC. Reboot.

        17) Disable "HP Computer Care" from loading at startup. Disable UAC. Disable Windows Defender anti-virus monitoring nagware.

        From a pre-installed Vista to a "clean" desktop (which still has a bunch of crapware trial installers left over in C:\Program Files) takes about 3 hours minimum. If "mums and dads" could bypass all that with a clean installer that lets them NOT choose to install gigs of nagware they would be far better off than what they get now.
    • You say the vendor doesn't want unhappy customers. So the vendor tells the customers they need to buy the OS separately now. They put up huge signs that say "REMEMBER: New PCs no longer come with Windows!" or something similar so customers are informed of the chance. They advertise services where you pick a PC and an OS and you get it installed right there in the store for you before you take it hope (or some other legal loophole where the computer is sold to the customer BEFORE the OS goes on).
    • by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:22PM (#20724343) Homepage
      > Really, vendors should be forced to ask the consumer which operating system their client
      > wants and give prices for them to their customer for every new PC sale. That would
      > promote fair market better than "banning bundling".

      That _would_ be unbundling. Bundling is "This computer comes with Microsoft Windows factory installed. It is included in the price".
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Johku (74195)

      I think that anti-bundling would merely mean that the price of the operating system would have to be listed separately and that you would have to be able to buy the same computer without one. That way you can compare operating system products and make an informed decision about which OS to choose.

      This is not different from how anti-bundling regulations for GSM phones and GSM subscriptions work here in Finland. Recently they allowed bundling for 3G phones but for 2G phones it is still illegal to sell a pho

  • by Sir Homer (549339) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:19PM (#20723853)
    All that needs to be done is to allow any customer to refuse the bundling of Windows with a computer and be able to get a refund. It should be the purchaser's choice if he wishes to purchase Windows. I am sick of literally no OEM offering a No Operating System option, when it is so easy to purchase a company with an AMD processor or a Nvidia video card. And since the software itself is protected by an EULA which (as a contract) can be refused, this doesn't really need to be a law change. The customer should not have to jump through hoops to get a Windows refund or a no-OS option.
    • by markdavis (642305) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:00PM (#20724167)

      All that needs to be done is to allow any customer to refuse the bundling of Windows with a computer and be able to get a refund.
      Personally, I think the consumer SHOULD SEE the MS-Windows cost in the sale, as a separate line-item. And they shouldn't have to pay for it if they don't want to, and hope for a refund of some unknown amount. Although I so agree that what you propose is better than nothing.

      I wouldn't even mind MS-Windows pre-loaded but unusuable and unlicensed without a "key" that is purchased separately (or at the same time, optionally, with a line-item charge clearly visible).

  • IBM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:23PM (#20723879) Journal
    Back in the 70's, 80's when I was getting into coding (not really; hated it at that time), IBM was THE player. But they were holding back innovation. I became part of the group who was very anti-IBM and pushed both Unix and DOS (later windows). It was then that innovation really came about. MS is in the same boat now. They kill as much innovation as is needed to remain dominant. The best thing that can happen is for Windows to lose their dominance or at the very least, not be able to dictate to the market what will happen.
  • If Windows is unwilling to lower it's prices and prevent manufacturers to sell other OS in their machines then absolutely limit how much it can be integrated into Windows. There are too many examples of windows killing it's competition and not letting go of it's 90% of market share. Why is it that we can't have a basic $50 windows license for example.
  • All that would happen is that vendors like dell would simply be required to offer alternate operating systems to their european customers pre-loaded.
    It doesnt mean they are required to support these operating systems and they can still say "we recommend windows whatever". What might happen is that dell
    might actually ask their hardware suppliers to provide linux drivers which could be a good thing.
  • This will also affect another major computer maker who likes to bundle its OS with computers it sells.
    • by jamesh (87723)
      I've not used an Apple machine in years... Is it possible to buy a Mac without an O/S? Would there be a market for this?

      On the other side of the coin, I wonder if we'll ever see OSX as an option on a Dell or HP computer...
      • by Belacgod (1103921)
        I doubt there'd be a market for it. Much of the mac tax goes to the hardware, so I doubt unbundled macs would be much cheaper, and the OS is (to me at least) a big part of the value. I'd rather have OS X on a Dell than Windows on a Mac.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by butlerdi (705651)
      Not at all the same. Apple is not having third pary manufacturers/distributors to pre-load OSX. Apple makes and distributes the Apple computers with their OS installed.
  • by mh1997 (1065630) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:32PM (#20723949)
    Why stop with the OS, why not outlaw bundling of the computer components? Force everyone to install all components-motherboard, HD, video card, etc. Don't allow a case to be sold with a pre-installed power supply. Think how that will open the market.

    Why stop with a computer. When you buy a car, why allow tires, lights, sound system, seats, brakes, and the stearing wheel to be bundled with the car? Belts must be sold without belt buckles, shoes without shoe laces or velcro straps, lawnmowers without engines, .

    The list is endless in the way we are inconvenienced by having to buy a product that works(ish) right out of the box.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by markdavis (642305)

      Why stop with the OS, why not outlaw bundling of the computer components? Force everyone to install all components-motherboard, HD,

      That is a stupid analogy and you know it. Perhaps if 95% of computers were sold with a single brand of motherboard from a convicted and power-abusing monopoly, fine. But that hasn't happened. There are dozens of different motherboard and memory manufacturers, more than several hard drive or video card manufacturers, and even three major X86 CPU manufacturers (Intel, AMD, an

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by flyingfsck (986395)
      If 90% of all cars were made by GM and other manufacturers were squeezed out by telling parts suppliers that if they supply one single nut or o-ring to Toyota then they will lose their contract with GM, then we may have needed some unbundling in the car market. However, the car market is reasonably free, so your straw man argument fails.
  • Bingo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by markdavis (642305) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:33PM (#20723971)
    Bingo! This is what I have been saying for many years. Consumers should have the choice to buy ANY computer with their choice of OS or none at all. And if they choose to buy MS-Windows, they will see the price associated with it, not hidden away and pretend it is "free".

    For those who want MS-Windows and want a customized install, OEM's can create appropriate "kickstart" CD's to wrap the loading of MS-Windows with all the appropriate drivers and addons. Pop in disk and wait. Plus, no more missing "recovery" discs.
  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:37PM (#20724011) Journal
    That alone should remove their monopoly.
  • They also need to look the forced driver singing in vista x64 that forces people to have to pay to get there hardware and some kinds of software to work under windows x64 DRM system as well the other parts for the vender lock in and the other carp they must put in there hardware to get the driver singed we don't need slot machine level security with tilt bits that can go off with the littlest of thing goes wrong in every singe pc system.

    And this is a big thing as the next windows may lock down unsigned code
  • "Broken" Computers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    As far as I am concerned, Windows is already "Broken" the moment it's installed on the PC. A $400 'new' windows install, gets you a system that can not:

    1. Playing DVD's requires EXTRA software (Broken Media Player)
    2. Writing and Spell-Checking documents requires EXTRA software (broken wordpad)
    3. Email Security requires EXTRA software (broken outlook)
    4. viewing certain file types requires EXTRA software (indeo codec, broken due to licenses).
    5. Recording sounds longer than 30 seconds requires EXTRA software (
  • by neongenesis (549334) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @10:49PM (#20724083)
    I was going to post this as a followup to the earlier IBM thread, but this really needs an expansion.

    Yes, IBM was the big bad monoply way back when. But we need to remember that the BIG anti trust finding with IBM that relates to the OS wars of today is that it was found to be illegal for IBM to bundle OS-360 with its IBM-360 hardware. The release of the OS from the 360's hardware was what allowed Gene Amdahl and others to split off and form IBM-360-clone companys. It was an anti-trust decision that required the unbundling of the OS.

    The big difference here is that rather than one company (Microsoft) bundling its OS with its own hardware, Microsoft has contracts with all the PC vendors that require them to bundle. So it is one step removed from the IBM situation.

    The question (that has been asked before by the likes of Judge Jackson) is: what can be done about these very private contracts?

  • Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HermMunster (972336) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:06PM (#20724227)
    Finally some intelligent opinions in favor of the obvious. The key is that we have stifled innovation due to no competition. Force the unbundling and we'll all have a choice because we can show that other OSes are there and capable of doing what 90% of the people want. With bundling we don't have that at all as most that get a computer with a bundled OS have no idea that they have a choice. This is a FACT, and you can't deny it.
  • by gig (78408) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @11:42PM (#20724473)
    The idea that there is a market for operating systems is a complete myth. It supports the myth that consumers choose Windows. They do not. There is a market for computing systems only, balls to browser.

    The $299 iPod touch music player has a better Web browser than a $1299 Windows Vista PC. If there were a market for PC operating systems somebody would have eaten Microsoft's lunch before that could happen. The iPod touch is also more reliable than a Windows Vista PC.

    The market is for applications, ways to customize the basic computer. For a Windows PC that means office tools. For an iPod touch it is music, movies, Web sites, Podcasts. Much higher-level stuff than the operating system.

    If Apple published a CD with the iPod's operating system on it they would instantly have 100% of the "market" for iPod operating systems. That would just be Enron accounting, it's made-up. People aren't actually buying anything, there is no competition there, no supply and demand. The demand is for iPods. This is even more obvious now that CD/DVD/hard disk is giving way to more chips. The iPod is a chip. A CD with the iPod OS on it would soon enough be a chip. All you're doing is splitting the iPod into two non-functional halves so you can extort money out of the person who bought one half and needs the other. It's a waste of time because there is honest money to be made selling enhancements to a functioning iPod, or a functioning PC.

  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Vexorian (959249) on Monday September 24, 2007 @12:08AM (#20724637)

    Am I the only one who was clueless about what the subject of the story was when he read the title?

    Anyways, I think this is a terrible idea.

    Instead it should go like this:

    • No subsided discounts on software that is bundled in computers
    • Computer distributors forced by law to have an OS-less alternative for each model.

    But forcing them not to ever include the OS will just piss a lot of users off, even though they are lame windows users they do deserve some empathy I guess...

    Would be fun since they are not really MS-specific so if this idea gets executed it will be a no for Dell's ubuntu PCs and more enjoyable it will also screw Apple pretty badly...

  • Simpler solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BlueParrot (965239) on Monday September 24, 2007 @12:40AM (#20724843)
    Just prohibit them from charging more for the retail version than the OEM version. BAM problem solved. No more incentive for vendors to grin and bear it with the crazy per-machine deals. No more ways for Microsoft to threaten them with increased OEM prices if they sell Linux. No more pressure on consumers to buy a new motherboard just to get a new OEM license. It solves it all. Just require that Microsoft set one single price for their OS across the entire EU and prohibit them from charging as much as a Euro-cent extra for the stand-alone version. Once you stop them from playing games with the prices you have basically stripped their monopoly from half its power. The next step is to require that official institutions use open standards, and suddenly Microsoft's monopoly doesn't look half as scary any more.
  • by bit01 (644603) on Monday September 24, 2007 @01:01AM (#20724973)

    Many of the comments on this story have been written by lying astroturfers. Lots of misdirection, irrelevant issues and noise to drown out substantial argument; deliberately confusing standards with monopolies, pretending installation time has something to do with it and many other deceptive arguments.

    Fact is, If the free market was operating correctly then forcing M$ to unbundle wouldn't affect anything; pricing and consumer choices would already be optimal and no harm would be done.

    However, M$ fights unbundling tooth and nail (just look at the astroturfers here!) because the know damn well they have an unfair advantage because of it and they want to maintain their advantage and monopoly.

    One of the prerequisites of a functioning free market is informed consumer choices. In part that requires price visibility plus the technical knowledge and ability to choose. M$ wants none of that.

    ---

    I love the free market zealots who think monopoly is a good thing.

  • by goldcd (587052) on Monday September 24, 2007 @04:02AM (#20725879) Homepage
    is not shipping a system. Whole point is I can point my mum to something on the Dell (or Apple) website, tell her to order that and know she'll be able to browse the net within half an hour of the tap at the door.
    I usually build my own, but there's something to be said for knowing that the OS is installed and has configured drivers for all the chips in the box.
    The answer, which is surely what MS is tryng to move the market to anyway, is to include a 'trial' version of windows. It arrives free on the Dell box with say a $30 trial and if you like it you have the option of paying say $50 outright or $5 a month to activate it - oh and did we mention for a mere $5 a month extra we'll chuck in Office? Extra $2 a virus scanner etc etc. In the same way you'll find a trial version of Norton on the machine today, you'll get a trial OS.
    To avoid people ripping Dell a new one, they just include a dual-boot to linux option.
    So - EU is happy as hardware is no longer being used to bundle software.
    Dell's happy as MS is now paying them to pre-install their software on their machines.
    Linux fans are happy as more people are buying machines with Linux installed and ready to go.
    MS's happy - they've got their claws into you, your visa details on record and can upsell you anything in their product library (why settle for $20 or whatever the OEM icense nets them) Windows fans... well they're not so happy. If you wanted a Dell box with Vista on it, you're now paying more to MS and subsidizing everybody who ran Linux instead... well can't keep everybody happy all the time..
  • by Tangential (266113) on Monday September 24, 2007 @10:55AM (#20729025) Homepage
    How will Apple handle this if it applies to all hdwe sales?

    Their intel offerings run Linux and Windows, but if they can't bundle a preinstalled copy of OSX, it will impact them somewhat.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fullmetal55 (698310)
      Good point, That's another thing, it has to apply to ALL Manufacturers, not just MS. otherwise it strictly a punitive measure against Microsoft. If apple were allowed to continue bundling MAC OSX with their iMacs, and windows couldn't be bundled with a new Dell...

      Here's how it would play out..

      Bob goes to best buy to buy a computer, he see's one cheap for $399, brings it home, hooks it up, turns it on, "non-system disk or disk error", he calls tech support, Tech support asks him which OS he purchased with
  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Monday September 24, 2007 @11:30AM (#20729549)
    All belief systems break down at some point, be they economic, religious, or philosophical. "Capitalism" breaks down at the edges, i.e. when you have too little capital to compete or too much capital that no one else can.

    Microsoft has reached a functional monopoly on commodity computers. This is a fact and not subject to argument at this point in time. The problem is what to do to limit it's affect on the free market?

    I was uncomfortable with the EU forcing Windows to be broken up, they is determining what MS could do internally and that seemed wrong. However, the unbundling seems like a perfect solution.

    Personally, I HATE having to buy windows or jump through hoops to get my money back, and that is the wrong the consumers need corrected.

    Just like RAM size or hard disk size or CPU, consumers need to see a line item and associated costs. This helps the OEMs because now they can focus on their business and compete on a level playing field -- not on the whim of Microsoft's vendor agreements for Windows costs.

    Any OEM daring to offer Linux or other alternative gets threatened by Microsoft's license discount process. This will take that advantage away. The OEMs won't be held hostage by Microsoft's pricing blackmail.

    Consumers' will see the real price of the bug-ridden filth that is Windows and be able to make a real choice.

    Microsoft will be able to built Windows they way the want without EU interference and will be free to compete on a level playing ground.

    The only loss is the bundled "default" windows win. Microsoft will have to, again, work to get and keep its customers.

    No one loses.

"And do you think (fop that I am) that I could be the Scarlet Pumpernickel?" -- Looney Tunes, The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950, Chuck Jones)

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