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Microsoft

MS Faces Hard Sell in EU Antitrust Case 223

juicy_pants writes "The software giant emerged virtually unscathed in November from an eight-year battle with U.S. federal and state authorities over how its violations of antitrust laws should be rectified. But it may not fare as well in another major antitrust case, now entering its final phase at European Union headquarters in Brussels."
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MS Faces Hard Sell in EU Antitrust Case

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  • Lawsuit XP (Score:5, Funny)

    by kbonapart ( 645754 ) <lashan_lynn@MONETyahoo.com minus painter> on Sunday February 09, 2003 @06:25AM (#5263384)
    The Justice Department released today the long awaited upgrade to the "Lawsuit `92" This update will fix the "Well there is always Linux" bug, and the ever persistant crashing or the case's funding.
  • by graveyhead ( 210996 ) <fletch@fletchtronic[ ]et ['s.n' in gap]> on Sunday February 09, 2003 @06:30AM (#5263397)
    Microsoft worries that competitors such as Sun Microsystems Inc. would use that information to clone its servers.

    Oh yeah, THAT'LL happen... I can just imagine Scott McNealy saying "Hey, I got a great idea! We've been spending far too much time and money on this 'Solaris' thing. Let's implement Windows NT!"

    I think what they don't really want to come out and say here is that they don't want Solaris to play nice with Windows (wasn't there a fiasco with Samba a couple years ago?)

    • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @09:23AM (#5263716)
      Itemise all the things that would be required to make Solaris or Linux a drop-in replacement for NT and protocols would be top of the list.


      I can well imagine that if all the various protocols implemented by MS were fully documented that Sun or others could very well sell a box that mimiced an NT to such a degree that people would be able to migrate away from it completely.


      That's what Microsoft is afraid of.

      • That's what Microsoft is afraid of.

        You mean competition?
  • Favourite quote (Score:1, Redundant)

    by rekulator ( 582156 )
    "... the Europeans are also studying whether Microsoft must disclose more information to competitors so they can develop software that interacts with Microsoft's server software, the central brains of computer networks. Microsoft worries that competitors such as Sun Microsystems Inc. would use that information to clone its servers."

    Huh? Sun would clone MS servers? Come on.
  • Cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @06:31AM (#5263401) Homepage Journal
    Lets face it, this is really all political. I doubt the EU will be as lenient as the US has been, simply because it's not at all in their interests to have a powerful company based in the US controlling their desktops. Not that the US really does, but M$ is really a huge and powerfull company. It's value to our economy is enormous.

    The really intresting thing is that for the first time there's a real alternative to microsoft in the form of Linux and Free software. The rest of the world is jumping on it in order to escape.
    • Re:Cool (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NigelJohnstone ( 242811 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @07:18AM (#5263488)
      "Not that the US really does, but M$ is really a huge and powerfull company. It's value to our economy is enormous."

      Do you really think so? I don't.

      For a few reasons:

      firstly the various companies (Netscape, Novell, Real etc.) that they have killed or are attempting to kill are all US companies, so success or failure in killing them doesn't help the US.

      Secondly, they have 40 billion tied up in defensive investments and cash - thats dead money in the US economy.

      Thirdly, they are no different from Wang, Polaroid or any other large company thats had success and simply churns the same old ideas. If Wang was allowed to lock us into wordprocessors, we would never have had the PC. If polaroid locked us into instant cameras, we would never have had the digital camera and so on. Who knows how many great new ideas would have come out if the PC software market was not locked down.

      Fourthly, a large chunk of that money is going on foreign subsidies in markets where Microsoft isn't strong and on new development centers in India and China. They're training the US's future competition just as much as the next major US corp.

      Fifth, the License 6 money came from markets where Microsoft dominates, which for the most part means they took it straight out of US IT budgets (their biggest market).
      They contributed to the wave of IT sackings, but they don't pick up the unemployment cheques.

      Sixth, these license revenue tricks makes their earnings look better, so US NASDAQ money goes into Microsoft shares instead of other NASDAQ startups. Those other companies may be the *next* Microsoft.

      So no, I don't think this is healthy, even for the US.

      • Re:Cool (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        > So no, I don't think this is healthy, even for the US.

        It is healtly for US politiciancs, so that enough.

        (Unfortunaltely, it is also going to be healthly for EU politicians, so I think the EU antitrust case will end in their favor)
      • and more... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ender Ryan ( 79406 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @09:38AM (#5263754) Journal
        Microsoft is also attempting to lock down the computer so it is no longer a general computing device. The are attempting to turn it into a black box that you can't fiddle with.

        If they are successful, where are all of the U.S.'s future programmers going to come from? They won't be allowed to tinker with computers in any way not sanctioned by MS, enforced by U.S. law, so either the pool of programmers will shrink to the point of disappearing, or they will come from outside the U.S.

        But what about security profressionals? While we will still have some programmers, because MS will allow people to learn the MS way of doing things in schools, security professionals depend on researching how to break systems, hack into them, how the system works on the lowest level, etc.. Are we going to hire foreign security experts to work on things our national security depends on? It will become literally impossible to legally become a security expert in the U.S., and in fact that is already starting to happen.

        We're really shooting ourselves in the head, over here in the land of the "free".

        • Re:and more... (Score:3, Insightful)

          Microsoft is also attempting to lock down the computer so it is no longer a general computing device. The are attempting to turn it into a black box that you can't fiddle with.

          If they are successful, where are all of the U.S.'s future programmers going to come from? They won't be allowed to tinker with computers in any way not sanctioned by MS, enforced by U.S. law, so either the pool of programmers will shrink to the point of disappearing, or they will come from outside the U.S.

          Which planet are you living on? On my planet there are more programmers for Windows than for all other platforms combined. Microsoft makes available huge quantities [microsoft.com] of technical information for free. Their compilers have always been reasonably prices (you can even download .Net for free).
          • Their compilers have always been reasonably prices

            And just what planet have YOU been living on?

            And no, you're wrong anyway. The problem will be that MS will have complete control over everything, and said "everything" will be the black box I mentioned.

            Software will have to be signed by MS, and only those MS chooses to allow to program will be able to program.

      • Another step further (Score:5, Interesting)

        by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @10:41AM (#5264037) Journal
        MS charges various prices on different products in different countries. In china,XP is USD 5.00. MS now ssends 100's of millions of USD to China in an attempt to keep Linux out. China has not put that much money into MS's coffers. Most of those "donations" is coming from the US economy as we are paying the top dollars. The same goes for India, Africa, and South America donations. Basically, we get screwed all the way around by MS.
        • Is that true? Isn't that a form of price dumping, or is it different because it's IP and not a physical product? Sony almost got burned for doing that with the PSX, IIRC...
      • Re:Cool (Score:3, Insightful)

        Secondly, they have 40 billion tied up in defensive investments and cash - thats dead money in the US economy.
        Well, if they put that money in Bill's mattress, it would be dead money. Actually it's kept in banks, money market funds, etc., so it's very much part of the economy.
    • by LinuxXPHybrid ( 648686 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @07:27AM (#5263500) Journal
      > I doubt the EU will be as lenient as the US has been...

      MS has been spending a lot of time and $ and lobbying in Washington to handle the anti trust suit domestically, and they've been very successful. However, apparently, even with that money and power MS can't handle European politics.

      > ... whose past victims include General Electric Co.'s legendary former chairman Jack Welch (from the article)

      The article is talking about Honeywell acquisition right? MS is becoming a big player in Washington, but I'm guessing that GE is still a bigger player in Washington and the world politics. They couldn't make EU to say "Yes", so it'll be tough for MS. Of course, it's not that I'm taking their (MS) side though.

      • > MS has been spending a lot of time and $ and lobbying in Washington to handle the anti trust suit domestically, and they've been very successful. However, apparently, even with that money and power MS can't handle European politics.

        Europe isn't ruled by Republicans who will fold a winning hand in an anti-trust suit for ideological reasons.

    • Re:Cool (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fymidos ( 512362 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @11:34AM (#5264310) Journal
      >It's value to our economy is enormous.

      really think so? Its' impact on the economy is enormous, its' value though...
      The presence of monopolies is devastating for the free economy. I remember reading an article back in '98 stating that microsoft would actually like a fall of the dot.com business, as it is big enough to handle it, while all those rising little companies would be eliminated. The field is clear on the web business, 4 years later.
    • Re:Cool (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Melantha_Bacchae ( 232402 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @12:11PM (#5264534)
      autopr0n wrote:

      > Lets face it, this is really all political. I doubt the EU will
      > be as lenient as the US has been, simply because it's not
      > at all in their interests to have a powerful company based
      > in the US controlling their desktops.

      That's true. But normally they would face intense pressure from the US government to drop it. However, now they are facing intense pressure from the US government to march on Bagdad, which means they might slip a judgment in against Microsoft relatively unnoticed. The US (my government) appears to be getting quite frivolous in the random slapping on of economic sanctions, as they are proposing slapping them on Germany for daring to disagree over Iraq.

      Once sanctions have been used, what does the US have left to twist the arms of fellow nations over Microsoft? Mind you, the US should not be arm twisting sovereign nations, but I don't think Bush views other nations as all that sovereign. His loss.

      > Not that the US really does, but M$ is really a huge and
      > powerfull company. It's value to our economy is
      > enormous.

      Microsoft is a medium sized corporation (IBM is far larger). Its value to our economy comes from illegally abusing its monopolies (it butchered other companies and achieved a strangle hold over its markets). From that economic value, you must subtract:

      1) the massive profit margin on Windows and Office milked from its customers.

      2) money extorted from companies via Licensing 6 and costly BSA audits.

      3) the productivity cost and damages to data from Microsoft's swarm of bugs and security holes.

      4) the cost to our technological future by having a monopoly squashing other companies and the innovations they would bring to the market.

      The result of your subtraction: it becomes obvious that a big greedy tick has hung on the side of the US economy for years. A tick that would be painful to remove, but that must be removed for the long term health of the economy.

      > The really intresting thing is that for the first time there's
      > a real alternative to microsoft in the form of Linux and
      > Free software. The rest of the world is jumping on it in
      > order to escape.

      First time? Gee, where has Apple been all these years? Apple is better positioned as a desktop competitor to Microsoft. Don't worry though, Linux can make it on the desktop. Watch us, we'll show you how it's done. Then we can play all kinds of fun, healthy competitive games while sharing our open source with each other (like KHTML). It'll be great! You little waddling penguins are gonna have to get into shape though, if you are going to out run a Jaguar and out fly Mothra. Catch us if you can. :)

      "Mothra Leo, the fluttering of your wings is Life!"
      Japanese language song "Mothra Leo", "Rebirth of Mothra"
      (Mothra resurrected an apple tree and the surrounding 8,000 acres of scorched earth,
      six days before Apple's surprise announcement of the return of Steve Jobs.)
      • One little thing I have to point out:the EU antitrust case will be decided by bureaucrats who are "untouchable". They've been insulated from interference by member states, much less foreigners like the USA. Any decision they come to will be pretty much removed from political interference. Current signals suggest that MS lobbying has even backfired.

        Europeans are upset by the fact that the EU is not a democratic institution but a bureaucratic one. Ironically, it may be to their favour in this case.
  • nothing to lose (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spongman ( 182339 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @06:33AM (#5263405)
    yeah, it seems to me that the EU has nothing to lose. they've been bitching to the US for ages about their preferential import tarrifs and other homeland economic beinfits. how better that screwing one of their most successful companies than to obliterate their ability to compete in the european market.

    can you say: "steel, bananas, oh fuck it, almost everything else!?"

    i'm just waiting for the chinese anti-microsoft anti-trust suit. how ironic would that be?

    • Re:nothing to lose (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gotan ( 60103 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @07:33AM (#5263512) Homepage
      The USA's was supposed to "screw" Microsoft, because Microsoft so blatantly screws their competitors and their customers. But it wasn't to be, Mr. G. W. Bush announced, even before he cheated his way into the white house, that Microsoft would get off easily and so it happened. So the USA decided not to apply their own laws to get a grip on Microsofts monopolistic bullying, and now you're complaining when other countries don't let Microsoft as easy off the hook as the USA? The EU would probably benefit more from regulating the MS-monopoly than the USA, but how is that a reason not to apply EU law in this case?
    • Re:nothing to lose (Score:4, Informative)

      by 10Ghz ( 453478 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:27AM (#5263588)
      can you say: "steel, bananas, oh fuck it, almost everything else!?"


      Funny, of the EU vs. US disputes in the WTO, US has lost most of them. You won the bananas, I'll give you that.

      And what about the steel? US is using illegal tariffs to shield it's lame steel-industry from foreign competition. In Europe we had a wave of consolidation. Lame companies disappeared, healthier companies merger, alot of money was invested in production-facilities. In US that has not happened. You have old and inefficient steel-mills, companies that are stuggling under debt. That is why they can't compete and that is why they went whining to Washington.
  • by gatesh8r ( 182908 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @06:37AM (#5263407)
    But they couldn't figure out how to convert US dollars to Euros...
  • Suuure (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    European human beings are just as susceptable to bribery as American human beings. Maybe they've more pinache so it will look official right up to the end. But the outcome will be identical.

    Case Dismissed.
    • Re:Suuure (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Although the EU and Continental governments tend to be considerably more corrupt than their Anglo-American counterparts, attempting to bribe officials regulating monopolies would be incredibly stupid.

      What matters is ideology. Bush and his appointees tend to be very pro-market, and sceptical of state intervention, preferring light regulation to sweeping diktats. The EU, on the other hand, tends to like regulating everything from the sugar content of jam to the shape of bananas. The Eurocrats would instinctively love the chance to regulate one of the most important American firms.

      In contrast to the instinctive desire of the EU to regulate everything under the sun, however, is the fact that the euro-zone economy has been stagnant for years, and is only getting worse. If Monti et al. think severe regulation of Microsoft could do any damage to the EU economy or competitiveness, you can bet they won't do it.
  • Mario Monti (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vollernurd ( 232458 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @06:37AM (#5263410)
    Mario Monti, the EU competition comissioner is a real ball-buster. MS will have more trouble "buying" the trust of the Eurocrats than they did in the US. It will just be interesting to see what they end up doing.

    BTW, when I say "US", I refer, of course, to the administration, not the citizens.
    • BTW, when I say "US", I refer, of course, to the administration, not the citizens.

      See now, this is a big part of the problem with political discussions. The US administration did not just happen. It was elected (yeah, yeah, or not) by the US population. You can talk about buying votes all you like, but at the end of the day, money doesn't vote, citizens do. If they don't like the way they're being represented, they shouldn't have elected this goverment.

      • So the Iraqi citizens are responsible for Saddam? 100% of them voted him in. He's got a mandate from the people that you wouldn't believe! (I mean that. You literally would not believe it...)

        Less than half the US population votes for Bush, even less than half the voters who voted. And many of the ones who did voted for him simply because they were voting anti-democrat. Ditto with many Gore votes.

        In a broken system that doesn't allow you any real choice, you can't be held responsible for your vote. Especially when, like in Florida, it's pretty clear than many people's votes never were counted.

        In a country that actually allowed proportional representation and approval voting (or some other similar system) can claim that their elected leaders are representative of the population. In the USA (and Canada, and many other countries) you vote only to try to keep the leader who's the farthest from your viewpoint getting from getting "elected".
        • So the Iraqi citizens are responsible for Saddam? 100% of them voted him in.

          I have two points to make here.

          Firstly, they didn't have a choice, but the US citizenry did.

          Secondly, if you don't like the argument about citizens being responsible for their own government, perhaps you should stop large numbers of overly militant US citizens from using it as an excuse to justify the inevitable civilian casualties in your merry little war. I have heard exactly this argument -- "They have a choice, they could overthrow him if they wanted, so screw 'em if they don't" -- from several war advocates from the US recently.

          • I agree, we should consider overthrowing out leaders more often, on both sides. If you really believe Bush is getting us into a terrible and needless war, surely it justifies trying to kill him before he gets us all killed. Seems reasonable to me, he's no better than Saddam, just another ruled sending his people out to die.

            Secondly, no, most US citizens didn't get a choice of leader. The US voting system is broken. They got to express a preference, but then that preference was ignored.
  • by caluml ( 551744 ) <slashdot&spamgoeshere,calum,org> on Sunday February 09, 2003 @06:38AM (#5263413) Homepage
    I'm sure it's partly due to the fact that Microsoft is a US company, and is a large money spinner for you guys.

    Over here, slowing down the torrent of money that floods out of Europe into the US can't be a bad thing for us.

    It's another reason why Open Source is good for non-US countries - money doesn't go to Microsoft, Sun, IBM etc - it stays in the local country (consultants, etc)

    PS. I'm posting this over 3G - is it a first for ./ ?
    • Over here, slowing down the torrent of money that floods out of Europe into the US can't be a bad thing for us.


      Actually, US has a big trade-deficit with Europe, so it could be that there's more money flowing from US to Europe than vice-versa.
    • Hmmmm... Excluding MS and a few others, the U.S. itself has a LOT to gain from Open Source.

      Sun, IBM, HP, RedHat, and etc., all have investments in free software and stand to gain from all free software development around the world.

      Really, Microsoft in particular, and a few other companies, are the only ones who stand to lose. And just think about it, Microsoft DOES NOT help the U.S. economy. Remember, MS/BillG, has over 40B in cash that is not invested back into the U.S. economy. Microsoft forces a lot of companies out of business, while they fill their coffers instead of allowing that money to go back into the economy.

      How can anyone argue that MS helps the U.S. economy; they are a damn leech. I say we burn that damn thing off :)

      Apparently, many of our foreign ambassadors must be MS shills, because they have been favoring MS over companies that support free software, like IBM, HP, and RedHat, companies that arguably are much more healthy for the U.S. economy than MS.

  • Painful to watch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rhyd ( 614491 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @06:38AM (#5263414)
    MS will be found guilty and given the biggest fine ever. MS appeal - and the appeal process takes forever - RealPlayer fades away (nobody notices or cares)- Bill Gates donates $100M to fight AIDS in eastern Europe and is lauded as Europe's hero, a selfless white knight whose moral integrity should never be questioned again.
    • Re:Painful to watch (Score:4, Informative)

      by MonTemplar ( 174120 ) <slashdot@alanralph.fastmail.uk> on Sunday February 09, 2003 @07:12AM (#5263482) Journal
      MS will be found guilty and given the biggest fine ever. MS appeal - and the appeal process takes forever - RealPlayer fades away (nobody notices or cares)- Bill Gates donates $100M to fight AIDS in eastern Europe and is lauded as Europe's hero, a selfless white knight whose moral integrity should never be questioned again.

      Whoa! Slow down there, Mystic Meg! :)

      I think you're getting a bit ahead of yourself. Sure, the EU beaurocracy is slow, but I think that in this case there may be more effort going into the proceedings. And Real ain't going away anytime soon, either. As for Bill's charitable activities, well good for him, but it won't make him a white knight if the press in Europe have any say in the matter... *grin*
    • That may be very true. The upcoming extension of the EU to the east may very well paralyse the European commission for a few years, until a European constitution has been passed. The initiation will increase the number of heads in the commossion and could make them unable to take any decisive action until Europe has decided how solve these issues.


      If Microsoft times it just right, they can still emerge unscaved.


      Also, we have just seen - in their positions towards the Iraque conflict - how willing the eastern European states are to follow any directions from the U.S.-government.

    • Re:Painful to watch (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @09:17AM (#5263707)
      MS will be found guilty and given the biggest fine ever. MS appeal - and the appeal process takes forever - RealPlayer fades away (nobody notices or cares)- Bill Gates donates $100M to fight AIDS in eastern Europe and is lauded as Europe's hero, a selfless white knight whose moral integrity should never be questioned again.

      Here's an alternate scenario.

      MS is found guilty and given the biggest fine ever. (10% of their total global revenue is the upper limit, according to the article - so 2.8 billion dollars.) They appeal. The appeal takes forever. RealPlayer fades away, and there is much rejoicing.

      Now the interesting part: the appeals run out, MS is still guilty, and with all appeals exhausted, they have to pay the huge fine. They pay it. The EU promptly uses the money to hire a bunch of crackerjack programmers to make the Linux desktop a true drop-in replacement for Windows. The code is GPL'ed.

      Or, on an even wilder flight of fancy, MS in its arrogance refuses to pay the fine. The EU slaps a heavy tariff on all MS products, and diverts the revenue from that tariff to Linux desktop development. The code is GPL'ed, and the ongoing revenue stream from the tariff means that they can keep working on it till there's no good reason not to use Linux.

      Not that I think that MS would be stupid enough to refuse to pay a fine. But one can always dream, right?

      • Or, on an even wilder flight of fancy, MS in its arrogance refuses to pay the fine...

        Or even better:
        The EU BANS the sale of new copies of Microsoft software and virtually every European company hires every available programmer to switch them over to Linux. The impact would be far greater.

        -
  • Legal Cases (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Slightly off topic, but while we are discussing legal stuff...

    As you well know by now, the **AA has convinced a California Court to claim jurisdiction of Sharman Networks (Kazaa) of Australia.

    Now that this Slammer worm hit South Korea, can they now claim jurisdiction of an American company seeking damages, now that precedent has been set by the Americans that it is OK to indict entities outside their country?

  • by cioxx ( 456323 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @06:51AM (#5263443) Homepage
    To blockquoth the article:
    "...Europeans are also studying whether Microsoft must disclose more information to competitors so they can develop software that interacts with Microsoft's server software, the central brains of computer networks. Microsoft worries that competitors such as Sun Microsystems Inc. would use that information to clone its servers."

    Emphasis added.

    Does anyone think this is the most hillarious thing ever, or what? I'm pretty sure Sun is dying to clone IIS or the .NET Server to replace the unstable Solaris for once and for all.
  • by NigelJohnstone ( 242811 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @06:52AM (#5263445)
    Yeh they really blew it with that Opera attack.

    Where exactly was the anti-trust officer when Microsoft's websites were sending Opera bad style sheets? Isn't this exactly the sort of thing he was appointed to prevent?

    So they proved to the world that the enforcement officer was just a sham concession.

    Also another question. If MS can't see anything morally wrong between throwing a bad style sheet to disadvantage a competitor, how do we know that Microsoft doesn't also make the cache a little slower for Oracle, or the sockets a little slower when connecting to Sun?

    I mean if they did that to code that we can see, what the hell are they doing with the code we can't see in Windows?

    • by rseuhs ( 322520 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @07:03AM (#5263466)
      I mean if they did that to code that we can see, what the hell are they doing with the code we can't see in Windows?

      This is probably one of the most insightful sentences I have seen lately on slashdot.

      • I must agree and second this comment. Hrrmmm, and I just also happen to have an ISO image of Win98 on this linux box, with od, as, and a few other tools available as well....
      • I can say for a fact that through the evolution of the Windows NT product (NT 3.51 - XP) the speed of accessing NetWare servers has steadily decreased.

        In fact, WinNT 4.0 had a MUP.SYS problem that caused NetWare access to be slow, for which they released a hotfix. When Win2k and XP exhibit the exact same problem, M$ claims they can't find the solution. Every time we ask them how the fix is going they say they're still working on it.

        We also had to take a NetWare box over to NT because an in-house developed app (using M$ Visual C++ products) slowed to a crawl when we upgraded the clients from NT to 2k. Same machines, same code, just upgraded from NT to 2k.

        XP is even worse.

        There's more evidence we have collected. But there is no doubt in my mind that M$ is trying to drive the nails into Novell's coffin through purposefully sabotaging the performance of accessing NetWare servers.

    • Microsoft will continue to do it because they think they can do it with impunity. And they're probably right.
    • by toastyman ( 23954 ) <toasty@dragondata.com> on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:54AM (#5263650) Homepage
      I realize this belongs back in the Opera story, but apparently a bunch of people missed this.

      Take an old copy of Opera (6.0). Load up www.msn.com in it with the special MS "broken" style sheet. It looks great. Now, Remove the hack that msn.com put in there if it sees "Opera" in the User Agent. (set that -30 to 0 or something). *Poof* Broken looking page.

      Yes, if they put a hack like that in there after the release of 7.0 they should have tested again to see if it was still necessary and refined their filter to only catch the known buggy version, but come on guys...

      They actually made an effort to make the page look right on something other than IE, AND went so far as to detect a competitor's browser that wasn't rendering the page right (due to a bug in Opera - or at least a very creative interpretation of the HTML spec) and give that browser a style sheet with a workaround in the style sheet.

      I agree it caused problems later when Opera 7.0 came out, and they probably should have found/fixed it by now, but I'm betting once the right person hears about it it'll be fixed, if it isn't fixed already.

      Microsoft has done some truly crappy things in the past, but this was not one of them.
      • Did you actually try out the css's that msn serves to IE, Opera6 and Opera7?

        I did and I saw exactly the same as the Opera developers did:
        • Neither IE nor Opera can render the Opera pages
        • Opera (6.00, 6.04 and 7) renders the IE pages just fine
        Which brings me to the same conclusion as the Opera developers: MS made an active effort to break the msn site in Opera browsers!
        I wasn't surprised, but reserve the right to be disappointed that MS feels it is necessary to play dirty...
        • I didn't investigate this more than a few minutes, but a friend who brought a laptop over happened to have Opera 6.0x installed on it. Without the "-30" hack in there, many elements on the page had way way too much space in them.

          Perhaps it's only Opera 6 under one version of Windows. Maybe it's got to do with a certain font size. I dunno. If it doesn't happen to everyone, it makes this even stranger, but I did see exactly the behavior it looks like they were trying to fix.

          All I'm saying is that without a heck of a lot more evidence, pinning this on malice is a HUGE stretch, even for the tinfoil types.
    • Haven't they been caught intentionally doing these sort of things in the past?

      DOS isn't done, until [something] doesn't run.

      I don't know if that's correct, but I've seen something like that before. Is that an actual quote?

      And we already know MS hides certain API's to give themselves an advantage over competitors.

    • You know, i never understood how this is ANYTHING but legal. They don't have a monopoly in portals. They aren't leveraging their OS monopoly into portals. Even if, and this is a big assumption for something that can easily be chalked up to programmer error, they did it intentionally, what's the problem? MSN.com has no ties what so ever to Windows, they could make it completely impossible to view in any competing browser, and that's their right.

      Further, MS has no monopoly on the server either. The majority of deployments out there, by revenue, are on UNIX. If that's the case, Sun should LOVE Windows being slower at all, as it just gives them additional fodder. The funny part is that Oracle IS slower, but never chalk up to malice what you can attribute to bad programming. Larry actually takes resources off the Windows team at Oracle to fund the Unix and Linux teams (because he thinks that this will help kill Windows).
  • by Anonymous Bullard ( 62082 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @07:00AM (#5263458) Homepage
    EU should require that file formats being used in software sold in Europe are publically documented in full to prevent the twisted (and existing) situation where customers are required to unnecessary buy upgrades for their software when other parts of the whole environment are made obsolete. Users should never be forced to pay just to continue accessing their own data. That would go a long way towards solving the root of the problem, instead of only chasing the ever-changing symptoms. Such requirement would also be totally fair since the real innovation lies in developing new features and ideas on manipulating the data and not in intentionally obscured ways of putting strings of data on a file.

    Also, Microsoft's anti-competitive power and their ability to use it is not just about Windows and its ever-mutating versions. Having some government geeks take a peek at the OS "shared source" does nothing to guarantee a competitive marketplace. It's about the apps. Requiring standards compliance allows the all suitable, competitively priced and well-supported software to succeed yet without locking anyone out of the market.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09, 2003 @07:25AM (#5263496)
      > Users should never be forced to pay just to continue accessing their own data.

      As we go from a software buy to a software rental model, users are going to pay to continue accessing thier own data.

      That's the whole idea of software rental.
      • That may be the whole idea of software rental.

        And the reason why it will fall flat on its face is that users will never willingly pay just to continue to be able to access their own data.

        We will not be going from a software buy to a software rental model, because the only reason for it is to generate more money for software companies.

      • As we go from a software buy to a software rental model, users are going to pay to continue accessing thier own data.

        People can, and I suspect will, say no to this if it means they will pay more. Software rental might catch on in the business world for reasons of long term negotiations or accounting concerns. But I don't think there'll be much appeal in the home market.

        I mean, Microsoft et al. have a lot of influence but the buyers' still have to sign the checks. I think this is a pretty likely scenario:

        Big company: To use our software, you have to send us money every month.
        Buyer: No, go fish.

        User (like yourself) will start sniffing around free or cheaper solutions.

        Besides all that, the rental model doesn't parallel well the actual costs and thus will be problematic.
    • by NigelJohnstone ( 242811 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:07AM (#5263560)
      Thats a good part solution, but I also think they should be hit with a large fine.
      I mean big enough to make the shareholders go OUCH.

      I reckon the shareholders back the management, because they think all these abuses are earning money for them. So you hit MS in the pocket and the shareholders will then keep the company on the right side of anti-trust laws.

      I think its better than the EU micro-managing a solution.

      Trouble is, the EU can only levy a smallish fine (a couple of billion isn't going to have the OUCH effect).

      • Fine MS $40 billion and give it to NASA to build a new shuttle fleet. Oh, and $1 million to me because it's my idea.
      • the shareholders back the management, because they think all these abuses are earning money for them

        Earning money? How? Microsoft doesn't pay dividends.

        The only way you get money out of Microsoft stock is selling it to somebody who's willing to spend more than you did on it.

        There are three differences between Microsoft stock and any Ponzi scheme:
        1. Microsoft stock is on NASDAQ
        2. Microsoft is the only entity that can create more buy-in opportunites (aka shares)
        3. Microsoft stock is (for some reason) legal.

        The only thing that's kept MSFT from collapsing like any Ponzi scheme is item #2. Since they're the only ones that can create the buy-in opportunities, they've limited the expansion rate of ownership -- which means it takes a lot longer to reach that point where everybody who's interested has enough.

        Sooner or later though, the investors will reach a point where nobody new wants to buy MSFT. When that happens, the self-fulfilling prophecy of MSFTs values being worth more because people think they're worth more will collapse. And since there's nothing backing it but belief, when that belief disappears, so does the value of the stock. Why do you think Bill G. has been rapidly divesting himself of MSFT stock? He's not a dumb man, and were it really a good value, no doubt he'd just keep it, yes?

        • Uh, MS is going to pay dividends. Further, take a company like the one Warren Buffet runs. He's never issued a dividend ever. A company that does not issue dividends but continues to fund new developments and increase earnings is a perfectly reasonable way to spend its additional capital. No one in history has ever associated the lack of a dividend with a Ponzi scheme. Do you have any economics background at all? Your comments clearly indicate a fundamental misunderstanding with the concepts of reinvestment in the business, diversification, stock market dynamics, and basic economic principles.
        • Companies do have real valuation based on future earnings. Thus the real value of a stock is based on future earnings per share. Since future earning are unknown to us (the happen in the future, duh), projections are used.

          If you look at their filings and projections [yahoo.com], you'll see they have an EPS avg of 2.04, with a 5 year groth estimate of 14%. Their stock is at 46.58.

          Whoopde doo, so what does it all mean, basil?

          Basically, if I were to say to you "give me 46.58 and I'll give you 2.04 this year, 2.04*1.14 next year, 2.04*1.14^2 the next, etc etc" you might say "wow that's good" or you do some math and say "that's equivelent to a 5 year bond at 5.2%, not really that great but better than the bond market." You might do math on other companies and find it's not really that good a deal compared to many other stocks on the market, even ones higher on the F500 list than MS.

          Now I know you're saying "they don't issue dividends, so they aren't actually giving me that." The leap here is realizing they don't have to. Think of it as if a big company came along and said, "we have enough money to buy all of microsoft and issue ourselves dividends from the profit. Is it worth it?" That's the end of the Ponzi scheme: someone buys it out. Int his case the company sees they'll get a 5.2% return on their purchase, which as I said before, isn't that great. The belief in this model should come from the fact that as the share price drops lower and profit is unchanged, then the % return on the investment is higher. Eventually, it makes sense to do a buyout.

          MS right now is in a ponzi scheme mode because 5.2% isn't a good ROI. Unless the XBox or some other thing they are working on takes off and gives a positive "surprise" for the projections (possible), or the global econonmy shifts in such a way that 5.2% is a good ROI (pretty impossible), the share price as it stands won't be justified, and someone will eventually lose. Don't get me wrong tho, 5.2% isn't the worst on the F500 (some are sub-1%), but it isn't great (many are above 10%). I'd say most of MS's share price currently is because of the name recognition and past stock performance that has amatuer stockholders saying "I've gotta have this, it's a sure thing," and not realizing that there are better sure things out there, like Citigroup [yahoo.com] at 10.5% (still not the best, but 10.5 is pretty damn good for an F500. High risk bonds often yeild less).
  • by rusty spoon ( 564695 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @07:29AM (#5263505) Homepage
    Maybe I'm being too cynical but I seriously doubt anything will change.

    The worst that will happen from MS's POV is that they'll waste a bunch of money on lawyers and maybe pay a big fine...and *possibly* have to publish documentation for some stuff they don't currently publish.

    I'm pretty sure it will be a harder punishment than the US gave them but it won't be enough to hurt.

    Nothing will change, just like nothing has changed since the US anti-trust stuff.
  • by Niadh ( 468443 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @07:42AM (#5263529) Homepage
    Microsoft's position has been that unbundling Media Player would tear an irreparable hole in Windows and stifle future innovation. It has also said that Media Player's main rival, a product made by RealNetworks Inc., has more than three-quarters of the global market

    Two points.

    1. What exactly does RealNetworks have 3/4+ of the global market in? being the default media player? Or in web streaming? or maybe being a fk'ing annoying resource hog thats only life blood is a closed source streaming protocol that most people think of as "pretty nifty"?

    2. If RealNetworks Inc. indeed does have more than three-quarters of the global market (we'll assume default media player) then isn't that proof that Microsoft's bundling of Media Player does NOT have a major affect on competitors?

    I see where they are coming from but i'm just worried where the courts draw the line of OS and application. After all, if I make a calc program for windows and try to sell it would Microsoft have to not include "calc.exe" in the next release? Keep in mind this is setting precedence that could possible haunt linux distros and MacOS down the line.
  • and it's especially ironic in light of the recent decision regarding the constitution, but thank God for the EU.

    Tierce

  • by Rhinobird ( 151521 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:33AM (#5263602) Homepage
    If the EU makes its case and forces MS to unbundle it's software for the EU market, imagine what's gonna happen. Tons of cracked European versions of Windows on filesharing networks because people want more control over thier computers. Slowly spell checking all over the US will be done UK style. What a strange picture. I need to stop smoking.
  • by irexe ( 567524 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @08:33AM (#5263604)

    All the anti-MS cases so far have focused upon the fact that Microsoft bundles software with its OS. There is another, more serious matter going on though: Try to buy an A-brand laptop these days without Windows. It is virtually impossible.

    Microsoft's OEM license differs from the normal Windows XP license in that it shifts the refund burden upon the manufacturer. If, by chance or design, the manufacturer does not want to give you a refund for Windows, you are stuck with a top-dollar license for an OS you are never going to use. Microsoft cannot be blamed, because it is apparently the free choice of the manufacturers to ship whatever they want with their laptops.

    In Europe, there are laws against bundled sales. Basically, they say that you can't force a consumer to buy a product A when buying a product B. While these laws would certainly inhibit Microsoft from bundling their software with their OS, it does _not_ stop laptop manufacturers from bundling the OS with the hardware. Why not? Well, let's do the math:

    An exception to this bundled sales law states that, if a retailer has less than 30% of both markets (in this case the retailer is, say, Sony and the markets are the OS- and laptop-markets) then, the retailer _can_ bundle products. So, if all the laptop manufacturers ship Windows with their product, that is perfectly legal, as long as no single manufacturer grabs more than 30% of the laptop market. Divide and conquer.

    Of course, since nearly all laptop sales are from said big manufacturers, somewhere along this line, the consumer is screwed. It boils down to the choice of buying either a B-brand laptop without Windows or an A-brand laptop, at the cost of a voluntary 260 euro donation to Microsoft. This is immoral. It is however not illegal. Shouldn't it be?

    • "All the anti-MS cases so far have focused upon the fact that Microsoft bundles software with its OS. There is another, more serious matter going on though: Try to buy an A-brand laptop these days without Windows. It is virtually impossible."

      Has it ever crossed your mind that the reason for this is not an evil conspiracy, but the fact that there is simply not enough CUSTOMER DEMAND to make it reasonable ? That's not fine with you ? Write to the OEMs and make your Linux-using friends write to the OEMs. Maybe this could change something.

    • Try to buy an A-brand laptop these days without Windows. It is virtually impossible.

      Done [apple.com]. Maybe you don't consider Apple "A" brand, but lots of other people do.

      Just to remind you that there are options. Ignoring those options only contributes to the future lack of choice--but there are good options that exist now. Chose them if choice is as important to you as you say.
  • I mean what authority will the EU have over MS if MS decideds to pull out of Europe? no sales, no service, etc...I think they would opt for doing that before they allow a foign body to break them up.
  • by praksys ( 246544 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @12:13PM (#5264545)
    I hope that the EU does adopt some pretty severe structural remedies, but I have to say that it is pretty unlikely for political reasons.

    For the most part the US and EU have had a practice of letting each other determine anti-trust policies with respect to their own corporations. In other words if two US companies want to merge, and US anti-trust regulators think its OK, then EU regulators give it a pass as well. This doesn't always happen - the EU did sink a big US merger a while back - but it usually happens for one very good reason. The US and the EU do not want to get involved in any kind of tit-for-tat trade war over this kind of stuff.

    That does not mean that the EU will let MS off the hook. It just means that whatever remedies are handed down are likely to be on the less severe side (pay some fines, promise not to do it again) rather than the more severe side (break up etc).
    • The EU has stopped mergers involving US companies based in EU anti monopoly law.

      They also had stopped mergers between US and EU companies, which is more understandable to the untrained eye.
  • by jonabbey ( 2498 ) <jonabbey@ganymeta.org> on Sunday February 09, 2003 @12:32PM (#5264668) Homepage

    Microsoft's position has been that unbundling Media Player would tear an irreparable hole in Windows and stifle future innovation.

    This is one of the more blatant examples of Microsoft's attempts to monopolize through bundling.

    They made a similar case with IE.. "if we rip out IE, all the programs that have been written to include web page display functionality will break. <heavy sigh/> we could hide the icon, maybe."

    The thing is, if they ripped out media player, what it would break would be the ability of software written for windows to display.. some Microsoft proprietary data formats.

    Of course, this is one of those areas where you have a tipping point.. get enough users to write 'software' in your media player, and pretty soon you can't have new competition, because your new competition will be legally prohibited from playing your content, either through copyright law, patent law, or DRM/DMCA.

    The EU is right to be looking at this.

  • No comment (Score:3, Insightful)

    by whereiswaldo ( 459052 ) on Sunday February 09, 2003 @01:42PM (#5265051) Journal
    Microsoft declined to issue any new public comment at such a sensitive moment.

    But we all know what that comment would have been: We are confident that Microsoft will prevail in this case.

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