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Microsoft Antitrust Compliance Questioned 375

rocketjam writes "Federal and State regulators overseeing Microsoft's compliance with their antitrust agreement with the government, are questioning whether Windows XP's "Shop for Music Online" feature violates the agreement's terms. Specifically, the feature invokes Microsoft Internet Explorer, even if the user has selected a different web browser as their default browser. A Microsoft representative said they believe they have adhered to the agreement."
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Microsoft Antitrust Compliance Questioned

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  • by Doug Dante ( 22218 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @12:33PM (#7271886)
    When MSN Messenger starts, it opens an Internet Explorer window with some advertainment. If you click on any of the links in that window, they also open Internet Explorer. My default browser is Mozilla.
    • You can disable that in Tools > Options > General > [ ] Show msn today
    • So does iTunes (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tshak ( 173364 )
      iTunes uses IE as its browser no matter what browser you choose. Maybe it's because the functionality of iTMS requires IE or Safari, as other browsers are not supported.

      Preach about W3C standards all you like, but I've seen some _strict_ code and there's still issues between Safari, Opera, IE, Moz, and Netscape. Limited browser support, when reasonable, is a great way to keep costs down. It just makes sense that the Microsoft Music Store would require IE, just as much as iTunes does (for Windows users a
      • Re:So does iTunes (Score:3, Informative)

        by MasonMcD ( 104041 )
        iTunes uses IE as its browser no matter what browser you choose. Maybe it's because the functionality of iTMS requires IE or Safari, as other browsers are not supported.

        I'm not quite sure what you mean by this. iTunes is a standalone app, and the iTunes Music Store is integrated into iTunes and does not use any external browser code, but some sort of custom XML.

        Are you referring to some other functionality of iTunes other than music browsing/purchasing?
      • iTunes uses IE as its browser no matter what browser you choose. Maybe it's because the functionality of iTMS requires IE or Safari, as other browsers are not supported.

        Are you sure about this, and do you have any references? I believe iTunes has it's own "browser" (it speaks XML, I think) built-in to it. At least, when using the iTMS on my Windows machine, the only application talking on the network is iTunes. IE is not being used, either directly or via ActiveX controls. At least, my firewall (which

      • Re:So does iTunes (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mr. Show ( 648023 )

        iTunes uses IE as its browser no matter what browser you choose. Maybe it's because the functionality of iTMS requires IE or Safari, as other browsers are not supported.

        First, the browser used to display the iTunes Music Store is embedded in the iTunes application itself; it doesn't launch a separate browser process like the Microsoft "My Music" link does.

        Second, if iTunes is using the embedded IE rendering control to display the Music Store (and others are claiming it doesn't), what does that violate

      • "iTunes uses IE as its browser no matter what browser you choose."

        I'm not sure sure about that. On my win32 install, IE does not get access outside the firewall except to windows update. Yet iTMS still loads nicely in iTunes for Windows.

        • Re:So does iTunes (Score:3, Informative)

          by tshak ( 173364 )
          That's kuz the mshtml dll (which is essentially IE sans the UI) is consumed by iTunes and therefore the only checksum that you are seeing is the iTunes checksum... mshtml is part of it.
    • When I read these lines, iexplore.exe shot up to 100% cpu. I swear. I am writing this as fast as I can, Windows gets meaner and blue-screens me...
  • Gasp! (Score:5, Funny)

    by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @12:34PM (#7271900)
    Microsoft not complying with a settlement order? Say it ain't so, as there is no precedent for such a thing.
    • I am shocked, shocked! I say, to hear this! Why, you'll be claiming that Hitler was a racist, next!

      (With apologies to Bob Ryan and Stephen Fry ... something I never thought I'd say.)

  • by overbyj ( 696078 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @12:34PM (#7271907)
    Govt: MS, you are not giving users a choice here.

    MS: "But your honor, we are giving users a choice. They can use IE for shop for music online or just not shop."

    Ahhhh, the MS way.
  • by Dutchmaan ( 442553 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @12:35PM (#7271918) Homepage
    A Microsoft representative said "they believe they have adhered to the agreement."

    He then turned away from the camera and said "If you don't like it, you can always take us to court"... and then he softly snickered to himself.

    • by Master Bait ( 115103 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @01:56PM (#7272826) Homepage Journal
      (RING RING) Hello, Microsoft Legal, how may I direct your call?

      This is the campaign to reelect Congressman Cornhole...

      ...One moment please.

      Good morning, this is Antitrust Compliance. May I have your bank account number please?

      Err... 3746-987467-2634.

      That's 3746-987467-2634?

      Err... yes.

      Thank you. Now, what is the issue here with Congressman Cornhole's office?

      There's been some suggestion that your compliance with the Department of Justice agreement is in question.

      Thank you... One moment please... Is twenty correct?


      Twenty thousand.

      Oh. Yes. Thankyou!

      Thank you for calling Microsoft Antitrust Compliance. Have a nice day. (click)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Microsoft still evil. Film at 11.

  • Shocked, I say, to discover that there are violations of the agreement here!

    "Your bribe money, sir."

    "Thank you."
    "Shocked I say!"
  • by 1010011010 ( 53039 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @12:38PM (#7271955) Homepage
    A Microsoft representative said they believe they have adhered to the agreement.

    In as much as Microsoft thinks they have a manifest destiny to conquer and subdue the entire computing industry, they certainly "believe" they have complied with an agreement they didn't want, fought against, and ignore whenever possible.
  • fix (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fihzy ( 214410 )
    You can bet they wont rush THAT fix onto
    • Re:fix (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rizzo420 ( 136707 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @12:53PM (#7272143) Homepage Journal
      isn't windowsupdate another thing that requires IE? i think that's pretty bad. get your security updates, but use an insecure browser to do it with. makes a lot of sense to me...
      • MS's security updates are available in other locations, which are accessable from other browsers. It sucks because they aren't all in the same place, but I bet it does comply with the terms.

        There's another icon on the desktop that opens Internet Explorer, no matter what your default browser is set to. It looks like a big blue "e," and is labelled "Internet Explorer."

        This music thing though... that's pretty shady.

  • by jonadab ( 583620 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @12:40PM (#7271991) Homepage Journal
    If you read the agreement carefully, you will find that they are at least
    minimally compliant. I believe this is the relevant section...

    Microsoft shall publically indicate their agreement to undertake actions as
    deemed necessary by the court to effect a reduction in the above cited
    anticompetitive practices and shall not ... [snip]

    If you read carefully, you'll note the language "publically indicate", which
    Microsoft clearly has done. Therefore, they are technically in compliance.
    • You can't indicate something that doesn't exist; I can't, for example, publically indicate my status as U.S. President for the simple reason that I'm not.

      So Microsoft's obligation is twofold: they first and foremost must agree to undertake actions, and secondly must publically indicate said agreement.

      At least that's how I read it.

  • by ItWasThem ( 458689 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @12:41PM (#7271992)
    Think about it, if MS wanted to stick it to the other browsers they really SHOULD use them everywhere like with Media Player and Messenger launches, etc.

    With all of the proprietary crud that IE uses to make those things work the third party browsers would crash and burn (assuming MS only changed which browser gets launched and not anything else about the technology to actually support them).

    Then MS could say "See judge, we told you other browsers were crap. Let us switch back to IE for the poor helpless users and all of their troubles will be over..."
  • The browser wars are over. What web browser you use no longer determines the operating system you employ. The point of the anit-trust suit was lost by the fact that by the trial came before a judge the technology in question was already out dated and the point of the suit moot.

    If the government officials want to do something worth while, why don't they explore how M$'s changes to the CIFS licensing agreement are in violation of their agreement, since they make it difficult for non-windows machines (aka
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @01:09PM (#7272327)
      If the browser wars are over then why is Microsoft highjacking browser preference settings?

      The browser wars are over in the same way that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are over and the Camp David Accords brought peace to the Middle East.

      The world is becoming more and more browser based, like it or not, and he who controls the browser will control the platform, which right now looks to be the network.

      That said, Jean-Louis Gasse was right when he told the DoJ they were prosecuting the wrong behaviour.

    • >> Who gives a flying...Window?

      I will NOT have you using that kind of language in the house!

  • just how sharply Microsoft had their wrist slapped. I mean really. That wrist stung for over 15 minutes. There was a red mark that lasted at least until dinner. Microsoft had trouble typing for the rest of the evening. I personally believe that Microsoft has really learned their lesson this time. I feel comfortable going on vacation and leaving them here alone, with the keys to the Porsche and the liquor cabinet unlocked. I'm confident that they now understand to respect the rights of other companies and that they won't give them wedgies and leave them hanging from the fence. If we can't trust our own Microsoft, then who can we trust?
  • Of course they said they believe that they're compliant. What would you expect?
    A Microsoft spokesperson was quoted as saying "Hell, I dunno. Sounds pretty bad to me, what do you guys think?"

  • This is interesting. Firebird is my default browser. I use Yahoo LaunchCast occasionally, which is IE only, and when I open the launchcast app it pops up an IE window. This is exactly what I want it to do -- if it popped up a Moz window telling me Moz wasn't supported, I would just get pissed off.

    If LaunchCast was owned by MS, would this behavior be illegal?
  • How dare they? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by IA-Outdoors ( 715597 )
    I don't get it. In an article ran not too long ago M$ complains about the incompatibility with Apples iTunes with their music service. Then, not surprisingly, they turn around and basically return to monopolistic practices. I know what is going on, M$ knew they were doing this and figured they'd wait until they got slapped on the wrist and then they will fix it. I wonder how many other hidden treasures like this exist.
  • I'm not an MS fan, but this is a little silly. Anti-trust or no anti-trust, if Microsoft wants to give their media player a shop option that points to their shop using their browser, let them. What next, do you want to be able to set default shops so when you click on the button, it opens your favorite music store in Mozilla? I mean, that's just a little silly...
  • by metalhed77 ( 250273 ) <{andrewvc} {at} {}> on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @12:55PM (#7272172) Homepage
    If you notice, the shop for music online feature leads to several different music retailers. One of which is []; a site which ONLY accepts internet explorer. Of course that doesn't make what they're doing right at all.'s IE on Windows only policy is just MS trying to further lock people into the windows platform.
  • Specifically, the feature invokes Microsoft Internet Explorer, even if the user has selected a different web browser as their default browser.

    Outlook and MSN Messenger "suffer" the same problem too.

    It is a simple case of them explicitly calling iexplore.exe with the URL rather than the URL with the "open" action and letting the operating system handle with the appropriately registered application.

  • by David Miller ( 622634 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @01:00PM (#7272242) Homepage
    The article seems to miss the bigger picture here...

    Microsoft originally got in trouble not for just being a monopoly, but for abusing it's OS monopoly to crush competition in the Browser market.

    Now while everyone is crying over their Mozilla not launching instead of IE (come on babies... big freakin deal), the fact that Microsoft is abusing it's OS monopoly to go after online music sales and online search engines slips quietly under the radar.

    I know you really love those Mozilla skins and Tabbing... but follow the money to see where the real crime is happening.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @01:03PM (#7272268) Homepage
    My default browser under MacOS9 is Mozilla 1.3.1. MSIE does not exist on my Mac. I have, however, installed Outlook Express and MSN Messenger.

    Whenever I click on a link within either of these two programs, an attempt is made to launch MSIE and not the default browser. Of course, nothing happens because both of these programs unsurprisingly launch only MSIE for this function.

    Since this is MacOS, are they allowed to do this kind of thing? I assume "maybe" but if not, where do I submit my complaint?
    • more importantly (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ender Ryan ( 79406 )
      Why are you using their malware? Ditch OE and MSN.

      I know I know, that might not be an option - but that's just more fuel for the anti-trust fire :)

  • Does it really matter which browser opens up? Yeah, it might be a little annoying, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not preventing anyone from using Mozilla or Opera.

    I use Mozilla almost exclusively, but there are some sites that require IE (Yahoo Launch and until this month). Didn't really effect me.

  • I use and love IE becasue if its intregration into Windows. I like that I can type in a URL anywhere and I get there. The problem I have is that my daughter got a few viruses due to those damn IE holes just by browsing websites. I only go to sites I trust so I do not mind the danger but I cannot tell here which sites are good and bad so I installed Firebird for her and told windes to deny access to IE. Well guess what if you happen to type in a URL in a Explorer windows it goes to the site in IE. I thought
  • SlashFUD (Score:2, Funny)

    by ThenAgain ( 627263 )
    When is the Slashdot community going abandon it's zealotry and recognize these fundamental truths?

    1) Apples are only for graphic artists
    2) Linux is 20 year old technology
    3) Sun has the best interest of the open source community at heart
    4) Microsoft is a fair-dealing, inovative company.

    Come on guys. This one should be obvious. Do I really have to do one? Oh, okay. It's sarcasm. There. Disclaimed.
  • Rhetoric about "choice" aside, this is clearly Microsoft's real objections to iTunes for Windows--it bypasses Microsoft's efforts to channel less sophisticated users to Microsoft's favored music vendors--presumably those that pay Microsoft a kickback.
  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @01:17PM (#7272407)
    A Microsoft representative said they believe they have adhered to the agreement.

    Tobacco execs "believe" smoking does not cause any harm.

    GWB "believes" Saddam was behind 9/11.

    I "believe" I am the Queen of England.

  • PONY! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Masque ( 20587 )
    A Microsoft representative said they believe they have adhered to the agreement.
    Indeed. They also believe that they make the best OS, that Apple is a monopoly, that freedom of choice only counts when they're the only choice, that Linux isn't a viable desktop OS for anyone.

    I'm fairly certain that Microsoft representative drove away from giving that statement fully believing he or she was riding the back of a flying pig.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) < minus city> on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @01:30PM (#7272568) Homepage Journal
    A US General believes Bush was elected by God.

    43% of Americans believe they've been abducted by a UFO.

    Nearly 33% of Americans believe the moon landings were faked.

    Beliefs a funny things, at times. Since they are not statements of fact, but merely statements of thought, the only way they can be "wrong" is if they don't believe what they say they do.

    Beliefs are not facts. Beliefs aren't even knowledge. Microsoft can know, perfectly well, that they're in violation, but believe that they are not. This is entirely possible, and not even unusual in people. That's why I tend to hang out with machines.

    • On the other hand, the question of whether MS is in compliance isn't a fact -- it's an interpretation of law, which is really nothing more than what a judge "believes." It's a little different from the examples you gave (where people are clearly in possession of beliefs that are contradicted by hard facts).
    • A US General believes Bush was elected by God.

      That General is a complete idiot, the media knows it, and are having a field day with it. What journalist wouldn't want to make a headline about "General: my god is bigger than your god. Thbhbhthth!"

    • Oh yeah, well I believe 77% of statistics are made up, while being abducted by aliens!

      That's why I tend to hang out with machines.

      Are JonKatz's "sexbots" a reality now? Wow, too cool!

  • Hey MS! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by GatorMan ( 70959 )
    What about all that "Windows users expect choice" mumbo-jumbo? Way to throw a boomerrang, fellas!
  • I don't know the current status, but in the past the "Windows Update" link in the start menu has used the default browser. To me, this was clearly a way to punish users who did not select IE as their default browser, because Windows Update would not work with any other browser. So if you made Netscape the default your Windows Update would stop working.

    Maybe Microsoft needs to fix their store so that it is compatible with other browsers, but it only hurts other browsers if Microsoft uses those browsers when the store doesn't support them.

  • Four of the "Major" sompanies that MS mentioned as proof the settlement is working is or favorite SCO.

    Other world players is Tandberg of Norway and Laplink.

    Go here for a thoroughly pissed of Lawyer [] that has covered this debacle from the onset

  • Isn't it obvious? Funding is now underway for Bush/Cheynney 2004, and they want to make sure Microsoft sends them another big check this year.
  • They blow the antitrust thing and let Microsoft off scott-free and then watch Microsoft continue on with its dirty tricks without saying a word. Why even bother with this? Is this some sort of joke? Because I'm not laughing.

    Want to do something right and not this petty crap? Force MS to actually open up some of their products so we can interoperate with them and not let MS hide behind the terms of that settlement agreement which does nothing but enforce their monopoly.

    Sorry guys you blew it. You had all
  • by sheldon ( 2322 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @03:24PM (#7273953)
    From a consumer standpoint the problem is NOT that this "Shop for Music" feature included with Windows XP only opens IE.

    The problem IS that this "Shop for Music" is even in the OS to begin with.

    I don't need this crap, I don't want this crap, and it shouldn't be there. We shouldn't be forced to have to deal with embedded advertising to use an OS, or an application we paid for.

  • by Teahouse ( 267087 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @03:32PM (#7274043)
    Whatever happened to the three strike rule?


    Feds: You agree not to bundle anymore right?

    Microsoft: Yes

    Feds: You broke a rule again, and put Netscape out of business. You won't do this again right?

    Microsoft (in 2002) : Yes, now that we own the browser market and have killed Java and Netscape, we promise to never do it again!

    Feds: Dude! We talked to you about this!

    Microsoft: Yes, but iTunes, Napster, and so many others are STILL in business! Oh, and we're NOT a monopoly! Give us a few years to sort this out will you?

I've got a bad feeling about this.