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EU Rejects Microsoft Settlement Proposal 517

Karl Cocknozzle writes "European Union antitrust officials have dismissed as insufficient Microsoft's offer to settle their most recent antitrust problem in Europe. Spokespeople for the European Commission and Microsoft declined to comment on a report in today's Financial Times that Microsoft had offered to include rival media player software from Apple and Real Networks on a CD-ROM packaged with personal computers to help resolve the case. Previously, the EU had demanded that Microsoft either unbundle Windows Media Player, or also bundle rival media players with Windows. It appears that Microsoft might get more than a slap on the wrist this time around."
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EU Rejects Microsoft Settlement Proposal

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  • by erick99 ( 743982 ) * <homerun@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:40PM (#8306248)
    I don't see Gates folding on any of these issues. He passionately believes, for example, that Media Player is intrinsc to Windows as Microsoft moves towards melding all sorts of media into one more or less cohesive bunch. Though, if he does remove Media Player and/or installs competing products, I doubt that he would do the same for US versions. I also think he may be underestimating the will and resolve the europeans. But, who knows?

    Happy Trails!


    • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:47PM (#8306337) Homepage Journal
      He passionately believes, for example, that Media Player is intrinsc to Windows as Microsoft moves towards melding all sorts of media into one more or less cohesive bunch.

      And the damn thing is, you end up with piles of crap in your memory on boot-up that you never will use, but they include "Just In Case" so if you do fire up apps they appear to just start right up, unlike those clunky competitors products.

      I'd still love to see Windows stripped of all the bundled crap and truly customizable on set-up, like Linux. It's too much to ask for tho, as you note, because Bill wants every desktop to be the same and once you install Windows, there's a indefinite part of your computer that no longer belongs to you, as they have dictated and will continue to do so.

      • by Xibby ( 232218 ) <zibby+slashdot@ringworld.org> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:30PM (#8306886) Homepage Journal
        Linux and Windows aren't as different as you think they are. Things like Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player have become part of the operating system? Why? It's good for developers. Need to view a HTML or XML based helpfile? Just use the built in Windows functions.

        Need to play a mp3, wav, mpeg, or other multi media file? You could include Quicktime and pay Apple a distributor fee, or you can use Windows Media player libraries which got installed when Windows was installed.

        Many of the building blocks of these applications are there for developers to take advantage of. The DLLs get large because Microsoft dictates that they must remain backwards compatible, so that an application coded for dllhell.dll version 1 will still work for dllhell.dll version 6 without recompiling. This is one thing Windows does have that Linux doesn't. Since most of Linux is open source and Windows and applications aren't though, both methods are acceptable for the platform.

        What gets Microsoft in trouble isn't bundling this software with the operating system. This software IS the operating system now. What gets them in trouble is that Microsoft can and does use their dominance to push competition out of the market, killing off Netscape, and attempting to push Apple, Real, and others out of the market. They could maybe get away with leaving the dlls in there, but leaving the UI components of Media Player out.

        Glad that the EU sees that including a supplemental CD with Windows isn't enough. If it isn't pre-installed, it can't compete with Media Player. If it is pre installed, it still can't compete with Media Player because Media Player will be the player handling the file extensions. The last thing MS wants to do is add a "Select your preferred player application" to the Windows First Boot, but that's the only solution I can come up with right now.
        • by barawn ( 25691 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:21PM (#8307572) Homepage
          Things like Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player have become part of the operating system? Why? It's good for developers. Need to view a HTML or XML based helpfile? Just use the built in Windows functions.


          Plus, define a standard for the way that things are launched. If you want them to stay in library functions, publish the specs. Do you know how easy the Mozilla people could write a DLL for their HTML renderer? And have you seen Firefox lately? Dear God, it's so much faster than IE in rendering.

          It's called an API. Microsoft is not publishing the API for the HTML DLL, and that's just crap. I can, of course, install Firefox on Windows, but Windows will still use the IE renderer anytime the DLL is called.

          First we had IE.
          Next we have Media Player.
          Then Messenger.
          Then Zipped folders. (Notice no one complained about that?)

          C'mon! Who doesn't see a pattern here? MS just needs to open the damned API, and everyone would be happy.

          The problem is that Microsoft is extending the idea of "operating system" to equate to "desktop". Everyone who uses Linux knows this is a pile of crap. Microsoft does not control a desktop environment. They control an operating system, and their control over the operating system has allowed them to slowly start to gain control over the desktop environment. And again, that's crap.
        • by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:38PM (#8307812) Homepage Journal

          This software IS the operating system now.

          When it comes time to arguing legal cases and to leverage the desktop, sure.

          IIRC, there'n nothing technically preventing MS from using Windows XP Embedded as a baseline for constructing a basic PC system. Then, uh, essential OS features, such as an HTML renderer and audio file decoders, could be added in a modular way (just as they are with Linux). Such a solution would probably result in more robust and maintainable code since gratuitous complicated ties between the OS proper and the applications would not be needed to support the illusion needed for courtrooms and for marketing new "OS" features.

        • Hold on pardner... There's no need to have IE built into Windows, as anyone with any programming knowledge knows. ("Anyone" evidently does not include Bill Gates nor most US judges.)

          Apple has a framework for rendering HTML, for example, that anyone can use. But Safari, Apple's browser, can be removed from the system, replaced with Mozilla, Omniweb, or any other choice.

          That is the difference between MS and Apple. Apple includes their own app, but you don't have to use it or even have it installed. MS insis
        • by schmaltz ( 70977 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @05:09PM (#8309033)
          You are forgetting your operating system history.

          Things like Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player have become part of the operating system? Why? It's good for developers. Need to view a HTML or XML based helpfile? Just use the built in Windows functions.

          Hogwash. The browser and the player were previously separate apps which MS decided to wire into the O/S as an end-run around the consent decree and the subsequent actions in which Netscape was involved. Microsoft decided that the decree was a little too confining, and got clever with its coders. No other reasons make sense.

          Where the browser is located, under /WINNT or another folder, doesn't matter, it's just one API, and whether it's over here or over there makes no
          difference. That it is more consistently available to be called upon is, perhaps, a relief now to developers, that they won't have to stick the latest copy of IE on the CD or link to it on their website. THAT much I'll concede.

          Linux hasn't got that level of consistency going for it yet, and no pretty outer wrapper the way MacOS does (and i'm NOT talking about desktops, people!) I'll concede also that Windows makes life simpler by providing fewer options.

          What gets Microsoft in trouble isn't bundling this software with the operating system.

          That is exactly what got them in trouble!

          This software IS the operating system now.

          Only by choice did MS do that, not out of necessity (except for legal necessity.) The availability of a consistent IE version on a given target installation platform is still random, so many developers choose to require IE 6.

          What gets them in trouble is that Microsoft can and does use their dominance to push competition out of the market, killing off Netscape

          And how exactly did they do that? By bundling the browser with the operating system. That's what got them in trouble. It was the result of clever legal scheming, not any particular coding need.
      • by iminplaya ( 723125 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:12PM (#8307443) Journal
        because Bill wants every desktop to be the same

        I would suspect that many users(especially office people, like secretaries, temps, etc.) want the same thing. It can be a real pain if every machine were configured differently. Imagine if you had to spend time relearning where everything is every time you change jobs or even departments within your company. I thought(though I'm probably wrong) that Microsoft made their software for businesses originally, not the home user, and thus wanted to create a similar configuration on all machines. Call me naive or whatever(just don't call me late for dinner), but I think that concept is a good thing under those circumstances.
      • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:22PM (#8308380)
        And the damn thing is, you end up with piles of crap in your memory on boot-up that you never will use, but they include "Just In Case" so if you do fire up apps they appear to just start right up, unlike those clunky competitors products.

        I've been wondering about this. I visited the Microsoft Update site the other day, to download something for my WinXP box. While there, I noticed that some of the security patches go out of their way to say that they are necessary for any PC with Internet Explorer version n installed, even if you don't use it as your web browser.

        If the very presence of the software on my machine can cause a security vulnerability, that's surely a compelling argument that just optionally removing the front-end (basically a couple of icons and some menu entries) but still leaving the back-end around is not an adequate standard of "independence".

        That's on top of the irritating way that options in Outlook Express now seem to be affected by what the user does in Office, and can't be changed back within OE itself, or the way that resizing the text in IE seems to affect help viewed in numerous other apps, again requiring some relatively fiddly setting to revert it to normal, which in turn reverts IE anyway.

        One of these days, I really will get around to intalling a Linux distro on that 25GB partition I've been leaving aside on my new (a year ago...) PC. :-)

    • In all honesty, I don't think its the government's responsability to ensure stupid users have XYZ Media Player on their computers. Yes MS is huge, and yes they virtually have a monopoly on the PC market, but bundling Netscape/Real/etc with Microsoft's Operating Systems makes no logical sense.

      The aim at a suit like this should be to punish MS for strong-arming manufacturers like Dell, Gateway, etc into using MS software over the competition. Its the manufacturers responsability to bundle third party softw
      • by pyros ( 61399 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:58PM (#8306488) Journal
        Well, the inclusion of competitors products was Microsoft's idea for settlement. The government should be trying to force Microsoft to competitors in the application space the same access to OS-level APIs as their own developers receive. I think the licensing is important too, but until there is a level playing field to develop products to the same platform (I believe having access to a restriced API means it's not the same platform) it won't change much to let OEMs install competing products. There still won't be room to compete on technical merit, letting the customers decide.
        • Well, the inclusion of competitors products was Microsoft's idea for settlement.

          This is because Microsoft knows that Real and Netscape are not competitors of WMP; Real Player sucks and, well, what's to say about Netscape... But it does make for good press, after all, the ignorant press guys will just parrot Bill Gates saying "look, M$ has agreed to include competitors software" totally oblivious that Microsoft no longer cares about Real and Netscape, two technologies that Billy-Boy has already wiped.

        • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:24PM (#8306819) Homepage Journal

          The reason that Microsoft suggested that they bundle competing products with Windows is that Microsoft knows that there is more to winning the streaming media contest than simply having your software installed.

          Right now, as we speak, Microsoft is busing lining up all of the large content providers and selling them on using Windows Media Player as the the new distribution medium for their content. Hollywood and her allies are dying for a way that they can use the Internet to distribute their media, but up until recently there wasn't really a distribution system that was secure enough for their needs. Microsoft is promising that delivery system, and they are using the fact that they already have WMP installed on millions of machines as the carrot. The stick is that if the companies don't start sharing their content under Microsoft's secure DRM system that end users are likely to beat Hollywood to the punch and start sharing content on their own (like they already do with music). No one else has the comprehensive DRM system that Microsoft has, and certainly no one has anything close to Microsoft's install base.

          Real is done, and Apple is done too, they just don't know it yet. In the long run the fight is going to be between Microsoft's DRM-supported formats and unencrypted formats.

          • by pyros ( 61399 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:38PM (#8306990) Journal
            Microsoft hasn't been able to unseat Apple in the online Music distribution, and I doubt they ever will. This is an example of customers deciding which offering will win. The customers are saying, in no uncertain terms, the restrictions on usage imposed by Windows DRM are unacceptable. The restrictions imposed by Apple DRM are a fair trade for the product. Microsoft already has licensing dealswith several large music services, and Apple beats them all combined. Because the customers say so. I believe that if Microsofts involves itself in online movie distribution in the same manner as it has for music, Apple will have no trouble beating them in that market by doing the movie equivalent of iTunes+iTMS.

            The unfortunate reality of all this, however, is that Microsoft will still have an unfair advantage ,when it comes to the number of installations of competing products, due to the collaboration between the OS and Apps.

      • by Frizzle Fry ( 149026 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:00PM (#8306509) Homepage
        bundling Netscape/Real/etc with Microsoft's Operating Systems makes no logical sense.

        I agree. What happens if I go home tonight and create my own crappy media program that no one uses. Will they have to bundle that too? No? The EU seems to think it makes sense to give preference to a few products that they deem worthy. This doesn't seem like a good way for business to operate at all.
      • With all due respect, I think the point of the ruling is to ensure that M$ doesn't leverage its dominance in the OS market to dominate/monopolize other markets as well.

        Bundling Windows Media Player with Windows XP (and having it installed as the default media app.) removes any need the typical consumer might have to investigate other options. This is why the EU is protesting M$'s solution. Unless Real is installed along with WMP, the average consumer won't use Real or WinAmp, thereby stiffling competition.

        • Bundling Windows Media Player with Windows XP (and having it installed as the default media app.) removes any need the typical consumer might have to investigate other options

          I think including Windows Media Player has this effect. I think for the pruposes of these trials, bundling means to make the app a part of the OS. It means WMP can't be removed, you will always have it on your system, even if you expressly don't want it. And also that WMP has more access to the system than competing products, so it ap

      • by Inhibit ( 105449 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:35PM (#8306958) Homepage Journal
        At least according to American (and apparently European) courts. Microsoft is, in fact, a monopoly.

        On a side note. When a monopoly is leveraged it starts affecting other markets, not just the one it currently occupies. Revenues from the Microsoft OS let them loose money everywhere else to stifle competition. Which is why hinging on single issues with a monopoly won't have a detrimental affect to it's continued status as such.

        What the chairman of Microsoft believes or doesn't is irrelevant, as the actions of the corporation as a whole are in question.
  • Must be Punished (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doesn't_Comment_Code ( 692510 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:43PM (#8306276)
    It appears that Microsoft might get more than a slap on the wrist this time around.

    It's got to. If the risk of breaking the law and getting caught is not substantially worse than the negative consequences of acting lawfully, then rationally, there is no reason to follow the law. That is what MS has done for years. And if the trend continues, they would be smart to continue doing just that.

    I beleive the EU may have this in mind as part of the reasoning for sticking it to them a little harder this time.
    • by millahtime ( 710421 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:50PM (#8306368) Homepage Journal
      Will they stick to the punishment. So many things don't these days. I caused a car accident totally not only my car but the other guys car out. It was ugly and obviously totaled. I got a ticket but I ended up with no opints and $145 USD in fines. That's it. My car was totally covered so I just got a new one and went on my merry way. Kids in schools are not even taught punishment anymore. They are taught to have their energy redirected. Will they be able to hold to a punishment??? I hope so but have major doubts.
    • I beleive the EU may have this in mind as part of the reasoning for sticking it to them a little harder this time.

      What are the range of punishments that the EU can hand out? I know that they can impose large fines, I believe as high as 10% of global revenues. Can they also ban a company from operating in the EU, or otherwise block its products? Not that I'm sure how they would justify such a ban (certainly, the inability to buy or import a Windows PC would create a great deal of consumer inconvenienc

      • by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:57PM (#8307241) Journal
        While the EU might be able to ban Microsoft products (stress on the word "might"; I don't know if they actually could do this) it wouldn't do so. For one thing, Microsoft employs more than a handful of Europeans, in the UK and Ireland especially, and, for another thing, doing so would kick off an almighty trade war with the US.

        Although it preaches free trade, the US rarely practices it (cf tarriffs on Canadian lumber, worldwide steel, etc). You can bet your bottom dollar that it would be more than happy to kick off a trade war with the EU if it were to ban Microsoft products, even if such a ban was legal under EU law. Any President who wasn't in the pocket of big business would still do it, in only to gain a few points in the polls: there's nothing a politician loves more than a "them vs. us", flag-waving contest.

        Expect fines (big by our standards, pocket change by Microsoft's), and perhaps (if you're lucky) a shake-up in the way that Microsoft bundles apps such as Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player but don't hold your breath for anything more than that.
  • by xao gypsie ( 641755 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:44PM (#8306297)
    i would make mr gates walk from normandy to rome giving out cd's with slackware to everyone he sees telling him how sorry he is and how much France can kick his ass...
  • by Dlugar ( 124619 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:45PM (#8306303) Homepage
    Now, I'm no Microsoft fanboy, but I really don't see what the big deal is with Windows Media Player. Like somebody pointed out (Monkeyboy Ballmer IIRC), Windows has shipped with a Media Player since Windows 3.1 at least, and nobody's complained about illegal bundling.

    Of course, what they might be doing (although I haven't been able to find any reputable sources for this) is disallowing OEMs to pre-install, say, Quicktime and Realplayer on the systems they sell. If indeed they're doing this, that is (imnsho) abusing their monopoly, and they should be forced to allow OEMs and others to pre-install whatever software they want.

    But to require them to bundle Quicktime/Realplayer/whatever with Windows? That seems wrong on so many levels ...

    • Well, it's a good thing you agree with the EU. The bundling was Microsofts offer in hope they could get out easy, but the EU thougth this was a lousy deal

      Or, for a one word response, RTFA.
    • Should they not then be forced to also include alla other media players so that they do not five preference to just a few of the competitors - that would not be fair to Microsoft at all since there are alot of other players for many medias.

      The only fair thing would be to force Microsoft to not bundle the player with the OS - and that is just what EU wants.

    • by jrp2 ( 458093 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:57PM (#8306466) Homepage
      Personally, what I would really like to see this time around is them forcing MS to open up their file formats. If there is one thing I see them using to maintain their monopoly in Office software is the fact the competitors need to reverse engineer the file formats to even begin to compete. The reverse engineering is not perfect, therefore there are problems. If they totally documented .doc (and the new XML format), and are not allowed to "patent" (or copyright or whatever) it, that would open up the Office software industry quite a bit and allow everyone to compete on functionality and features, rather than who has the keys to make files flow seemlessly between users. This clearly goes to the heart of the effects of having a monopoly.
    • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:12PM (#8306659)
      Now, I'm no Microsoft fanboy, but I really don't see what the big deal is with Windows Media Player. Like somebody pointed out (Monkeyboy Ballmer IIRC), Windows has shipped with a Media Player since Windows 3.1 at least, and nobody's complained about illegal bundling.

      In Windows 3.1, there was no Windows Media format, and there certainly was no DRM. The player isn't the problem, it is Microsoft's ability to leverage their marketshare to push out open multimedia formats in favor of their own.

      Now you can argue that there will always be alternatives, but the company with the huge advantage in the Operating System marketshare should not be able to use that monopoly power to kill competition in other areas such as multimedia. Remember, it isn't illegal to be a monopoly, it is illegal to abuse that monopoly power. Which Microsoft has done, and continues to do.

    • Dlugar said: "Of course, what they might be doing (although I haven't been able to find any reputable sources for this) is disallowing OEMs to pre-install, say, Quicktime and Realplayer on the systems they sell."

      That is one of the arguments of Real's ongoing suit against Microsoft (they sued 18 Dec 2003): "Other charges allege that Microsoft used contractual restrictions and financial incentives to "force PC makers to accept Windows PC operating systems with the bundled Windows Media Player and to restric

    • "Now, I'm no Microsoft fanboy, but I really don't see what the big deal is with Windows Media Player."

      Here's a question for you. Why does Microsoft get to determine what comes with a Dell computer? Think about that for a second. Microsoft wants to "improve Windows" for the "consumer", or so the argument goes. I don't see things that way. Imagine a world for a moment where Windows has a standard API interface, disk formats, and drivers, and Dell can put any text editor, any browser, any media player,
    • Media players are only part of this equation.

      Keep in mind this case is about AT activity where MS has been accused of leveraging their technologies into new markets.

      Assuming MS continues it's current bundling practice. What products are content providers likely to select, especially when you factor DRM, into the picture once mediaplayer is installed on 95% of the desktop market?

      The simple answer is that they will select win media server and the wmv format. While media player does, and has supported other
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:46PM (#8306318)
    Thank you for contacting Microsoft Sales!

    After processing your request, we have determined that your upgrade cost will be:


    Thank you,
    Microsoft Sales
  • by kwandar ( 733439 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:47PM (#8306342)

    There is some logic in the US going easy on Microsoft. They aren't nearly as impartial. Microsoft contribute greatly to the US economy, providing jobs, and significant cash/balace of trade inflows.

    The EU is impartial, as they doen't receive similar benefits. The end result will be closer to what the US result should have been, but wasn't, unless Massachusetts prevails.

    • no, not really (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ender Ryan ( 79406 )
      Microsoft does not really contribute to the U.S. economy at all. Microsoft rakes in nearly 20B every year, while paying literally zero dollars in income tax. Microsoft employs less than 10k people, not really that many jobs.

      Microsoft is sitting atop tens of billions of $ that isn't is no longer in circulation.

      Really, I think the U.S. going easy on Gates is simply our corrupt rich leaders scratching the back of another rick man. I really don't see how it could be taken any other way.

      You do realize t

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:48PM (#8306346)
    Microsoft had offered to include rival media player software on a CD-ROM packaged with personal computers to help resolve the case.

    Who decides which (presumably free) media players go on the CDROM then? Is it just RealPlayer and 1 or 2 others (the major ones) or can anybody get in, i.e. Mplayer and other lesser known media players? And surely Microsoft's own WMP would have stayed the one installed by default, effectively nulling the advantage of having other alternatives available on the CD.

    No really, that was obviously a trick to fool the EU antitrust commision. I'm glad they saw through Microsoft's "good will" proposals, unlike their US counterparts.
    • by tommck ( 69750 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:52PM (#8306413) Homepage
      Yeah... just like giving away versions of their products to schools is some sort of punishment!

      That's like these class action lawsuits (the one against monitor manufacturers for selling 15.9 inch "17 inch" monitors comes to mind) where you get a coupon for some insanely small amount ($5) off of a new monitor! Jesus... that's not a penalty! Give me cash! Make Microsoft pay reparations! Where's the BEEF?
  • Let's hope (Score:5, Interesting)

    by totatis ( 734475 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:48PM (#8306351)
    Let's hope that Microsoft won't be able to buy its way out like it did in the US.

    Seriously, I'd like to see Europe calm down Microsoft. Let's them compete on pure merits, and stop quashing competition. One can only hope that in a few years, you will be able to choose between different OS, without locking oneself out of a lot of content.
    I know that some alternatives start to emerge, and that you can now play a lot of videos on Linux, but the Microsoft lockin is still very strong.

    Europe slapping Microsoft could mean more money from investors in rivals, thus leading in acceleration of competition's offerings.
    A good thing, IMO.
  • Why the option? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by obsid1an ( 665888 ) <obsidian AT mchsi DOT com> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:48PM (#8306354)
    I don't understand why there is an option to add other manufacturer's media players. Just tell them to remove theirs and let that be the end of it. Are they going to include ALL media players? Even lesser known ones like BSPlayer [bsplayer.org]? What about DivX player? This really isn't a valid option.

    However, even if they are told to remove their media player, it will most likely be how you can "remove" MS Messenger. Hell, last time I reformated and uninstalled MS Messenger it didn't even delete the icon which as far as I can tell, is all it is supposed to do.

  • by lake2112 ( 748837 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:49PM (#8306365)
    Windows comes installed with Notepad, so now Windows comes installed with Notepad, EditPlus and UltraEdit. (even though they are better than notepad) Windows comes installed with MS Paint so can I get Photoshop installed with Windows.
  • Real Media? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:49PM (#8306366)
    Real is much much worse than even Microsoft. They resembly hackers more than a real software company, and virtualy take over machines they are installed on. Lets get some real competition based upon standards, like MPG, HTML, and not the crap that all tech companies put out that changes ever 3 months. This is the 90's failed way of doing things, build roads, not silicon valley failure.
    • Re:Real Media? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rqqrtnb ( 753156 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:52PM (#8306404)
      You make a valid point about file format standards, the software industry does need to make use of file formats that are not tied to a particular operating system, making open file formats that can be viewed, played, read & written to, by any OSs applications is a must, companys like Microsoft is definatly not going to start doing this without a fight...

      I hope the EU puts the squeeze on Microsoft since the USDOJ did not have the spine and/or gumption to do it...
    • Re:Real Media? (Score:3, Insightful)

      This is one lesson any company should take if they're considering installing malware with their products, or, as Real did, making a part of their product malware: you will never, ever, live it down.

      Real has actually been fairly well behaved for a while, their latest stuff doesn't do the things that they're infamous for, but few technically minded people know this because either they haven't touched the stuff for a while - knowing the reputation - or because they've just assumed it must still be there but

  • by cozziewozzie ( 344246 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:50PM (#8306367)
    I hate MS as much as the next guy because of their hideous record when it comes to competition and quality, but since when is bundling QT and RealPlayer seen as a solution to their monopoly? I mean, I want RealPlayer AND WMP both OFF my computer, and not be forced to suffer both of them!

    A real solution would be to ship completely without the media player and any DLLs relating to it, and make people download it, or allow OEMs to install a competing player if they so wish. Same should be done for IE. I know that both are buried deep into the system, but it's their problem, not mine.

    Additionally, they should be required to disclose their audio and video formats. If they are truly a part of the system, then this information is needed for interoperability. Let's hope we get open file formats, and not RealPlayer rubbish being forced down our throats in addition to WMP!
    • by aug24 ( 38229 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:58PM (#8306483) Homepage
      allow OEMs to install a competing player if they so wish

      This is the crux of it... currently the OEM restrictions are pure evil. The big one is the dual-boot clause: no non-Microsoft OS to dual boot with a Microsoft OS. So if you want to offer a version of Windows (and they all do), you can't offer Linux or *BSD (or previously, Be) on the same box.

      This was the issue that the US govt wimped out on badly, and I'm hoping the EU will stand firm.


    • Microsoft should be allowed to bundle or ship any software it wants with it's Operating System. Period. If MS wants to ship Media Player (which has shipped since Windows 3.1) - then fine. If they want to ship / bundle Internet Explorer with Windows, fine.

      After all - Windows is Microsoft's Operating System. So what's the problem here?

      And since MS owns the OS, Microsoft should be legally allowed to break other vendors applications by changing the Windows API, or by changing the File Formats for it's data

  • by calmdude ( 605711 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:52PM (#8306395)
    I can understand where Bill Gates et. al. are coming from. Most people who use Windows are not very proficient at using various media players. They want to be able to click on a link and automatically have it work AND have it be consistent. Out-of-the-box functionality is what Microsoft is trying to achieve, especially for all of the regular users out there.

    As far as Microsoft is concerned, those who need Real/QT can just download it from their respective sites.

    I think where Microsoft should really have been hit hard was with the whole IE/Netscape saga. With that, it wasn't simply a matter of not packaging Netscape with Windows, it was a matter of Microsoft's systematic attempt to destroy Netscape as a rival browser.

    Ah well, just my 2 cents. And yes, I use Windows at work, but I'm a *BSD guy everywhere else.

    • Common people. Inform yourselves, read, google a bit more.

      MS makes deals in which they forbid PC manufacturers to bundle any other software but MS's own.

      THus if DEll, HP or another company want to distribute MS Windows *and* a non MS media player, MS will not sign a contract that would allow a manufacturer to do just that.

      You may undertand Bill Gates, I also understand Jack the Ripper, and frankly I don't like my understanding of him.
  • by blorg ( 726186 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:52PM (#8306406)
    ... to control the future media distribution standard, and impose a 'Microsoft tax' similar to that they have on PCs today. Its importance to them cannot be overestimated, and they will fight tooth and nail to maintain its position. Robert X Cringely has a very interesting article on Microsoft's media strategy [pbs.org] in his ongoing coverage of Burst.com's [burst.com] patent-infingement suit against MS/WMA.
  • microsoft tax (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cribb ( 632424 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:52PM (#8306409)
    next step is to get rid of the microsoft tax, it can't be legal at the very least to bundle a copy of windows with every PC, and especially with every notebook out there. thus forcing the users into purchasing windows, and as we all know, a windows refund is more of a dream/theory than a reality, despite what microsoft promise/say.

    Maybe is microsoft is banned to sell their software to OEM vendors at preferential prices, so as not to give big PC vendors a reason to force people to buy windows PCs, we could atlast have a free market?

  • by rqqrtnb ( 753156 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:54PM (#8306432)

    THAT is in the licensing agreement of Windows. Just for fun and to create a lot of headaches, go to your nearest retailer and tell them to take $200.00 off of the price of a computer you want and to delete windows from the hard drive because you do not agree with the terms of the license. They will jump up and down and say lots of funny things. They will tell you that "we cannot do that". Tell them that they are bound by the license agreement the same as you. Then after they are finished throwing their pop-eyed double-barrelled hissy fit, tell them that you decided that you can spend your $2K elsewhere and that they just lost a sale! It's fun, try it sometime.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:56PM (#8306450)
    It's about how tightly they are integrated into the OS. Come on, they can bundle all the software they want. You can't tell them what to put in their own product. However, the thing that bothers me is that they integrate Internet Explorer, Media Player, Outlook, and all their other crap into Windows and make it hard for other programs to achive the same level of integration. For example, in Windows XP Media Player is integrated into IE. Outlook is integrated into the user account. Outlook is speciallized for hotmail.
  • by UnidentifiedCoward ( 606296 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:56PM (#8306456)
    Unfortunately, I have little faith in the EU to actually successfully force the issue here. As one reader already commented, any restrictions imposed will almost surely never see light in the US.

    Far be it from our own congressional leaders or regulators to take any inspiration from a EU success, but that is a separate tangent.

    It is my opinion that Microsoft has the monopoly they have at the behest of the consumer market which continues to support their products with dollars or euros in this case. Dollars have always spoken louder than votes, and until a viable competitor arises any regulation/restrictions/bundling/unbundling current or future will be seen as nothing more than a minor set back for Microsoft, not a solution.

    The recent success introducing Linux (or any other alternative) definitely suggests that such a thing is not the barrier, rather it is the mind set. It was "marketing", t-shirts and stupid stuff penguins. And it will take something similar, if more tangible to convince CEOs and CTOs that there is a viable alternative to windows. It is rather ironic that they complain with one handand then buy 100K in licenses with the other. It is the responsibility of the entrenched IT community to instigate change where such change is economically viable. This is not a principal issue, but an economic one and the ultimately, the best solution to the problem will win if presented correctly on a case by case basis.

    Of course, this all circles back to my original point. Unless, the mind set of the consume is altered (ideally in the work place where I find most of the user trends are set), then and only then will the "monopoly" be broken. Any attempt to regulate/bundle/unbundle Windows and its products will fail so long as the dollar/euro votes continue to pour in.

    Just my 2 cents.
    • any restrictions imposed will almost surely never see light in the US.

      So what? They don't have to. Microsoft is incorporated in several european countries. If the EU puts a fine on them, they can either pay up, or have their shops closed down and their assets confiscated.

      Obviously, that won't happen overnight, but the threat for M$ is very real, and "but we're a US company" won't help them the least.
  • by rqqrtnb ( 753156 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:59PM (#8306492)
    So, now M$ has claimed that their Media player is an intregral part of windows and windows would be "substandard" without it?

    Interesting argument, much akin to the argument they used about IE.

    Now, let's ask a hypothetical question. If this were about automobiles, and the question was about whether or not the manufacturer could force a person to use ONLY the built-in radio what would be the argument?

    "Well, judge, if we had to remove the radio, we would also have to remove all the stuff it uses, like the wiring, the alternator and the battery, so the car wouldn't run. So, you see, the radio is an integral part of the car and forcing us to remove it and letting people use someone else's radio would cripple the car."

    Absurd? Well, that's exactly what they said about their browser and are now saying about the media player.
  • I hate to say it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by techsoldaten ( 309296 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:03PM (#8306546) Journal
    I hate to say it, but the Europeans are being too strict with Microsoft in this case, and it is hard to imagine how this remedy makes things easier for the average consumer. They are forcing options on a group of people who are probably already overwhelmed by the technology itself.

    While Windows Media player is pure evil forged on a workstation powered by souls of the damned that is used at the peril of one's immortal soul and all that, it is hard to imagine why someone would need 7 different media players on their computer. Joe Average is going to want to play mp3s and videos on his PC, not spend time trying to understand the distinctions between WMA, RMA, MOV, etc.

    It just doesn't seem right that choice should be forced on people. If Microsoft wants Windows to default to Windows Media when someone wants to play a CD, I do not understand what the problem is. They built the product, they understand how it works, and they have to field the support calls when someone wants to know why something doesn't work right. If somebody doesn't like it, they can install another player or turn to Linux just as easily.

    • by aug24 ( 38229 )
      Did you read the article?!

      As far as I can see, no-one is making MS install loads of different things. All they want is to allow the OEMs to install what their customers want, and remove (remove) things they don't.

      Is that so unfair?


  • by Killswitch1968 ( 735908 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:05PM (#8306567)
    Microsoft may bundle the media player to gain control, but aren't they also satisfying customer demand? Wouldn't Joe User like to play mp3s and movies out-of-the-box? Isn't bundling more of a convenience in this case?

    It may be 'uncompetetive', but surely if RealPlayer or Quicktime were SIGNIFICANTLY better alternatives, and advertised as such, people would voluntarily switch media players. Why do you think iTunes is doing so well?

    If anything they should be forced include an uninstaller with WMP.
    And why should iTunes or RealPlayer be candidates for bundling? Is swapping one proprietary format for another accomplishing anything?
  • One possible penalty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by One Louder ( 595430 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:12PM (#8306649)
    I thought the right answer for the US, and possibly for Europe, is that Microsoft be prohibited from selling Windows either preinstalled or bundled with a new computer for ten years. Basically, any operating system can be preinstalled on OEM machines *except* Windows - if you want Windows, you have to separately pay for a retail license.

    The OEMs would be free to ship with no operating system, but would probably want to ship *something*, so they may choose a Linux desktop. If Be were still around, this might have changed their fate, or perhaps Apple might choose to release OS X for x86.

    A variant would be to prohibit site licenses or other volume discounts for Windows.

    In exchange, Microsoft can "innovate" all they want, if that's truly what they think they're doing.

  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:12PM (#8306656)
    Which is secret APIs, codecs and file formats.

    Open these up and Microsoft could bundle any damned thing they want and not be able to effectively leverage their monopoly status.

    Bundling competing super secret (and often viral) formulas only compounds the issue, not relieve it.

    Free standards means free competition.

  • Alternatives (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zilfondel2 ( 662431 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:28PM (#8306870)
    Providing alternatives to the default applications is one thing; moronic consumers who know nothing about computers and do not bother learning about their alternatives is quite another.

    You cannot legislate the stupid out of the masses.
  • UNINSTALL (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kyshtock ( 608605 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:43PM (#8307066)
    Provide simple uninstall for everything that's not needed by the operating system (do NOT read operating environement!!!).

    I hate Windows Messenger. I hate the damn sticky key feature. I hate most of the accessories. Now, WMP ain't so bad, but BSPlayer is what *I* need. Did I mention ActiveX? Damn, I learned to hate IE... but, of course, is needed to patch Windows. MSN explorer? You keep it!

    But, of course, to uninstall some of those you need to sell your first born male child... and the others (hint: IE) are just plain uninstalable.

    You know what? It's an operating system. Bane EVERYTHING that's not using and following open protocols. TCP/IP? open - leave it. Outlook Express that connects to hotmail? Proprietary - erase it. IE? kind of uses open protocols, but we know it's not following standards. Bane it, or force them to change it. Oh, they want proprietary stuff? Ok, no prob, but not in the OS I paid for.

    And, BTW, a ssh client would be nice, not to mention the daemon... I mean server.

  • by rspress ( 623984 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:56PM (#8307229) Homepage
    I hear people complaining that Netscape and other products died because of the free market. Well they are partially right. Netscape was a pay for product. Along comes Microsoft and releases a free product that at the time was inferior to Netscape (still is IMHO) and gives it away free and then bundles it with their OS.

    This may be fine for some people until Microsoft large feet step on you. Stacker was a good example, Stacker was making money hand over fist until MS released "their" version as a part of DOS. Stacker was no longer needed and sales dropped dramatically. Turns out that MS used Stackers own code and were too lazy to even change part of it to keep Stacker from finding out. Thanks to its deep pockets MS dodged the bullet and paid them off...Stacker died.

    If you ran a bakery and I opened one next to you and gave everything away for free you would pitch a fit and try to have me closed down. If I copied your best seller by letting you do the ground work and then gave it away for free you would sue me. The customers could care less they get it for free but when your money is on the line it is a different story.

    I hope the EU sticks to its guns. MS has had this coming for a while and it is nice to see that they can't buy their way out of every problem they make.
  • Missing the point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Salsaman ( 141471 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:50PM (#8308000) Homepage
    I think a lot of people here are missing the real point, which is not about *players* it is about *codecs*. By making wmv the default format on 95% of desktop machines, this gives Microsoft a huge amount of leverage on content providers.

    This means a lock in to one proprietary format, and locks out other formats.

  • Windows Update (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bluetrident ( 665406 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:21PM (#8310011)
    As I see it, even if M$ were forced to remove WMP from the install CD, it would be listed as a 'Critical update' when you went to Windows Update. I recently did a clean install of Windows and WMP 9.1 was included as a critical update. Anyone common user would automatically install it.

    How does that really help the situation?

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"