Busted: EU Levies $732 Million Antitrust Fine Against Microsoft, Admits Weak Oversight

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News Posted: Wed, Mar 6 2013 4:38 PM
Microsoft, and everybody else, assumed that a big fine was coming from the European Union over antitrust violations sometime this month; as it turned out, the wait was a short one, because the EU has fined Microsoft $732 million, according to the New York Times. Some expected the fine to be closer to a cool billion, so in that sense, Microsoft got off light.

After Microsoft got itself in hot water with the EU several years ago over making its Internet Explorer the default Web browser on computers running Windows--which, it was decided, was an antitrust violation that gave Microsoft an unfair advantage over the competition--EU officials mandated that Microsoft present users with a “browser ballot” page that let them select their preferred browser from a list.

browser ballot
The Browser Ballot

That was all fine and dandy until SP1 rolled out and made that screen disappear. It was probably a simple mistake, some minor technical error, but it violated the EU's ruling nevertheless. So why has it taken so long for the EU to catch up on its fines? Because they trusted Microsoft to monitor itself and stick to the rules of the previous settlement.

Joaquín Almunia
The EU's Joaquín Almunia

At some point, the browser ballot disappearance got back to the EU, resulting in today’s fine of $732 billion. To the EU’s credit, its top competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia copped to the group’s failure to oversee its own ruling and pledged to take a stronger hand in such matters in the future.
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Oh, is that all?

You'd think Microsoft murdered a couple thousand people for a fine like that. But no, god forbid people not realize there are other browser choices out there!!!

Geez, I am the furthest thing from a Microsoft fan, but the EU's antics are just ridiculous.

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acarzt replied on Wed, Mar 6 2013 7:09 PM

Yea, that's quite a harsh penalty for a small oversight....

People don't even PAY for browsers, so why does it even matter?

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I don't care what anyone says this is a money grab to bail out all of the irresponsible countries that went broke with all of the entitlements and government handouts.

Are you telling me people are too dumb to install their own browsers? I dont understand how they have to give them a choice. Its a Microsoft OS.... logic would say that it comes with a Microsoft browser....

Are they not able to install any other browser, come on... this things is down right crazy and stupid.

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"Are you telling me people are too dumb to install their own browsers?"

There's also the fact that Apple does the exact same thing that Microsoft did. It doesn't hint at other browsers to its users... just bundles Safari in and is done with it. Outside of software, this kind of ruling by the EU just wouldn't fly. Imagine going to buy a car and the dealer have to recommend you the alternatives (not exactly a 1:1 comparison, I admit).

I tend to believe it's just a cash grab also. People who don't know about browser alternatives probably -don't care- about them. People buy Windows because it's Windows... and it comes with whatever Microsoft tosses in there. For the EU to have a beef with that is just absurd.

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Show me the money!

Dogs are great judges of character, and if your dog doesn't like somebody being around, you shouldn't trust them.

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Show me the money!

Dogs are great judges of character, and if your dog doesn't like somebody being around, you shouldn't trust them.

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The EU's Joaquín Almunia even looks the part of a fat bureaucratic parasite.

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Translation= we are low on money we need to sue someone.... oh lets so Microsoft they have money....

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sevags replied on Thu, Mar 7 2013 9:53 PM

Yeah the EU is completely stupid. I don't understand when I purchased an iOS device they all come with Safari by default, android products ship with chrome by default, WP8 has IE on board... Why aren't their browser ballots for other Operating Systems both on mobile devices and desktops? Why must Windows provide alternatives and advertise for the competition when they don't do the same? Why doesn't my car recommend radio stations right out of the dealership rather than having preset stations already in memory that must mean I am stuck with those stations right? SO DUMB.

If I was MS I would not include ANY browser with windows nor a browser ballot and let everyone fend for themselves and see what they choose. Everyone has always had the ability to install any browser they want and even uninstall IE if they want, if they have to be presented with a ballot to decide then they probably don't even know what they are deciding on or why.

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RWilliams replied on Thu, Mar 7 2013 11:27 PM

It's a misconception that Chrome comes with Android; it doesn't (it's up to the discretion of the vendor). As far as I'm aware, the only Android devices to ship with Chrome come from Google itself. The bundled browser with Android is open-sourced, developed by the Android Open Source Project.

I agree with you completely though. As I stated elsewhere:

Apple bundles Safari with all of its iOS deployments. EU is fine with it.

Apple bundles Safari with all of its Mac OS X deployments. EU is fine with it.

Canonical bundles Firefox with all of its Ubuntu deployments. EU is fine with it.

Microsoft bundles IE with all of its Windows deployments. EU goes ballistic.

Who on earth could say anything about this except "cash grab"? I think Apple's safe just because it doesn't have quite as large of a desktop/notebook OS install-base as Microsoft does. It sure beats it on the mobile side though.

(I know the Canonical example is not a good one... it's just "there").

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detnight replied on Thu, Mar 7 2013 11:51 PM

well the EU is in trouble and $732 million would help the pocket books of someone. My Nexus 7 has google and chrome all over it, can sue. Oh but wait I downloaded Firefox and it works great. But then again I am from Texas and we are a little slower down here.

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sevags replied on Fri, Mar 8 2013 12:22 AM

Good to know about the default android browser I always assumed it was chrome. Still though there isn't a choice out the box I just don't understand. Just because their market share is greater they have to offer options but for those going with something less popular no choice is needed?  I hope this reaches the mobile space and apple has to actually open up and allow full third party browsers and a ballot right out of the box. 

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"Just because their market share is greater they have to offer options but for those going with something less popular no choice is needed?"

Silly, isn't it? It really does seem like that's what it comes down to. So with the shift to mobile, is the EU just going to kick-back and leave Apple alone? Not that I want to see action taken, mind you. This browser wheel thing has been ridiculous from the start. To force a company to tout their competitors is about as nonsensical as gets.

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3vi1 replied on Fri, Mar 8 2013 12:24 PM

>> You'd think Microsoft murdered a couple thousand people for a fine like that

No, they just put thousands out of work and set computing back by about a decade. And, compared to their profits from anti-trust pro-monopoly behavior, the fine wasn't high enough for them to care about, apparently.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

++++++++++++[>++++>+++++++++>+++>+<<<<-]>+++.>++++++++++.-------------.+++.>---.>--.

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3vi1 replied on Fri, Mar 8 2013 12:26 PM

>> People don't even PAY for browsers, so why does it even matter?

Because it allows you to use your monopoly in one area to completely kill competition in another, leaving that area to stagnate. If Microsoft had had their way (IE w/tons of ActiveX plugins for interactivity), the web wouldn't work unless you were running their OS - to which you would never have any exit.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

++++++++++++[>++++>+++++++++>+++>+<<<<-]>+++.>++++++++++.-------------.+++.>---.>--.

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3vi1 replied on Fri, Mar 8 2013 12:27 PM

>> There's also the fact that Apple does the exact same thing that Microsoft did.

A company that is not in a monopoly position does not have the potential to harm the consumer in the same way that a monopoly does, so you are comparing apples to oranges.  This is why the law is different for monopolies.

Microsoft's position is getting weaker now, but they were very much a monopoly at the time.  It's still almost impossible to buy a new PC without paying for MS Windows in the process.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

++++++++++++[>++++>+++++++++>+++>+<<<<-]>+++.>++++++++++.-------------.+++.>---.>--.

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eunoia replied on Fri, Mar 8 2013 4:26 PM

acarzt:

People don't even PAY for browsers, so why does it even matter?

IBM doesn't see a future for personal computers, then Microsoft makes billions. This is good. Microsoft doesn't see a future for the internet, people don't even PAY for browsers. This is bad. Very bad.

News:

...resulting in today’s fine of $732 billion.

lol

3vi1:

Because it allows you to use your monopoly in one area to completely kill competition in another, leaving that area to stagnate. If Microsoft had had their way (IE w/tons of ActiveX plugins for interactivity), the web wouldn't work unless you were running their OS - to which you would never have any exit.

Thank you.

 

...pending.

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On a side note, the EU hitting MS up with a fine of between .5 and 1.5B $ is a yearly event now. Every... Single... Year...

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