EU May Fine Microsoft for Browser Shenanigans by End of March

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News Posted: Fri, Mar 1 2013 10:12 AM
Time heals all wounds, but it doesn't make fines go away. Microsoft may find that out this month if the European Union goes forth with plans to fine the software giant in the coming weeks. The fine, which could be significant, relates to Microsoft's failure to comply with a so-called browser ballot feature it agreed to implement in Windows in order to settle an EU antitrust investigation dating back more than a decade.

A little back history. The EU argued that Microsoft was giving itself an unfair advantage in the browser wars by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, leaving less savvy users without a choice in the matter. The solution? Present users with a screen allowing them to choose their preferred browser in Windows 7. This became known as the browser ballot.

Browser Ballot

Unfortunately for Microsoft, a technical error caused the browser screen to disappear following the roll-out of Service Pack 1. Under EU law, Microsoft could be fined up to 10 percent of its total annual revenue, or in the neighborhood of $7.4 billion dollars. While it seems unlikely the EU would punish Microsoft that harshly, it's been known to hand out heavy fines to tech giants, so it wouldn't be surprising if the fine surpassed $1 billion.

This is what Microsoft currently faces, and according to one of "three people familiar with the matter," the Commission wants to get this done by Easter break, Reuters reports. However, procedural issues could push back that time frame.
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The EU is strapped for cash these days, so maybe they'll really sock it to them!

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CDeeter replied on Fri, Mar 1 2013 11:22 PM

I'll say it again, until they force EVERY OS to do this, then it's unfair to expect MS to do it.

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3vi1 replied on Sat, Mar 2 2013 11:54 AM

It's not unfair. The restriction is in place to prevent a company with a monopoly position in one market (Microsoft, OS) from abusing that monopoly to compete unfairly in another market (browsers). The rule does not apply to other vendors because they do not have a ubiquitous desktop presence.

Microsoft has a history for this type of abuse, so they specifically need to be kept in line.  There are many, many, examples that show how they've driven competition out of business and harmed consumers, but here are just a couple:

http://www.ecis.eu/documents/Finalversion_Consumerchoicepaper.pdf

 

http://journals.cluteonline.com/index.php/JBER/article/view/2508/2554

 

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

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CDeeter replied on Sat, Mar 2 2013 1:54 PM

Really, and what were they supposed to do? Ship windows with no browser at all? And then what, go to walmart and buy a copy of the browser you want? Of course IE was included in Windows. And nothing was stopping anyone from downloading and installing the browser they wanted. It didn't stop me from using Netscape, or Firefox.

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3vi1 replied on Sat, Mar 2 2013 5:59 PM

>> Really, and what were they supposed to do? Ship windows with no browser at all?

“Microsoft first proposed to Netscape that, rather than compete with each other, the two companies should enter an illegal conspiracy to divide up the market. When Netscape refused, Microsoft then used its Windows monopoly to, in Microsoft’s own words, ‘cut off Netscape’s air supply.’” —Joel Klein, Assistant Attorney General (quoting Paul Maritz, Microsoft’s then-Group Vice President of the Platform Applications Group)

People that like Microsoft integrating IE tightly with the OS are the same people that don't remember how badly IE6 stagnated after Netscape was driven from the marketplace.

And, once the competition was dead... they dropped Mac support - in order to kill off the OS by leaving them with an antiquated browser

It wasn't until Mozilla introduced the free Firefox browser (which couldn't be driven out of business) that MS even put a new team together to develop web browsers (they had dissolved the IE team after killing the competition off).

Microsoft must be forced to give consumers choice, or technology will continue to be retarded by their anti-consumer actions.

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

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