Microsoft will be fined over browser commitment: EU (Update)

Sep 24, 2012
US software giant Microsoft faces yet more heavy fines after it promised to offer clients a choice of web browser but has failed to do so, the EU's competition commissioner said.

US software giant Microsoft faces yet more heavy fines after it promised to offer clients a choice of web browser but has failed to do so, the EU's competition commissioner said Monday.

Microsoft apologised in July for a "technical error" as the EU launched a probe into why 28 million users of the Windows 7 operating system were unable to choose between the company's default Internet Explorer and other browsers.

The company did not provide a browser choice screen in a February 2011 update, and so would inevitably face a fine for the period of time it had failed to do so, Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told AFP in an interview.

Microsoft committed in 2009 to provide Windows users in Europe a "choice screen" enabling them to pick an alternative web browser until 2014.

That screen, however, was missing from the update to Windows 7 in February 2011 and the Commission ran out of patience and launched a formal probe in July when the company said it did issue a fix.

"It is easier to make progress in our investigation if a company which has broken competition rules recognises the fact," Almunia said.

"The fault is there, it has been there for more than a year and it is clear that we need to react.

"It is not only the distortion of competition during this period which concerns us; it is very serious, from my point of view, that the remedies imposed on Microsoft have not been applied," he said.

The Commission planned "to act very firmly," he added.

The EU fined Microsoft 899 million euros ($1.2 billion) in 2008 for failing to comply with an order to share product information with rivals so that their software can work with Windows.

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User comments : 17

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Lurker2358
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 24, 2012
This is unfair.

there IS a choice of web browser.

Internet Explorer comes FREE with the OS, which is a GOOD THING.

But I downloaded Google Chrome for Free from the internet and use it for most things, except the few applications I've found where Internet Explorer is actually better.

Google Chrome even allows me to block Google ads! So it's a major boon to me!

Anyone who claims they don't have a choice is uninformed.

There are several FREE browsers that are just as good or better than I.E. in at least some applications, and they offer options I.E. does not.

Nevertheless, there are still times on some sites or for some purposes where I.E. remains easier and more reliable to use.

so what? They get sued for being "too good" at their trade, even though their browser isn't even the best at ALL applications?

Microsoft has never forbid you to download other browsers.

I'm for monopoly laws, but the idea that a company needs to pay for it's competitor's marketing is bogus.
Lurker2358
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 24, 2012
If I bought a computer with a Microsoft OS and it DID NOT come with a Microsoft web browser, activated and ready to use, I would be outraged.

The EU is wrong and ridiculous, and is just using this type of ploy as an excuse to repeatedly bilk U.S. tech and software firms, essentially robbing our economy.

It's like an embargo without actually calling it an embargo.

It's cold war tactic, in an allegedly post cold-war era.
Lurker2358
1 / 5 (4) Sep 24, 2012
Maybe Microsoft should play a sick joke on the EU, and quit putting their browser in the OS at all, but sell it at the same cost.

Then they can charge more for the Browser, in the EU, as an add-on software package on a separate install disk sold at Office supply stores and tech stores. Charge like $5 to $10 for the installation disk, or even be an ass and charge $1 just for the hell of it, to make their point.

I bet half the customers would still buy the I.E. disk anyway.
Lurker2358
1 / 5 (1) Sep 24, 2012
Of course, we could expect the same ballot screens at the iOS screens and Android screens, because the principle is just the very same. And of course, not only for web browser, but media player, notepad and calculator...


Well, I don't want to be forced to pay for all that excess SHIT on my computer just because of the EU's interpretation of what is fair.

The built-in calculator does most of the things I ever do, and I got Eureqa for free on the internet to do regressions on data, though it's not always perfect.

My graphics calculator broke, but I'm sure if I bothered doing a google search I could find a free software online to run graphing applications.

People are stupid if they actually want to PAY for services that are free, or pay for "all competitor's services" every time you buy a computer or a new OS.
sigfpe
not rated yet Sep 24, 2012
iOS prevents you from setting any browser other than Safari as your default browser. This is far more egregious than anything Microsoft is doing.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Sep 24, 2012
They did it before and were fined. They didn't learn and tried the same stunt again. So they are fined again. Quite simple, really.
Eikka
5 / 5 (4) Sep 24, 2012
Lurker,

The reason why EU slapped Microsoft for not offering another option was the fact that most people never bothered to use anything else. Microsoft was abusing that situation by deliberately making Internet Explorer work in a non-standard fashion.

They even have a name for the practice: embrace, extend, exterminate - meaning that they adopt a standard, hoard all the users, and then provide a proprietary "update" that breaks compatibility to the original standard, which loses market share and vanishes.

More and more websites would simply not show up right unless you used IE, and Microsoft had a monopoly over the implementation details. All the others had to reverse-engineer what Microsoft was doing to provide a reasonable user-experience. That made it difficult for other browsers to compete and threatened to split the entire internet into a MS-Web for Windows.

Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Sep 24, 2012
The original court case was against Microsoft forcing OEMs to include IE with Windows when every other piece of software like the calculator or the movie player could be stripped off and replaced with something else by the store that sells you the computer.

It was never against Microsoft selling IE on an Windows disc, but about the fact that Microsoft had integrated the web browser to the desktop environment so deep, or so they argued, that it can't be removed. The situation was so bad that if you asked a non-savvy person in the early 2000's, they would equate Internet with Internet Explorer.

Since the EU courts can't dictate that MS products have to adhere to any standard, they ruled that Microsoft must provide download links to other browsers when you run the system for the first time to break the illusion.
Eikka
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 24, 2012
iOS prevents you from setting any browser other than Safari as your default browser. This is far more egregious than anything Microsoft is doing.


Apple however is not in a dominant market position, so they can lock people in all they want. It's just a marketing disadvantage against them.

In 2002 Microsoft had 85.8% user share for IE on the internet. When Microsoft said jump, all the web designers and site admins jumped, and it did say it a lot to make Netscape dissapear. If it hadn't been for Mozilla and later Firefox, the WWW would be Microsoft technology today.

Fortunately you can't compete with something that is free.

I didn't count Opera because it has never had more than 3% user base. It's like the Linux of browsers - weird and a little broken, but still hanging on for some odd reason.
ormondotvos
not rated yet Sep 24, 2012
Don't forget to mention that Internet Explorer doesn't adhere to the HTML standards that Microsoft agreed to originally, and made webpage authors violate those standards so their pages wouldn't show as broken on any browser but IE.

This is SUCH a standard practice for Microsoft that it still gains them immense scorn. Computer people get together, build standards, M$ signs on, and then violates the standards.

It's called bullying, or monopoly practices. It's going away now, except for Apple...
sigfpe
not rated yet Sep 24, 2012
Eikka,

Right. But at this point Microsoft don't have an OS monopoly any more so it's surely time to reconsider.
dtxx
1 / 5 (1) Sep 24, 2012
I've never liked the fact that IE is an integral part of the OS which cannot be removed. However, I think that consumers are much more informed about the alternatives these days. To me, this smacks of extortion by the EU, and boy do they sure seem to love to sue US companies at the drop of a hat.

I also don't really care for IE not following standards, but I think it is asinine to imply they are required to implement whatever WHATWG or W3C comes up with.

Eikka, Linux is far from broken or irrelevant. I agree that it's not the best choice for everyone's desktop. But as just one example of many, let's say you're setting up a large scale web server and database cluster... do you have any idea how much cash you can save?
elfsun
not rated yet Sep 25, 2012
Isn't it normal to add IE as the default free browser in its own computers? Everyone has its own favorite browser. If you like chrome,friefox,Avant browser or others just go and download the one you like.It's reasonable as long as they don't block other browsers.
But they should make IE can be removed.
Eikka
not rated yet Sep 25, 2012
Eikka,

Right. But at this point Microsoft don't have an OS monopoly any more so it's surely time to reconsider.


Neither did they have one then. They still command between 82-92% of the user share on desktop and laptop PCs on the internet, which puts them clearly in a dominant market position.

All the brouhaha about standards and alternative browsers though has brought IE share down to around 35% depending on who you ask, but that number is too small because it includes cellphones and other mobile devices that don't have IE.

In reality about half of the PC users still use Internet Explorer simply because it's there, so developers still have to mind that Microsoft isn't following standards.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Sep 25, 2012
But as just one example of many, let's say you're setting up a large scale web server and database cluster... do you have any idea how much cash you can save?


But that's completely irrelevant.

That's like maintaining that Bobcats are useful as commuter cars because they're very nimble at work around a construction site.

The fact that webservers or top 500 supercomputers run Linux doesn't make it functional as a desktop operating system, especially when most such examples don't even use a desktop environment or a graphical user interface. Why would they?
Eikka
not rated yet Sep 25, 2012
I also don't really care for IE not following standards, but I think it is asinine to imply they are required to implement whatever WHATWG or W3C comes up with.


It's just cold market reality. Everybody else agrees to compete on those standards, and Microsoft doesn't.

If they are in the minority the they kinda have to, and if they are in the majority then they can flip the bird to everyone else and change the standard to a proprietary one. But proprietary standards produce market failures because you can dictate rules to your own advantage simply by being the biggest kid on the playground.

That's why everyone else agrees to use open standards, and why anti-trust laws exist.
baudrunner
not rated yet Sep 30, 2012
in the early 2000's, they would equate Internet with Internet Explorer.
Actually, even now, most nominal users don't even know the difference between Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer.

Incidentally, the Windows you are using, if you're American - is made for the American market. The EU version is made for the EU market, and I don't know how much of the OS is treated as a true shell in that version. Also, most EU governments and most EU corporations are using Linux and Open Source - ie. Java for in-house programming. The devaluation of MS over the last decade or more is probably because of the drastic reduction in licensing income.