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EU Slaps Microsoft with Charges Over Browser Ballot

By - Source: Europa | B 51 comments

Microsoft could face fines of over $7 billion if found guilty.

Microsoft's relationship with the European Union has been pretty rocky over the years and earlier this summer there were reports that the two were opening up old wounds. The European Union was said to have launched an investigation after receiving complaints that Microsoft was not offering the browser ballot screen it promised to ship with all versions of Windows. The ballot screen is a pop-up designed to give customers the ability to choose which browser they want to use to surf the web. In September, word got out that the EU was preparing to lay charges against Microsoft for its mistake.

Today, the European Union did just that. The European Union today announced that it has sent Redmond its statement of objections with the prelimary view that Microsoft failed to make good on the 2009 legally binding agreement.

"In its statement of objections, the Commission takes the preliminary view that Microsoft has failed to roll out the browser choice screen with its Windows 7 Service Pack 1, which was released in February 2011," the EU said. "From February 2011 until July 2012, millions of Windows users in the EU may not have seen the choice screen. Microsoft has acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that period."

Indeed, Microsoft has admitted that the browser ballot pop-up was missing from some versions of Windows. In a statement released back in July, Redmond said that this was due to a software glitch that it worked quickly to fix. Microsoft estimated that around 90 percent of computers received the BCS software as planned. As for the remaining 10 percent, the company said it began developing a fix one business day after the problem was discovered. A day after that, the company began distributing the BCS software to Windows 7 SP1 PCs that missed out on the software the first time around. What's more, Redmond offered to extend the period of time it's obligated to offer users this choice by more than a year.

"Due to a technical error, we missed delivering the BCS (browser choice screen) software to PCs that came with the service pack 1 update to Windows 7," Microsoft said in a statement. "While we have taken immediate steps to remedy this problem, we deeply regret that this error occurred and we apologize for it."

Microsoft's offering of the browser choice screen is the result of an 2009 antitrust investigation conducted by the Euorpean Union. Europe felt that bundling Internet Explorer with Windows was anti-competitive and argued that, because Windows is the most common operating system, it was unfair for Microsoft force all users to use IE without first informing them of their options. The EU's statement of objections is a formal step in Commission investigations. Microsoft can respond to the objections in writing and request an oral hearing to present comments. The European Commission then makes a final decision once both parties have exercised their rights of defence. If Microsoft is found guilty of breaching its commitment, it faces fines of up to 10 percent of its total annual turnover.

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  • 19 Hide
    chuckydb , October 24, 2012 7:07 PM
    This is completely stupid.
    You want an other browser, you are free to download a new one, noone is stopping you.

    The EU should mabey attack something more relevant, like how Apple maniacly controls everything on it's closed garden product, or Amazone taking an open source OS and closing it down for it's kindle.

    Come on, the browser issue is WAY outdated.
  • 13 Hide
    davewolfgang , October 24, 2012 7:19 PM
    If I were MS, I'd tell the EU to go take a long walk off a short pier (but I'm use MUCH more colorful terms than I can post here...).

    And PULL all MS from EU - and watch the people SCREAM!!! Just like any other FREAKIN' product out there, you buy it - you get what you get!! If you don't like what's in it - don't buy it!!!

    Why the F should a company have to put a COMPETING product PRE-LOADED in it's own product??!??!?!??!??!?!?!??!??!?!?
  • 12 Hide
    zero messiah , October 24, 2012 7:34 PM
    I am curious. I have never used an Apple product. Do they (Apple) give you a choice when setting up one of their products, or Android for that matter, and if they don't, this argument seems slanted.
Other Comments
  • 19 Hide
    chuckydb , October 24, 2012 7:07 PM
    This is completely stupid.
    You want an other browser, you are free to download a new one, noone is stopping you.

    The EU should mabey attack something more relevant, like how Apple maniacly controls everything on it's closed garden product, or Amazone taking an open source OS and closing it down for it's kindle.

    Come on, the browser issue is WAY outdated.
  • -6 Hide
    romansky , October 24, 2012 7:16 PM
    @chuckydb you statement is not completely true, the way windows 8 is integrated with the browser is seriously limiting any option of using other browsers on the market (I know this since I got a "private" preview of windows 8 and I asked this exact question)
  • 13 Hide
    davewolfgang , October 24, 2012 7:19 PM
    If I were MS, I'd tell the EU to go take a long walk off a short pier (but I'm use MUCH more colorful terms than I can post here...).

    And PULL all MS from EU - and watch the people SCREAM!!! Just like any other FREAKIN' product out there, you buy it - you get what you get!! If you don't like what's in it - don't buy it!!!

    Why the F should a company have to put a COMPETING product PRE-LOADED in it's own product??!??!?!??!??!?!?!??!??!?!?
  • -7 Hide
    romansky , October 24, 2012 7:23 PM
    Downvote? hmm.. How many MS payroll people are visiting this forum?
    You can not trust anything these days anymore *sigh*..
  • 1 Hide
    jonjonjon , October 24, 2012 7:31 PM
    this is so dumb. im all for government slamming companys when they deserve it. something the us gov cant do since they have all be bought. i agree you dont want the to use ie dont use it and download something else. ms is not forcing anyone to use ie and they are not preventing the installation/use of competing browsers. whats next ms wont be able to provide notepad or cmd prompt because its unfair? what about the new pdf app in windows 8 how does adobe or foxit feel about that? not providing a browser with an OS makes no sense and forcing a company to offer competitors products for free is what is not fair. i hope android and ios have a BCS with an ie option. what a joke.
  • 12 Hide
    zero messiah , October 24, 2012 7:34 PM
    I am curious. I have never used an Apple product. Do they (Apple) give you a choice when setting up one of their products, or Android for that matter, and if they don't, this argument seems slanted.
  • 6 Hide
    ohim , October 24, 2012 7:39 PM
    romansky@chuckydb you statement is not completely true, the way windows 8 is integrated with the browser is seriously limiting any option of using other browsers on the market (I know this since I got a "private" preview of windows 8 and I asked this exact question)

    Bullshit , i`m using Windows 8 RC and posting from Opera with Chrome installed also , no problems whatsoever, the only drawback you get from installing a secondary browser is that you won`t get IE in the full screen metro style , only the destkop mode works and this only if IE is not the default browser, why doesn`t EU asks Apple to make the same thing in their OS ?

    Some times i just wanna go and punch in the face a judge or who ever comes up with this stupid ideeas.
  • 5 Hide
    djscribbles , October 24, 2012 7:40 PM
    So do you guys in the EU also get the choice of what tires get put on your cars when you buy a new car?


    The funny thing is that IE isn't even very competitive with FF and Chrome. All of them are free, nobody is really making money directly from browsers. If a user is unaware of the major browsers out there, would presenting them with the choice between the browsers even do them any good? do they just choose the one that has the prettiest icon?


    In a time with more competition between OS's and browsers than ever, EU is just kicking MS while they are down by pulling anti-trust BS. MS will likely squeeze every penny of any fines right back out of the EU consumers anyway (though the idea of MS just disabling all windows based EU gov computers is rather entertaining, it would never happen).
  • -5 Hide
    romansky , October 24, 2012 7:43 PM
    ohimBullshit , i`m using Windows 8 RC and posting from Opera with Chrome installed also , no problems whatsoever, the only drawback you get from installing a secondary browser is that you won`t get IE in the full screen metro style , only the destkop mode works and this only if IE is not the default browser, why doesn`t EU asks Apple to make the same thing in their OS ? Some times i just wanna go and punch in the face a judge or who ever comes up with this stupid ideeas.


    First, I am a Linux user.
    Second, OSX (never mind I dont like Apple the company) is not running atop the Safari browser, this is not the case with W8 and IE (metro or what ever its called) mode.
    As you know, the common windows users never change defaults.
  • 2 Hide
    warmon6 , October 24, 2012 7:46 PM
    romansky@chuckydb you statement is not completely true, the way windows 8 is integrated with the browser is seriously limiting any option of using other browsers on the market (I know this since I got a "private" preview of windows 8 and I asked this exact question)


    That's strange. I been using windows 8 since the Dev preview came out and i haven't had a single issue with running chrome and firefox on them....

    Maybe it windows 8 RT your talking about which i have no knowledge of....
  • 6 Hide
    chuckydb , October 24, 2012 7:47 PM
    @romansky
    I don't know about win 8, I was able to install chrome and firefox no problem.
    But the problem predate win 8. If MS wants to lock dow the choice of browser like Apple does, then I'm all in to give a b!!!chslap to MS, but as of right now, then aren't the ultime evil overlord of the industry, Apple holds that honor and I think it's where their focus should be.
  • 7 Hide
    c4v3man , October 24, 2012 7:48 PM
    romansky@chuckydb you statement is not completely true, the way windows 8 is integrated with the browser is seriously limiting any option of using other browsers on the market (I know this since I got a "private" preview of windows 8 and I asked this exact question)

    Microsoft's use of IE10 in Windows 8 RT/Metro is at WORST equal to Apple's requirement for use of it's Safari webkit implementation. I believe RT/Metro will allow properly coded browsers to run independently. Wake me up when Apple gets sued for the same thing...
  • 1 Hide
    djscribbles , October 24, 2012 7:55 PM
    romanskyFirst, I am a Linux user.Second, OSX (never mind I dont like Apple the company) is not running atop the Safari browser, this is not the case with W8 and IE (metro or what ever its called) mode.As you know, the common windows users never change defaults.


    Metro has nothing to do with IE. IE has a metro app, which is installed by default; but it doesn't prevent anyone from installing a different metro browser instead, the only issue is that nobody else has written a metro browser (probably because using a browser in metro is about as useful as using a browser that is forced to be in fullscreen mode all the time).
  • -3 Hide
    romansky , October 24, 2012 7:57 PM
    @chuckydb - I have friends using OSX with Chrome just fine, there is no lockdown.. if you mean the safari on IOS then I agree, EU should slap Apple for that for sure.

    @c4v3man - I cant see how you can justify one wrong doing with another.. but suite your self! MS had a long track with these issues, you would think they should know what not to do..
  • 3 Hide
    InvalidError , October 24, 2012 7:58 PM
    zero messiahI am curious. I have never used an Apple product. Do they (Apple) give you a choice when setting up one of their products, or Android for that matter, and if they don't, this argument seems slanted.

    I feel pretty much the same way. Nobody other than Microsoft is required to offer someone else's products out-of-the-box, which is pretty ridiculous considering that Windows has the broadest selection of alternative browsers to choose from and downloading/installing any of them is relatively trivial with no walled-garden to get in your way unlike Android/IOS/etc.

    The EU should be more worried about Apple's apps censorship/dictatorship on IOS with Apple reserving the right to cull apps for arbitrary and sometimes anti-competitive reasons.
  • 2 Hide
    chuckydb , October 24, 2012 8:02 PM
    romansky@chuckydb - I have friends using OSX with Chrome just fine, there is no lockdown.. if you mean the safari on IOS then I agree, EU should slap Apple for that for sure...

    I was referring to IOS.
  • 6 Hide
    bllue , October 24, 2012 8:05 PM
    And yet Chrome and Firefox dominate the market shares of Window 7 for browser. The EU can go f themselves. They don't care about the issue...actually there isn't even an issue here so they're just trying to take money from foreign companies to pay for their debts.
  • 5 Hide
    ethanolson , October 24, 2012 8:11 PM
    Is the EU going to make them ship a version of Windows 8 without Defender just because competitors exist? If so, let's have a hackfest, y'all!
  • 0 Hide
    f-14 , October 24, 2012 8:12 PM
    romansky@chuckydb you statement is not completely true, the way windows 8 is integrated with the browser is seriously limiting any option of using other browsers on the market (I know this since I got a "private" preview of windows 8 and I asked this exact question)


    YOUR COMPARISION OF A BETA TEST PRODUCT IS HERBY DISMISSED!
    and since you did not pay to use a beta your arguement is also double moot. case closed stay in school, quit doing drugs. mkay.
  • 4 Hide
    f-14 , October 24, 2012 8:14 PM
    davewolfgangIf I were MS, I'd tell the EU to go take a long walk off a short pier (but I'm use MUCH more colorful terms than I can post here...).And PULL all MS from EU - and watch the people SCREAM!!! Just like any other FREAKIN' product out there, you buy it - you get what you get!! If you don't like what's in it - don't buy it!!!Why the F should a company have to put a COMPETING product PRE-LOADED in it's own product??!??!?!??!??!?!?!??!??!?!?



    i am almost there with you, might be time to not only pull the browser but also all internet functionality until they beg to have it back.
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