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Microsoft Faces More Anti-Trust Battles

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 43 comments

Following the unsuccessful attempt by U.S. authorities nearly ten years ago, Europe’s top most antitrust authority, the European Commission, has formally charged Microsoft with similar accusations of antitrust.

Europe had reached the results it was looking for five years ago when it fined Microsoft over similar offences for just over US$1 billion and had ordered them to change how they do business. Present day however, the Commission has delivered its charges to the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, last Thursday. The charges arrived in the form of a formal statement of objections. Microsoft is expected to review the charges and have a response within the next two months.

After a failed court appeal by Microsoft last year against the original European antitrust ruling, the new charges are just some of the many charges anticipated – originally stemming from a complaint lodged from the Norwegian browser developer, Opera Software.

Jon von Tetzchner, Opera Software CEO, welcomed the Commission’s decision to move forward with the charges. Internet Explorer is still the most widely used browser, even though its market share dipped slightly below 70 percent in 2008. Opera’s share was around 0.71 percent. Quoting Tetzcher :

Quoting Tetzcher from an interview scooped by PC World regarding the charges.

“It’s clear they are taking this very seriously. It’s a problem for companies like ours if Microsoft doesn’t support the open standards we all apply, because many Web sites are designed to work with IE, which means our browsers won’t always work out of the box.”

Tetzchner said that he hopes the Commission does not apply the same remedy it did in its last ruling against Microsoft, where Microsoft was ordered to offer a second version of Windows alongside the regular version of the software, but lacking a bundled copy of Windows Media Player.

“That’s not really what we are looking for as a remedy for the bundling of IE. The only way to give users a genuine choice is to strip out IE from Windows and either replace it with a rival browser or offer users a list of browsers to choose from.” said Tetzchner.

At the same time the Commission opened this investigation into the bundling of Internet Explorer, they also opened a separate probe to see if Microsoft is actively withholding information from companies that want to make products compatible with its Microsoft Office productivity suite.

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  • 0 Hide
    jhansonxi , January 21, 2009 8:24 PM
    Removing IE would help security but I don't know if Opera is any better. Opera is not a bad browser and is cross-platform but who is going to bother writing malware for it with such a low market share?
  • 3 Hide
    curnel_D , January 21, 2009 8:46 PM
    It seems like the European union is more intent on bullying american companies into paying them billions of dollars than actually giving every company a fair shot.

    I remember something like this happening in California with Barrett Rifles. The cali gov decided that their guns looked too mean, so the prohibited their sales to the public. Not long after, Barrett decided to halt any weapon sales to Cali law inforcement, which led to criminals having their powerful and state of the art weapons, and the law enforcement struggling to find a replacement company.

    I think this is exactly what Microsoft should do. If the European union wants to wail about internet explorer, then microsoft should just stop selling their software in any countries that the EU has any authority, and let the citizens decide how to deal with their union.
    (Which wouldnt last all that long, I suspect. The average user buying a computer would be forced into linux or the overpriced mac, realize that they cant use it, and raise hell until something happened.)
  • 1 Hide
    semmster , January 21, 2009 8:59 PM
    Since many websites are designed specifically for IE, obviously the specifications should be freely available to other browser makers. Please, leave IE where it is. Let the other browsers compete based on ease of use, visual appeal etc. I'm totally unafraid of trying other browsers but I always come back to IE. It's just plain easier to use.
  • 2 Hide
    megabuster , January 21, 2009 9:45 PM
    How is a feature of an OS a monopolistic practice? So Google should be able to sue Microsoft and Mac for imbedding indexed search engine instead of using Google Desktop? Why don't they just beg for humanitarian aid if they need money that bad!
  • 0 Hide
    jhansonxi , January 21, 2009 10:08 PM
    curnel_DIf the European union wants to wail about internet explorer, then microsoft should just stop selling their software in any countries that the EU has any authority, and let the citizens decide how to deal with their union.
    The warez community would come to their rescue.
  • 0 Hide
    GoodBytes , January 21, 2009 10:19 PM
    We all know that this is all B.S from E.U. They need money, and are bullies that's all, else they would sue many other companies like Apple.

    There are no advantage in removing IE. IE is already out of the explorer shell since Vista. Save space on your HDD you say? on your 2TB HDD you 'really' need that 20mb free, nice... like I said, no reason.

    And without IE, how are you supposed to download special drivers (not found in Windows update) or the latest version, or even download your web browser that you want to use? and I ask especially if you have 1 computer and if you are not a computer enthusiast.

    However there is an alternative for Microsoft, but I think Microsoft knows it still won't work: Have a check box in Windows setup "Install Internet Explorer"
  • 4 Hide
    dariushro , January 21, 2009 10:46 PM
    semmsterSince many websites are designed specifically for IE, obviously the specifications should be freely available to other browser makers. Please, leave IE where it is. Let the other browsers compete based on ease of use, visual appeal etc. I'm totally unafraid of trying other browsers but I always come back to IE. It's just plain easier to use.


    As a web developer i'll tell you this,

    IE is fucked up, it gives all developers a hard time, it doesn't follow the W3C standards as it should...give standard compliant browsers a chance to compete, and you will see the quality of websites will rise.
  • 0 Hide
    bydesign , January 21, 2009 10:55 PM
    I can tell you this if they don't fix IE8 this wont be an issue. It crashes almost every session. While I think the EU is a joke I also agree with dariushro in they need to stick to the standards.
  • 0 Hide
    frozenlead , January 22, 2009 1:11 AM
    GoodBytes has a point. If Windows doesn't come with some sort of web browser, how on earth are you supposed to acquire a different one? Not everyone has Firefox setup on a flash drive. (I've had it there since beta..lawlz.)
  • 0 Hide
    Eggrenade , January 22, 2009 1:14 AM
    If IE isn't bundled then how does the EU people to download other browsers? Do they really want people to have to pay for a boxed version? Are they that stupid? And is there really any money in free browsers? And why don't they care about Apple bundling Safari? IMO the US government should not allow the EU to bully is around that much. We should simply say that if they don't want to play fairly in any industry, then they won't play at all. We already have a trade deficit as it is, do they really think they deserve an advantage. Maybe we should also stop fighting terrorism for them. See how they like that.
  • -1 Hide
    Eggrenade , January 22, 2009 1:19 AM
    Sorry about the bolding error.
  • 1 Hide
    bourgeoisdude , January 22, 2009 1:46 AM
    My question is--what about Macs and Apple Safari? Why is it only Microsoft that is punished? Is the EU really encouraging competition here or hurting it?
  • 0 Hide
    kewl munky , January 22, 2009 2:56 AM
    You can't sue Microsoft just because their browser became popular enough where people realized how smart of a move it was to centralize use around it. Gamers have basically been forced to play games on Windows for years, but I haven't seen anyone being sued for that. I think Opera is just desperate for a larger community. I have been using Firefox for over a year and I can do everything I did on IE, and faster. The add-ons let me do even more.

    If someone honestly likes a browser better they will use it, and you can't blame Microsoft for what others do. If Microsoft can be sued for others basing their sites on IE, then I can sue game companies for basing their games on Windows, and I can't.
  • 0 Hide
    ira176 , January 22, 2009 4:26 AM
    Mr. Jon von Tetzchner, should stop his crying and build his own OS and include the Opera browser on it, then let the consumer decide. EU's argument is rediculous, do they really think that Microsoft should actually have to offer a competator's software in their OS? I they do, then they may need to start suing Apple, and companies that put out linux, so they include competator's browsers. ....the only entity in my mind that this makes "cents" to is the EU.
  • -1 Hide
    ThePatriot , January 22, 2009 4:57 AM
    Most of you are missing the point completely..... and the EU does not care what US consumers think of its anti-monopoly policies.
    And since the EU is a bigger market than the US, MS can't afford to ignore it.
    MS has a real problem on their hands; time will tell how they will deal with it.
  • 2 Hide
    kamkal , January 22, 2009 5:48 AM

    only real merit i see is the "standards hijacking" that microsoft is notorious for

    bundling software is the same as toyota selling you a car with a toyota stereo, dont see anything wrong with that, getting IE with your copy of windows is like getting a factory soup up

    leave ie with the OS, but pursue the "standards hijacking" big time, especially in the WWW realm
  • 1 Hide
    kamkal , January 22, 2009 6:06 AM
    semmsterSince many websites are designed specifically for IE, obviously the specifications should be freely available to other browser makers. Please, leave IE where it is. Let the other browsers compete based on ease of use, visual appeal etc. I'm totally unafraid of trying other browsers but I always come back to IE. It's just plain easier to use.


    that's the problem though that most ms supporters are missing here

    websites are NOT supposed to be designed around IE, IE is NOT A STANDARD!

    The www consortium is the standards body, similar to the IEEE or the ISO. Websites should be designed around the w3 standard so that ANY browser can open up the site without issues. Web browsers are also supposed to be designed around handling w3 standards. This helps maintain compatibility across all browsers and platforms.


    Microsoft has always tried to do this; trying to change agree upon standards to THEIR own, this is why they are being targeted by the EU. In every aspect of computing where there is a standard, microsoft will try and intervene and plug up the pipeline with their garbage.

    Compare it to your electricity; 110-120v is the standard used here in North America, now think of microsoft as being a utility provider trying to change it to 300v and giving you their own electronics to use when you sign up. This renders your 110-120v electronics useless and you are forced to use only microsoft's stuff.

  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , January 22, 2009 6:19 AM
    If that clown Opera CEO wants his browser to be used more,
    they should do something with the plugin nightmare under linux.
    No plugins work out-of-the-box, and life is too short.
    Firefox is slower than Opera, but no plugin nightmare, so I am stuck with it.
  • 1 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , January 22, 2009 9:46 AM
    Being from the EU myself, I wonder why microsoft doesn't just stop supplying us with operating systems as response? I mean, it's not like we've got any real alternative to windows. Sure we could use some linux variation, but truely no ordinary user would even consider that option.
    I just don't understand why a company as powerful as microsoft can't stand up and fight the eu commission. It's not like it's the european population that has a beef with microsoft. It's 'only' the commission and a select number of individuals from companies that feel they're at a disadvantag. (read: greed).
    Perhaps beurocracy has finally defeated both common sense and industrialization. You are not allowed to make the best choice if your competator would become at a disadvantage by it. You're not allowed to provide quality products, lest the products get popular and cost other companies their existence. In essence, you're not allowed to create the products you want, for fear that someone less competent might get hurt.
    I do realize that msn beat icq because it was bundled with windows, and mirabilis sold icq to fools. But if msn was so much worse than icq, people would still use the latter. Same story for media player. Sure it's bundled with all windows systems, but EVERY SINGLE of the more than 400 computers I'm in charge of has media player classic (codecguide.com) installed, as it is superior to windows media player 11, and some even have winamp as well. Point is - if you're not happy with the bundled software, microsoft isn't stopping you from using third party ones. That's a tactic apple has used with great success, but if they'd be as big as microsoft, they'd probably get a similar treatment.

    What is 'fair' can always be argued about. But only if archiving 'fairness' includes moving money away from the big players, will fairness be pursued.

    Just my 2 cents.
  • -2 Hide
    Startled_Toad , January 22, 2009 12:04 PM
    Its about time ms go sued for something. Dnt know why they think they can do what they want and then people will just go along with it because they have no other choice.

    Standards are put there for everyone to follow. Why should they be different. They already get away with selling useless pieces of software that dnt work properly (vista)
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