EU inching towards Microsoft antitrust charge, record fines loom

EU inching towards Microsoft antitrust charge, record fines loom

Summary: Microsoft is reportedly only days away from receiving a formal antitrust complaint after the software giant left out its required 'browser choice' screen to 28 million users. Record fines loom not far away.

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Microsoft is about to feel the full force of the European antitrust gust, as the software giant braces itself for one stormy winter.

The European Union is preparing to issue Microsoft with a formal antitrust complaint, after the software giant failed to include a crucial 'browser choice' update in the latest version of its operating system.

European authorities are reportedly almost ready to issue Microsoft with a formal "statement of objections," according to German publication Der Spiegel, in which the software giant will be formally charged with a list of accusations. The software giant may be given the opportunity to settle, to admit fault and face a greatly reduced fine, or appeal the decision, which could drag out the whole saga for another two to three years.

The EU began an investigation into Microsoft earlier this year after it was claimed more than 28 million European users of Windows failed to receive a 'browser choice' option as part of an earlier 2009 settlement with Europe.

The browser choice was a mandatory Windows hotfix issued as part of the company's efforts to comply with the ruling. It allowed competing browsers -- such as Firefox, Opera, and Chrome -- to be offered alongside Microsoft's own Internet Explorer as part of a settlement with EU regulators.

Microsoft admitted, almost immediately after the Commission's allegations were made public, that it had "fallen short in [its] responsibility" to include the browser options screen in the latest iteration of Windows 7 "due to a technical error."

Microsoft has already admitted its wrongdoing in the case in the hope that it may dampen the harsh stick of justice from the European authorities. In "personal talks" with Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said he was given "assurances that [Microsoft] will comply immediately regardless of the conclusion of the anti trust probe." 

Historically, Microsoft and antitrust authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have not played along nicely in the competitive sandbox on the technology world stage. However, Microsoft's willingness to accept its forthcoming fate does not necessarily mean the software giant will get off lightly. However, Almunia has hinted strongly at heavy sanctions even in spite of Microsoft's repeated apologies and offers for remedies. 

Earlier this month, Microsoft's proxy statement for its fiscal 2012 earnings showed that the firm's "top named executive officers," including Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Windows president Steven Sinofsky, who saw their incentive awards 'dinged' as a result of the failure to provide the browser choice as per the firm's 2009 commitment with European authorities.

Microsoft faces a fine up to 10 percent of its global annual turnover should it be found flouting European antitrust laws; a figure that could total close to €5.7 billion ($7.3bn).

Topics: Microsoft, Browser, Mobile OS, Operating Systems, EU

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40 comments
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  • WTF

    That s idiotic!!!

    Everyone can chsng his/her browser instantly. Just download it, it s not Microsoft s fault that the EU still stucks in the 90s

    I m really ashamed to be a citizen of the EU
    Yann82
    • It is MS's fault that it didn't stick to the anti-trust agreement.

      And that is what MS is being fined for.
      Zogg
      • nope

        That has nothing to do with the anti trust agreement but ignorance from the EU bureaucratics who can t download a new browser
        Yann82
        • I must disagree - MS has already admitted it is at fault.

          "Microsoft admitted, almost immediately after the Commission's allegations were made public, that it had "fallen short in [its] responsibility" to include the browser options screen in the latest iteration of Windows 7 "due to a technical error."

          Personally, I'm astonished (and slightly disgusted) that people seem to think that MS is above the Law.
          Zogg
          • and Apple?

            Then they should sue Apple too cause they doesn t have a vrowser option too. I m not saying MS is above the law but that this particular law is nonsense made in the 1990s when people didn t knew how to download a browser or it wasn t known there are other options. It s outdated and dhouldn t been used
            Yann82
          • This case is about MS, not Apple.

            MS is being fined for violating its anti-trust settlement. If Apple also violates an anti-trust settlement then by all mean, fine it too. But that has nothing to do with MS.

            Just because the law moves slower than the Internet, there is still no excuse for MS to flout it.
            Zogg
          • still

            It s still nonsense. And give me one os where you can chose your browser before you start it.
            Yann82
          • Too late to whine about it now.

            They maybe MS should just have implemented the "nonsense" and been done with it, as it was legally required to do?

            BTW, Fedora lets you choose which packages you wish to install, and yes that does include browsers... ;-).
            Zogg
          • well

            Then i refuse that law and will install i e and over it i m downloading chrome and firefox as i m doing it since they are avaible. :)
            Yann82
          • That is Awesome!!!

            To bad so few people use it or care about it.
            hopp64
          • Easy

            Easy:

            Here is XNU operating system what Apple use in iOS and OS X: http://www.opensource.apple.com/source/xnu/

            Here is Linux operating system what many distributors use in their distributions (software systems): http://kernel.org/

            But you can not have NT operating system what Microsoft use in Windows NT 3.1 - Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 as it is closed source and only MS government partners gets read access to its source code for security reasons.
            Fri13
          • Don't fine anybody on bogus charges

            It's wrong to fine companies that didn't really do anything wrong. The whole thing is a bogus shakedown by a self serving government agency.

            Nothing they are doing benefits their constituents but they are able to fund their phoney baloney jobs.
            Schoolboy Bob
          • apple is not even close to monopoly

            do you know the market shares of apple products

            in phones only they don't even reach 25% (more like 18,8% in Q2 2012 smartphones only and android has more than 60% almost 3 times more)
            in tablets only they reach 68% (IT'S VERY LIKELY THAT THIS DATAS ARE INFLATED AND IPAD HAS LESS THAN THAT)
            in global share mobile+tablet+PCs they reach 4 or 5%

            so even in tablet only they are very far from the 80%+ that is needed to even start to think to a kind of monopoly

            microsoft on the other hand had the 90%+ share when the anti-trust investigation was started (this kind of legal processes take months or even years to be completed)

            THIS ARE THE FACTS if you want to deny that you must have datas supporting you, you can't just say "it's as I told only because it was me to tell it" thats pointles and just doesn't make any sense

            datas form wikipedia for smartphones and apple's keynote for tablets (so it's very likely that ipad has less than 68%)
            Filippo Savi
          • are crazy or can t you read?

            I ve refered to apple as they are selling there macs with there own browser software installed too.
            Yann82
          • Nope

            Apple does not have dominant market position on personal computer markets as it manufacturers own personal computer line called "Mac". Microsoft does have dominant market position on personal computer line called "PC" as it licenses Windows and MS Office to be pre-installed with nearly all PC's.

            Before PC, there were dozens of personal computers, a very wide variety and alternativies for everything. But then IBM created PC and brought standard parts and API's and BIOS. IBM united personal computer markets but same time gained a dominant market position for it with a PC by over 80%. Compaq then reverse engineered by making clean room implemention of BIOS and PC-clones born. IBM lost its dominal position on personal computer markets because PC was overthrown by PC-clones.

            Intel and Microsoft were the winners what was IBM project called "Project Chess" and its motto was "a PC in every desk", what even Bill Gates stole and called it as "a PC in every desk and home".

            Apple has never worked on PC markets, it has always kept own personal computer line what is even older than PC line, the Macintosh. And you can not say that a corporation has dominant market position or monopoly for products what it designs, manufacturers, ship and sell by itself.
            But Microsoft case is totally different, because it just license the software system (=operating system, system software, application programs, GUI etc) for computer manufacturers, who are then dependable of Microsoft software as every software needs OS and software platforms what are included in Windows. Microsoft can control what is done on manufacturers hardware, Microsoft can control what software is developed for Windows.
            Microsoft can control how and when Windows is sold by ordering how pre-installs are done and what software can be bundled with it by OEM.

            Microsoft could rule that IE is only browser with PC if OEM wanted Windows to be pre-installed, what it wanted because users needed MS Office for work and home and it was available only for Windows. DirectX is another ball grip of OEM's, as nearly every PC game is made for Windows (remember, Mac isn't PC) so it usually use DirectX because developers want to port it easily for XBox.

            IE was dominant player since Windows 95B (if I now remember correctly, it was since B version) to Windows 7 time at EU area until the ballot came and normal users who didn't want to learn technology, got a change to notice that there are alternatives and they have change to try better for their needs. So they did and IE share has dropped more since then.

            Why it is so that people are so against of freedom to give a user to make a choice without anyone forcing with vendor locking?

            Every PC should be sold empty. Only a Microsoft could manufacture and sell a PC where Windows is pre-installed. Stores could sell own service to pre-install Windows for users if they buy a PC, even if it is their earlier license key from older PC. Or they could buy a new Windows license from shelf or even get service to pre-install Linux or BSD distribution to it. Even avarage tech people could get new jobs by simply offering services for normal people to upgrade and pre-install PC's for them.

            It takes about 30 years that technology makes brake trough on avarage peoples live. It toke 30 years from Radio, 30 years from TV, 30 years from cars and so on. PC (the original, IBM PC) is different, as it toke only 20 years for it to make brake trough.
            WWW browsers are in same position, it takes 30 years, from about 1995 to today to make that brake trough. Microsoft had almost 15 years of control, and that time was wasted because there was no collaboration and open development.
            Fri13
          • Personally, I'm astonished too

            and slightly disgusted, too, that people seem to think that the EU is above the Law.

            Oh wait, they write the laws, so I guess nothing says they have to be fair about things if they're hard up for cash
            William Farrel
          • RE: Personally, I'm astonished too

            EU is a lawmaker if you don't like EU's laws you can always stop to sell in EU...

            oh wait... microsoft love's to much EU's user's cash to stop selling in EU...
            Filippo Savi
    • Do keep up

      Microsoft failed to honour a binding agreement with the EC. They are probably going to get hammered for it. Life goes on.
      ego.sum.stig
      • You're right - Life goes on

        The EU gets to keep it's head above water for another week or two, and MS makes the money back in it's next quarter, so life goes on for MS.

        Now the EU...
        William Farrel
    • Nope

      Sorry but you are wrong.

      Most computer users do not even know what difference is between WWW browser, File Browser and WWW search service. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4MwTvtyrUQ

      And EU required WWW Browser Ballot is only effective in computers sold and used in EU countries and since then in those countries alternative WWW browsers has gained lots of favorite users.

      But in USA, where user does not need to know what is WWW browser or make a choice or even knowledge that there are alternative and try them out to find best, Internet Explorer still dominates.

      Examples from time period when that ballot came active to this day:

      North America: http://gs.statcounter.com/#browser-na-monthly-200807-201209
      Europe: http://gs.statcounter.com/#browser-eu-monthly-200807-201209
      Oceania: http://gs.statcounter.com/#browser-oc-monthly-200807-201209

      I would bet that Google Chrome success relays in its advertising in Google Search front page and that many new PC's comes Google Chrome pre-installed and it is suggested to be installed with many applications after their install.

      But, saying that "Every can chsng his/her browser instantly" is just comment from ignorant person who doesn't even understand technology itself, markets around that technology and users who use that technology.

      Next 20 years will be bad thing for whole world because ignorant people does not know the IT history and computer science itself as a whole and they are slaves for marketing people to attack against others and compete everyone to death while everyone just gets crap.
      Fri13