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EU Investigating Microsoft Over IE Bundling Again 299

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the only-28-million-people dept.
vu1986 writes, quoting GigaOm: "Microsoft has confessed to violating its browser choice agreement with European antitrust regulators, after they opened up a fresh investigation into the company's behavior. This is a big deal, not least because it means the company could now face a fine of up to 10 percent of its annual turnover — $7 billion at last count." Microsoft agreed in 2009 to inform users they could install other browsers. They did, mostly, but Windows 7SP1 users didn't get the software update. Microsoft is claiming it was just a software bug, and have taken actions to fix it.
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EU Investigating Microsoft Over IE Bundling Again

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  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @02:51PM (#40677527)

    what about there boot loader lock in that is even bigger.

    • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @02:55PM (#40677569) Homepage Journal

      No doubt. I wish they would weigh in on the boot loader issue. It makes the I.E. wars seem small potatoes.

      • by camperslo (704715)

        They also shouldn't get a lock-in on proprietary standards/protocols used for basic functions. Skype comes to mind. While it's good to see a Linux version, there should be full free access for others to code their own apps and inter-operate fully.

        I like the idea of hardware being open to other OSes. I'm wondering how much of a role the OS or replaceable firmware plays in power management and battery charge control. If those functions are not handled properly, problems could extend beyond performance iss

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @05:35PM (#40679501)

          That won't happen

          The recently deobfuscated https://joindiaspora.com/posts/1799228 [joindiaspora.com] Skype binaries show there's a (US?) Government backdoor.

          Apparently security agencies were unhappy that encryption and decentralised super nodes made Skype too hard to intercept. The government made funds/incentives available, and Microsoft bought Skype. Microsoft immediately switched Skye away from the peer-to-peer supernodes and over to servers under the control of Microsoft and their government agency sponsors..

          Since the VOIP traffic now goes through Microsoft servers, and Microsoft has the encryption keys, they and their partners can monitor all Skype calls and messages.

          Opening the protocols/standards would allow for decentralizing again, which they wouldn't accept.

          • by Kalriath (849904)

            Where do you get that dumb idea from? The only source for this claim that there's a backdoor is a crackpot blogspot blog. Wow, really credible.

            And Skype doesn't send all traffic through supernodes anyway - calls are still peer to peer with supernodes being used for discovery (although I think they may also step in if firewall punching is needed as well).

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        Rather than fine Microsoft 7 billion dollars or whatever, I hope the EU takes them up on their offer to extend the browser choice screen a few more years. Like 20 in total (2009-2029).

        When I installed Puppy GNULinux the first thing it asked when I clicked on internet was, "Which browser do you wish to use?" It then downloaded and installed my choice. It really should be standard setup on all OSes, but especially Microsoft's monopoly PC-OS, to let the USER decide what he wants as his/her default web brow

        • by Elldallan (901501)
          Why should the EU Commission take them up on that offer?
          The Commission should fine them the 7 billion and keep fining them until they're cease to be in violation of EU antitrust legislation.
          The browser choice is not voluntary, it was implemented to stay in compliance with that legislation, Microsoft can choose to either keep the the browser choice screen or not ship a browser with windows at all(including browsers hidden in the OS)

          Asking the Commission to not fine you and in return you will honor the
          • They've already restored the browser choice screen, and did so within two days of being informed of the issue. And they're not just saying "we'll honor the original agreement", they're saying "we'll extend the existing agreement by over 200 times the breach period".

            I don't see why they would get smacked harder, given their quick turnaround and fairly generous restitution offer.

    • Apple First (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Aqualung812 (959532)

      Sure, go after Apple's iOS boot loader lock first, since they have several times the number of devices as Microsoft that are affected by a lock.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JDG1980 (2438906)

        Sure, go after Apple's iOS boot loader lock first, since they have several times the number of devices as Microsoft that are affected by a lock.

        Microsoft has a monopoly on the desktop. Apple doesn't have a monopoly in any of its market segments, so it doesn't have to play by the same rules. Being a monopolist isn't illegal in and of itself, but it does mean you are subject to more stringent regulations to ensure you aren't using your dominant position to lock out competitors.

        In my opinion, the attempt to

        • If you're talking about the lock, you're talking about Microsoft ARM devices, not desktop devices. Microsoft has no monopoly there, and is FAR behind Apple in that market.

          And, http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2985663&cid=40677977 [slashdot.org]

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by JDG1980 (2438906)

            If you're talking about the lock, you're talking about Microsoft ARM devices, not desktop devices. Microsoft has no monopoly there, and is FAR behind Apple in that market.

            Under antitrust law, it's illegal to leverage your monopoly in one field (desktop operating systems) to gain market share in another field (tablets and smartphone OSes).

            • How is any leveraging occurring? The ARM version of Windows 8 won't run anything written for x86.

            • If you're talking about the lock, you're talking about Microsoft ARM devices, not desktop devices. Microsoft has no monopoly there, and is FAR behind Apple in that market.

              Under antitrust law, it's illegal to leverage your monopoly in one field (desktop operating systems) to gain market share in another field (tablets and smartphone OSes).

              So if you buy a PC, you get a free Windows RT tablet forcibly bundled with it and no way to uncouple them?

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      What boot loader lock? On x86, it doesn't exist (yet). Motherboard makers are free to let any OS install or not as they see fit (if the OEM locks it down, bitch to them about it, since they are the ones doing it, not MS). And on ARM, Windows has such a small market share, it can't be considered monopolistic (since MS is nowhere near being able to exploit a monopoly position). MS is free to require ARM tablet makers who make Windows RT tablets lock the bootloader as much as they want, since it doesn't matter

      • by Elldallan (901501) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @06:52PM (#40680181)

        And on ARM, Windows has such a small market share, it can't be considered monopolistic (since MS is nowhere near being able to exploit a monopoly position).

        Yes it can, MS has a de facto monopoly on the desktop(win 8), they are using that as leverage in another market(by blocking dual boot), I don't know about US antitrust legislation but that is explicitly forbidden according to EU antitrust legislation.

    • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @04:19PM (#40678631)

      what about there boot loader lock in that is even bigger.

      Are you talking about UEFI secure boot? That's not a "microsoft" thing, that's a UEFI thing. Just to be clear, it was jointly developed by AMD, American Megatrends Inc., Apple Computer, Inc., Dell, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Insyde, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Phoenix Technologies. All this whining about an optional security feature sounds like a lot of whining about nothing to me. If you want to load linux on a machine that shipped with windows (and therefore UEFI Secure boot enabled) you just turn off UEFI secure boot. It would be trivial for anyone capable of installing linux in the first place. If a vendor wants to sell pc's with linux preloaded, they can ship the pc with secure boot disabled. If an OS distributor wants to get their OS properly signed so they can use secure boot, they can do that too.

      Get over this non-issue.

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      Uh, one thing at a time. Think of how long this browser investigation has taken. Even this is taking a long time. They can't just simply prosecute MS for being MS, there has to be specific stuff. One tie-in at a time.

  • I've heard this tune before......

  • Like what happened with AT&T.

    • by Jeng (926980)

      At the time of the anti-trust trials that would have been warranted and by breaking them up the different sections may have grown greater than it's current state.

      Breaking up Microsoft at this point would not be done to punish Microsoft, but instead to diversify and free the various segments of Microsoft from it's current mismanagement.

  • Coming from Microsoft, Ballmer could kill someone in front of a lot of public (probably throwing a chair on his head), and could try to get free claiming that it was a software bug. But acknowledging that 3 years late is malice, not stupidity.
  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @03:11PM (#40677769)

    " 'we learned recently that weâ(TM)ve missed serving the BCS software to the roughly 28 million PCs running Windows 7 SP1.' Microsoft says it started distributing the BCS software to Windows 7 SP1 machines on 3 July, a couple of business days after discovering the problem."

    If the users have already turned-on their new machines, then they are already PAST the browser choice screen. It is pointless to install it after the fact and Microsoft is in violation of the terms of the lawsuit. Furthermore does anyone really believe it was a "mistake"? Last time I told a cop I made a mistake and thought the green left arrow w/ red stoplight meant "go" instead of stop, he just laughed and gave me a ticket. There's really no room to let Microsoft go, else it sets the precedent that criminals can just say "ooops I made a mistake" and be left free to go.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is the way MSFT used to operate in order to beat down their competition. "Updates" to their OS that "accidentally" broke their competitors' software.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @03:12PM (#40677789) Journal
    In a Perry Mason novel, (probably The Case of the Ice Cold Hands), the witness in the stand will confess to murder, and the DA Ham Burger would be forced to argue, (because he is charging his sister with that murder), "no you did not!".

    In most cases bugs in your code is usually bad for your business. But Microsoft has bugs that are peculiar in that, it helps the company. It breaks competitor's products from the DR-DOS days or help it avoid compliance with court rulings... You know at some point people are going to say, "this level of incompetence is simply not possible, it must be intentional". And Microsoft will pull a Ham Burger and argue, "No! We are that incompetent!".

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      (young person asks)
      Who's Ham Burger?
      Where's Perry Mason?
      What is this guy is talking about?

  • I doubt this is anything other than an innocent mistake by MS. Surely nobody thinks MS would be stupid enough to leave out the browser ballot on purpose and risk 10% of their turnover? I fully expect somebody responsible is currently pursuing opportunities outside of MS.
    • Surely nobody thinks MS would be stupid enough to not test the one piece of functionality that could cost them 10% of their turnover!

      • by wjousts (1529427)
        Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence. What's more likely, MS decided to gamble 10% of their turnover and years of court battles to try and sneak the ballot out of their European versions, or somebody pushed the North American version of SP1 out to Europe without realizing?
  • Euro Mania (Score:4, Interesting)

    by westlake (615356) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @03:15PM (#40677823)

    28 million PCs sold ---

    and no one notices or gives a damn about the missing browser ballot.

    Not a word.

    Not a whisper from Opera.

    Google. Mozilla...

    Until today, Slashdot, Ars Technica, The Register and all the rest have been as silent as the grave.

    • by JDG1980 (2438906)

      The browser ballot isn't aimed at people like us. It's aimed at the kind of people who think that "the big blue E" is "the internet". The whole point is to make inexperienced users aware that there are other choices out there.

      • by westlake (615356)

        The browser ballot isn't aimed at people like us. It's aimed at the kind of people who think that "the big blue E" is "the internet".

        Chrome. Firefox. Opera.

        They live and die by the add click.

        Opera --- the weakest of the lot --- pushed hardest for the ballot.

        It is at the very least disingenuous, I think, to claim that the only purpose of the ballot was to serve the interests of the people and not to give a leg up to Microsoft's political rivals and competitors,

        • The purpose was absolutely to give a leg up to Microsoft's business rivals and competitors. Because Microsoft was convicted of suppressing its business rivals through monopoly abuse. And having a robust marketplace is definitely in the interests of the people when compared to having no choice.
  • by Tim Ward (514198) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @03:45PM (#40678217) Homepage

    ... I get a not-very-computer-literate relative asking me "why TF does my new machine keep on and on asking me if I really want to use IE, despite me keeping on telling it yes I do, and please shut up about it?"

  • The EU says M$ has to inform users they can use other browsers. Why? Does Ford, Mercedes, BMW or any other car maker have to inform their owner they can use a different radio in the dash? or that they can use different tires than what comes on them? And why is this not an issue for Apple and Safari? Or better yet, why not an issue for Ubuntu? Ubuntu does not inform me that i can use something other then Firefox when i log in.
    • Yes actually. Ford, Mercedes, and BMW are forced to acknowledge that aftermarket car parts made by other manufacturers will work in their vehicles, allowing a competitive market for replacement parts to exist.
    • The EU says M$ has to inform users they can use other browsers. Why?

      Because that's the penalty Microsoft agreed to in place of a larger fine when they were convicted of illegally leveraging their desktop OS monopoly to constrain browser choice.

      Does Ford, Mercedes, BMW or any other car maker have to inform their owner they can use a different radio in the dash?

      Neither Ford, Mercedes, nor BMW has been convicted of illegally leveraging a monopoly in the market for cars (unsurprising, since none of them has a

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