EU Smacks Down Microsoft's Antitrust Appeal

from the surprise,-surprise dept

Given just how many times EU regulators have complained about Microsoft's inability to comply with antitrust rulings, it probably comes as little to no surprise to find out that an EU court has rejected Microsoft's appeal of the antitrust ruling against the company, that could cost the company well over $600 million. The court continues to insist that Microsoft needs to sell a version of Windows without Microsoft's media player included while also requiring it to open up more to competitors who want to make sure their software works well with Windows. Of course, it's still not clear how this benefits consumers in any way. It's true that Microsoft bundles its media player, but many, many people have been willing to download and use alternatives. Also, Microsoft is a lot more open than most companies in allowing competitors technology to work on its operating systems. The company has known for quite some time that its success as a platform depends on this. It's hard to see how these are problems that requires regulatory involvement when the market should suffice. There's no doubt that Microsoft has done some nasty things to smaller competitors, but in judging whether or not an antitrust ruling makes sense, the final analysis should depend on whether or not the customer will be better or worse off. It's not clear how the customer is any better off from this decision.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Günther Stadler, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 4:45am

    Indeed,

    I thought exactly the same when I heard the news on the radio.

     

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  2.  
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    Daniel Casingena, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 4:45am

    well other companies mediaplayers like apple quicktime and real media all do stuff like making rm and mov play only on there software, isnt that too restricting competion ?

     

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  3.  
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    gee, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 5:11am

    it isnt just the direct effects

    The EUs decision is just about the direct effect on consumers. They have to make sure there is fair competition in the technology industries. Yes, there are alternatives to media player and they do well, but your average mom, dad, grandma and grandpa doesnt know they exist. This gives MS a competitive avantage. They are using on monopoloy to create another. If they made sure their media player was cutting edge then this wouldn't be a problem, but because they have no incentive to improve it, then it becomes a disadvantage for the consumer. They should just force MS to ship windows with mediplayer and realplayer and see which media player wins.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 5:13am

    "Of course, it's still not clear how this benefits consumers in any way" so your not familiar with monopolies and the consequences of lack of competition ?
    "..many people have been willing to download and use alternatives" practically nothing in comparison to the number that have not.
    "Microsoft is a lot more open than most companies.." so what planet are you on ? ... Oh wait, I get it, your talking about the behavior of a American company outside of the US and the reaction of the un-Americans, so everyhting is OK then.

     

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  5.  
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    Harry, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 5:41am

    Monopolistic practices

    "There's no doubt that Microsoft has done some things to smaller competitors..." is the most objectionable part of the whole article. It's a whitewash. There's no way to fathom the total effect of M$'s "DOS ain't done till Lotus don't run" policy, but my guess is that it would dwarf the Enron scandal. M$ has never really got the message from DOJ or EU or anyone else. So long as dumb consumers pay $$ and tolerate it, there will be no adequate redress.

     

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  6.  
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    Tom, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 6:04am

    The real reason

    The real reason the EU is so concerned about Media Player is that a huge chunk of EU porn is encoded in oddball formats that MP doesn't recognize. They're just po'd ya know - since all those toothless brits are missing the pretty umm, smiles, on the porn stars and they're taking it out on the rest of the population and the government and politicians.

     

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  7.  
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    Overcast, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 6:24am

    The EU should ban Microsoft products then. Simple. Problem Solved.

     

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  8.  
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    Joel Coehoorn, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 6:49am

    Don't be surprised that the EU doesn't trust the market to resolve something like this. A number of European nations have political systems that these days lean more than a little in the socialist direction.

     

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  9.  
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    Life is Crazy, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 7:21am

    The EU and Microsoft

    Microsoft should consider just not selling their products in the EU. If their customers buy it outside the borders and bring it in, what loss would that be for Microsoft? Let them eat Linux.

    I'm very pro-linux but I hate using it - the overhead is simply huge. I'd NEVER ask a customer to use it unless it was their preference. What a waste of time trying to get it to work and keep it working. Oh I know the open fans hate Microsoft - but I think it's because Windows is easy to use and the Linux product just doesn't seem to be.

    Software is fundamentally different from other products - the MARKET has 'standardized' on windows - not Microsoft through poor business practice. I mean they seem to have stinky practices but I doubt their market share would be any less if they 'behaved' - it's just too useful to have a 'basic' product on every meachine that anyone can use.

    I know - why not let the EU create an ISO standard for an OS and give it away. I suspect it would eventually take away dozens of licenses from Microsoft.

     

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  10.  
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    Sairen, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 8:07am

    You know, normally I've all over anti-Microsoft actions, but I have to also agree that this one is marginally ridiculous. I'm a Windows user, and sometimes I do use Windows Media Player. I also have WinAmp installed and Real Media player and Quicktime. Mostly I default to WinAmp, but I let the others handle their proprietary file types, such as .wma, .rm, and .mov or whatever.

    I don't believe for a moment that having WM Player inhibits other players. It isn't even selfish about allowing other players to open its file types. If many haven't explored other options, maybe that's because it works all right. People who don't like it, though, are able to *easily* choose others.

     

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  11.  
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    Tom McLernon, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 9:17am

    Microsoft

    The consumer is better off because the consumer voted for democracy. They have had their fill of fascists in Europe,and they understand fasciasim really well. (from experience) Fascism is just a concept in the US, that is why they don't understand that Microsoft is a Totalitarian Fascist company.

    They try to buy and strong arm their will on everyone and everything. Their actions show contempt for the law, and for the justice system. They just won't give in until they see there is no chance left that they can buy or bully a decision. Just look at the OOXML debacle. Won't give in yet, until they get hit on the head with the 2x4. Hitler would not give in until, until he had to shoot himself in the head. Do you see the resemblance?

     

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  12.  
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    slimcat (profile), Sep 17th, 2007 @ 9:27am

    Forget wmp for a minute

    Microsoft is a lot more open than most companies in allowing competitors technology to work on its operating systems.
    There's no doubt that Microsoft has done some nasty things to smaller competitors

    These sentences seem very close to mutual exclusion but the MS I know has only ever wanted things one way, their way.

    I see this ruling as a result of MS's long standing refusal to share API's with developers who which to write programs that can inter-operate with a Windows OS. Andrew Tridgell's efforts to enable Samba to talk with MS SMB/CIFS is just one of hundreds of examples. Sharing API's doesn't hurt MS in the least and their primary reason for doing so is to block what they see as "competition".

     

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  13.  
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    glitch, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 9:49am

    EU are a bunch of whinners

    it is all about egos..microsux and the EU

    i'd really like to see m$ just say "we aint gonna release a non-US version". period. then strip out all the non-US crap that they bundle in, like temperature and measurements, and even other languages.

    linux and open office are viable options. somewhat, anyway. i am not a user of m$ office and havent been for several years. my days with windows are not unlimited. I believe XP is the end of my using it.

     

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  14.  
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    slimcat (profile), Sep 17th, 2007 @ 9:57am

    Re: Forget wmp for a minute

    Dammit! That'll teach me to preview before I post, maybe.

     

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  15.  
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    Colg, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 10:01am

    eh?

    "Fascism is just a concept in the US, that is why they don't understand that Microsoft is a Totalitarian Fascist company."

    While I would agree that Microsoft is morally bankrupt and a fair approximation of evil incarnate I wouldn't call them "Fascist". The US for the most part is aware that the evil empire is in fact evil and I for one would like nothing better than to see them brought to there knees by open source programming.

    However, we also recognize legislative and regulatory stupidity when we see it, because we have been exposed to it so often.

    The aren't selling the player, they are giving it away and frankly I wouldn't use the stupid thing if they paid me to, winamp works fine thanks.

    I suppose the next antitrust suit against them will be because solitaire and minesweeper come packaged with windows and that creates unfair competition with euro gaming software producers...

     

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  16.  
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    Old Guy, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 10:49am

    Fair Competition

    There are many free products out that are far superior to Winmedia. Maybe those software companies EU should focus on making a better free product.

    This whole thing is kinda like the EU demanding that Tyson Gay wear ankle weights because he wins all the races.

     

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  17.  
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    norman619, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 1:12pm

    Re: Fair Competition

    The EU is the next USSR. They are doing all they can to eliminate free market competition. If they don't like MS they should just go ahead and ban it since that seems to be what they want to do anyway.

     

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  18.  
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    ThatsNotPudding, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 5:24pm

    Question re Apple

    Do the Apple OS's come with an Apple media player? Are there easily installable third-party replacements? I honestly don't know, but that was the first thing that popped into my mind. Apple is such a control freak w.r.t. their software, surely they will be next up in the EU docket. I mean, they just screwed up syncing for the Linux folk on the new-gen iPods, FFS.

     

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  19.  
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    watchingeyes, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 6:33pm

    Ummm....

    Ummm...with all due respect, did you even READ the ruling or any of the numerous articles about it? This is regarding interoperability information, such as network protocols and such, which the court ruled should be available to companies like Sun and Apple, as well as Linux. The media player part is understandable (Windows Media Player is easily replaced, and Realplayer and iTunes are both very popular on Windows), but to completely ignore the part of the ruling regarding networking protocols such as SMB to make a point is downright shoddy journalism. Have you not followed ANY of the controversy and coverage of this case over the last 3 or 4 years?

     

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  20.  
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    Enrico Suarve, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 12:54am

    Re: Ummm....

    No they didn't - they saw the bit they understood about media player and took it from there

    In all fairness this is probably due in quite a large degree to these being the only bits which have been heavily reported by the EU legislative for the same reasons

    Then various posters went off on the usual 'EU = big bad red commie' thing as usual and sense took a back seat. Coming from a nation whose president's grandpa supported Hitler and tried to overthrow Roosevelt I always find these comments particularly amusing (flame on)

    I agree with the general feeling re Media player and assorted add-on programs, I see no true disadvantage to the consumer having these bundled. In fact the opposite - if you want a basic player that just does basic stuff media player is great, my mum loves it and it works for her

    Stating that it can't be bundled as this would destroy competition is a farce, and comparative to stating that cars can no longer be sold with car radios in them, as this would put out of business the manufacturers and shops selling them separately....utter bollocks

    The important part of this bill is however the bit which most people left out, Microsoft have been reticent about handing out information on protocols and details on how windows servers 'talk' to one another. This is the bit which is bad in my opinion - they are using dominance of the desktop market to ensure dominance of the server market

    The EUs ruling says they have to share this information so other manufacturers can have a look in and that’s a good thing in my opinion. As for all the posts complaining about the same sort of lock in from other manufacturers - you're right this is also bad, but the ruling just announced allows for precedence

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 1:16am

    Re: Re: Ummm....

    "I agree with the general feeling re Media player and assorted add-on programs, I see no true disadvantage to the consumer having these bundled. In fact the opposite - if you want a basic player that just does basic stuff media player is great, my mum loves it and it works for her

    Stating that it can't be bundled as this would destroy competition is a farce, and comparative to stating that cars can no longer be sold with car radios in them, as this would put out of business the manufacturers and shops selling them separately....utter bollocks"

    Actually the problem is more that manufacturer can't bundle another media player than WMP.

    And to the EU == 2007 URSS, keep living in lalaland where your politicians can be bought by large corporations and defend their interests instead of yours.

     

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  22.  
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    Enrico Suarve, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 2:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Ummm....

    "Actually the problem is more that manufacturer can't bundle another media player than WMP"

    Sorry I don't get that bit - no one actually stops the PC manufacturer from installing whatever software they want on top of media player and having media player does not prevent this

    I have a few different 'media players' installed over the top of WMP and they all work, unlike a car a PC can have more than one

    I don't see the argument unless it is that WMP is hard to uninstall? It seems over the top to be creating legislation for this?

    Please let me know if i'm grabbing the wrong end of the stick here?

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 5:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Ummm....

    ""Actually the problem is more that manufacturer can't bundle another media player than WMP"

    Sorry I don't get that bit - no one actually stops the PC manufacturer from installing whatever software they want on top of media player and having media player does not prevent this

    I have a few different 'media players' installed over the top of WMP and they all work, unlike a car a PC can have more than one

    I don't see the argument unless it is that WMP is hard to uninstall? It seems over the top to be creating legislation for this?

    Please let me know if i'm grabbing the wrong end of the stick here?"


    Basically if a manufacturer did bundle alternatives they would be strongharmed by MS to NOT do this, or at least considering the track record of MS I'm guessing they would do it.
    Anyway the MAJOR problem is more that in Europe you CAN'T buy a pc unless it comes with Windows on it, you couldn't even get a refund for your OEM licence => bad for competition (why "buy" another system (commercial linux for example) if you already paid for 1).
    Really if you can find me a manufacturer that bundles an OS with anthing other than WMP you would interest a lot of people....
    Heck where I live if you don't want Windows preinstalled you have to :
    - buy a Mac (not exactly a pc in its own right as it has its own problems)
    - seek PC parts and do it yourself :-/
    Factor in the fact that Mac can only be found in limited numbers AND at some specialised stores, you get the following choice for the average European joe :
    - Windows Xp
    - Windows Vista

    How's that for free market and competition?
    The problem here is that there never was competition to begin with, so saying MS sold a "good enough" product that people loved to buy is a GROSS misconception here as there never was a choice to begin with !!

     

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  24.  
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    Pro, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 10:42am

    Human Nature

    When you're the best, and people can't get it together to compete with you in whatever market you're in, they call upon the parasites to come in and start gnawing away. No one in the EU can make a better software product than Microsoft can, so instead they have to use legal action to bring Microsoft down to their level.

    Just ask Bill Belichick and the Patriots how it all works.

     

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  25.  
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    glitch, Sep 18th, 2007 @ 11:32am

    there is always "choice"

    i get a new computer every year..in july

    my current system is an Athlon 64 X2, 6400
    SATA dvd/cd r & 200g hd, 1 gig mem
    256m Vid card& a licensed OEM XP Prof

    this year was expensive, mem was newer type [DDR2]

    i no longer sell my "old" comps, i strip them down..why ??
    1] i keep my license for microsux
    2] people dont wanna buy the sys without windows on it

    in re apple..i skipped over it in the 70's
    i wont even use itunes or anything else apple, they are as bad as microsux

    in re sun...they offer nothing i want
    other than open office, which i have used for years

    in re linux..what i use only runs on windows
    business decisions have been made that go against linux

    people want convieience, and therefore pay out the wazoo
    and conv is why i am with XP over kubuntu/ubuntu
    and also why i am with XP over Vista

    take the time to learn and do some smart buying
    the choices open ten-fold

     

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