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Microsoft and the European Union finally seem to be on the verge of working out their differences, with a new Windows 7 balloting proposal.  (Source: MSDN/Microsoft)
The European Commission and Microsoft appear to finally be on the verge of resolving an antitrust dispute over Windows 7's browser

Microsoft has long packaged its Internet Explorer browser with Windows.  The bundling has given Microsoft's browser a dominant position in the marketplace, despite promising alternatives including Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Google Chrome.  That cozy position could soon change, though, thanks to action by Europe's antitrust watchdog and business regulatory body, the European Commission.

The EC demanded Microsoft offer a ballot selection screen to allow users to pick their browser of choice with Windows 7.  Microsoft at first refused, saying it would not include IE 8 in European copies of Windows 7.  In the end, though, Microsoft came around and agreed to a ballot screen.

The EC had some minor complaints about Microsoft's first proposal -- mainly its lack of information to users about what the browsers were to help them make their selection.  Under the new proposal, which the EC calls much "improved" users could find out information on what a browser is from the ballot screen.  They would also have access to additional information about each browser they could install, to help them make their decision. 

Under the new proposal, the balloting system would work for five years after purchase on any new install.  Windows 7 and all future versions of Windows would implement this scheme.

EC showed Microsoft some love, with a regulator stating, "The commission's concern has been that PC users should have an effective and unbiased choice between Internet Explorer and competing Web browsers to ensure competition on the merits and to allow consumers to benefit from technical development and innovation both on the Web-browser market and on related markets, such as Web-based applications."

Brad Smith, general counsel of Microsoft stated that his company was "pleased by today's decisions."

Microsoft and Europe have had a rocky relationship, with Microsoft fined 899 million euros ($1.35 billion) in 2008 for antitrust violations.  Brad Smith says that situation has greatly turned around, though.  He gave Europe some love back, stating, "It's heartening to see the much better relationship that exists today."

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By CColtManM on 10/7/2009 10:12:04 AM , Rating: 5
Maybe because I have a US mentality, but capitalism states that if you sell a product you should be able to bundle what you want with that product.

Imagine crooked capitalism that forced you to BUY addons such as IE8, that's the alternative.

People have always had a choice as to their Web Browser, and Firefox has climbed up that ladder. What happens when, if, Firefox overtakes IE, will the EU back down? No, because they don't like businesses to suceed.

RE: Capitalism
By BioRebel on 10/7/2009 10:34:40 AM , Rating: 5
I agree with certain parts of your post and disagree with others. While I do agree that Microsoft should have every right to bundle whatever free options they want with their OS. I wouldn't have such complaints about these regulations if they were across the board. For example, I'm pretty sure OSX doesn't have to meet the same standards now do they?

IMO none of this would have happened if Opera didn't get all upset that nobody used their horrible browser.

RE: Capitalism
By crystal clear on 10/7/2009 10:49:06 AM , Rating: 1
I would rephrase your statement with a few additions.

I wouldn't have such complaints about these regulations if they were across the board. if it also applied to O.E.M.s who bundle a package of softwares with their PCs, that you really dont want or prefer something else.

Why O.E.M.s have/get this sort of diplomatic immunity ?

Why are they off limits for such regulations ?

RE: Capitalism
By Yawgm0th on 10/7/2009 11:10:23 AM , Rating: 4

Why O.E.M.s have/get this sort of diplomatic immunity ?

While I strongly disagree with the EU's actions, there is a big difference between Microsoft and OEMs. Microsoft has a monopoly on PC operating systems. There is a good amount of competition amongst OEMs, so they are not able to act as monopolies. Microsoft is accused of abusing its OS market share to gain control of the web browser market share.

Of course, I strongly disagree with any objection to this. Internet Explorer is free. Windows Media Player is also free. They should be free and included with the operating system. Web browsers and media players are vital components for a consumer operating system. It is ridiculous to claim Microsoft is anti-competitive in a non-existent market.

The EU's war against Microsoft is silly and misguided. Microsoft's key products are Windows and Office. Playing with web browsers and media players and other components (if they go after Notepad or Paint, Europeans should revolt) is not going to change that. It makes choices more confusing and difficult for consumers without actually improving anything.

RE: Capitalism
By crystal clear on 10/7/2009 12:09:38 PM , Rating: 2
There is a good amount of competition amongst OEMs, so they are not able to act as monopolies.

The top 3 OEMs followed by the next 3, all them indulge in the practice of shoving down your throat a bundle of software-that you really dont need/want/asked for/paid for etc.

They (the top 6) in fact have (collectively) a monopoly over the PC market.

They (the top 6) infact control 90% of the market & abuse their market share of PCs (collectively) by indulging in such practises.

Its all about choices ...thats the point.

I may reject 1 OEM's pcs, but when all of them indulge in the same practice,then what choices are left.

RE: Capitalism
By Yawgm0th on 10/7/2009 12:41:44 PM , Rating: 2
What you're describing is cartel behavior, but I don't really see it that way. They all subscribe to similar business models, by which third-party software developers, ISPs, and other companies pay them or give them deals in some way to include their products on computers.

They are not collectively abusing their market share (their... septopoly? ;-) ) to affect other markets or push products. They are individually getting deals that make their products cheaper, which they must do in order to be competitive.

An okay analogy is car dealerships. Most people would prefer they were open on sundays. In many states, however, vestigial blue laws prevent them from being open on Sundays. Car dealerships actually want this, as being open on Sundays would increase costs without increasing revenue enough to cover those costs. Competition, however, would drive one to open Sunday and the market would dictate that others must follow or risk losing business. Without the law, they would all have to open Sunday and all of them would most likely see lower profits.

In this case, OEMs must provide extra software and "deals" so that they can compete with their competitors' prices.

Don't get me wrong, I have gone on many a rant about how big OEMs are crippling the PC industry and giving Windows a bad name by their mandated inclusion of bloatware on new computers. I think it's a terrible practice. But there's nothing anti-competitive about it. It is, in fact, the result of good competition.

RE: Capitalism
By crystal clear on 10/7/2009 1:18:53 PM , Rating: 2
Now read this-(forgot to add this on to my comment)

First, the proposed measure ensures that PC manufacturers will continue to be able to install any browser on top of Windows, and make any browser the default.

Second, it ensures that PC manufacturers and users will be able to turn Internet Explorer on and off, even putting the code that executes the IE browser frame into a separate cache on the hard drive.

Now Microsoft & Google can pay the OEMs (huge sums) to ensure their browser is the default browser.

RE: Capitalism
By Yawgm0th on 10/7/2009 1:51:31 PM , Rating: 2
A crappy practice, indeed, but not a monopolistic one by any means.

RE: Capitalism
By crystal clear on 10/7/2009 2:01:33 PM , Rating: 2
Yawgm0th - I will be back asap-will respond to this.

RE: Capitalism
By crystal clear on 10/8/09, Rating: 0
RE: Capitalism
By Yawgm0th on 10/8/2009 12:01:47 PM , Rating: 3
As you may recall, the Commission's position is that PC users should have an effective and unbiased choice between Internet Explorer and competing web browsers to ensure competition on the merits.
I disagree with the Commissions position on two counts.

A web browser is not a product. It is a part of a larger software suite or a utility that can be added on. It does not need forced competition or government regulation. Microsoft killed the paid browser market in 90s. Let's keep it dead.

Users have an "effective and unbiased" choice amongst web browsers. Users who can even comprehend the choices are capable of downloading them. Those who aren't will only be confused by a browser ballot.


So this crappy practice (as you call it) denies the user an effective/unbiased choice between browsers,as the OEM installs the default browser of highest bidder (Microsft or Google).
It doesn't deny the user a choice at all. They don't need a browser ballot to get an unbiased choice. Have you seen the browser ballot? It's silly. It doesn't tell you anything about the browsers. If people want an unbiased explanation of web browsers they need to read a few reviews or -- God forbid -- download and try the browsers. In any case, they have a choice between PC manufacturers. If a given manufacturer includes an inferior web browser out of the box it will affect sales. It's not necessarily that people will buy based on the default browser; it's that if the browser doesn't work it will affect people's perceptions of that OEM negatively. People still have lots of choices.

OEMs will not give you the ballot screen !

Thank goodness! I'm glad they will spare European consumers that particular pain.

It cleary shows the E.U. is more interested in hitting Microsoft with fines rather than free choices & competition.
Verity! I have no doubt the EU is simply out to fine Microsoft at every turn.

RE: Capitalism
By rcc on 10/7/2009 1:07:32 PM , Rating: 3
Build your own.

If all of their sales drop noticably, they will adapt their sales strategy. Just make sure that all you, and all your friends, and your friends friends, tell them why.

RE: Capitalism
By crystal clear on 10/7/2009 7:05:54 PM , Rating: 1
Build your own.

Great idea for desktops,most of us here can do it & even prefer to do so.

What do you do when buying notebooks/netbooks ? .... take whats available from the OEMs ?

Yes people here can filter out all the trash (software) out their notebooks.

Mainstream buyers cannot/do not-they are left with the only option to buy & accept what comes in the box besides the O.S.

RE: Capitalism
By omnicronx on 10/7/2009 1:08:23 PM , Rating: 5
They (the top 6) in fact have (collectively) a monopoly over the PC market.
There is no such thing as a collective monopoly. I assume you mean something similar to a cartel. Those are some pretty hefty charges though, as you are essentially claiming that OEMS are price fixing, which i do not believe to be the case. OEM's actively compete against one another these days, price fixing would just allow a smaller competitor to become more prevelent in the market. You cannot compare OEM's to say the oil cartels whom actually control the market.
I may reject 1 OEM's pcs, but when all of them indulge in the same practice,then what choices are left.
I don't really understand your point here, its called market demand and the price someone is willing to pay. Pricing is not running out of control in the PC market, quite the opposite actually, so your claims see to be nothing but opinionated paranoia.

All candy stores in my area sell single pieces of gum for 25 cents.. Perhaps I should raise questions about price fixing =P

RE: Capitalism
By crystal clear on 10/7/09, Rating: -1
RE: Capitalism
By omnicronx on 10/7/2009 2:31:47 PM , Rating: 3
Dont expect the OEMs to openly admit the above facts. Hey if you compare prices all these OEMs match each other prices plus/minus around a certain price range,ofcourse depending on matching components (cpus/memory/Hds/gpus etc etc)
Once again.. paranoia, OEM's don't control the parts market, its not like we don't know the cost of a single component. We don't know the bulk deals OEM's get, but it is very easy to ballpark their margins, and it does not fit in with anything you say.. As usual, baseless comments based on nothing but paranoia.

With OEM's you are paying for not just the parts, but a service (support etc). This is a business strategy, hardly price fixing.
Small competitors just cannot match the top 6 (heavily subsidized/sponsored) in their offerings & prices.
Gee you think? You mean the more you buy/sell the bigger discount you get? Someone call the cops as the owners of Costco could be in big trouble. If a small competitor wants to compete with the big boys, it has to offer something innovative or different, otherwise they will have to except the far lower margins.
There is NO market demand for bundled software-nobody asked for it, neither wants it leave alone paying for it.
Thats irrelevent, and a business decision of the OEM. Getting 3rd party companies to pay you money to get their product out on the market is not illegal, nor will it ever be. Its an advantage of being a bigger player, plain and simple. This holds true in pretty much any market, big players will often be used to push other products. Its not collusion, its not price fixing and it sure as heck is not anti competitive behavior. (assuming they do not hold a large portion of the market, which in this case, they do not)

MS with their monopolistic positioning cannot use their product to push another, this is a completely different situation. 6 different OEM's regardless of their similar business practices, cannot be a monopoly, so its not a double standard, its just a completely different situtation.

RE: Capitalism
By omnicronx on 10/7/2009 2:42:23 PM , Rating: 2
The E.U. demands from Microsoft the ballot screen, whilst lets the OEMs sell the choice of the default browser to highest bidder.
Thats merely an assumption, as Windows 7 is yet to be released, you have no idea what OEM's will do. Its just is not in the best interest of OEM's to exclude IE from their installations. Perhaps they may include more than one browser, but if you really think EU OEM's are going to stop selling PC's with IE installed, I think you are heavily mistaken. Its still an industry standard, especially in business, and it is not going anywhere anytime soon. The EU may be able to force MS to give single consumers the choice, but theres no reason to believe that OEM's will follow that path.

It has far more potential to be a money loser than a money maker. Business is still the majority of the OEM market, and excluding IE would be a fatal mistake, one which OEM's surely won't practice.

RE: Capitalism
By afkrotch on 10/8/2009 5:48:51 AM , Rating: 2
There is NO market demand for bundled software-nobody asked for it, neither wants it leave alone paying for it.

Thanks for your opinion there, but guess what? A lot of ppl want that bundled software. They don't want to have to go out and search for anything. They want a computer, with any kind of software they may or may not need. For them, they don't care if that software is good or not.

Why do you think IE has majority marketshare? If ppl care, they would have gone out, researched, and gotten a better browser, but they don't.

When it comes to computers, most don't care for choices.

RE: Capitalism
By HrilL on 10/7/2009 3:06:55 PM , Rating: 2
Build your own machine. Go to a smaller company that makes machines.

OEM's all have to do this in order to compete in a very competitive market. They get kick backs from the companies software they install. This leads to them dropping the price of the PC you're buying and in order to compete each one has to do the same thing.

First thing I do is back up drivers or download new ones and then do a fresh install. Removing all the crap leaves too much garbage all over your machine so its better to just start fresh minus the bloatware.

RE: Capitalism
By cscpianoman on 10/7/2009 11:55:26 AM , Rating: 2
They aren't just wait until the EU needs more money:P

RE: Capitalism
By omnicronx on 10/7/2009 12:58:45 PM , Rating: 4
OSX does not have to meet the same standards because they don't have a 90%+ marketshare behemoth of an OS to push their browser. Not exactly fair (nor do I agree), but market domination comes with a price. I really think regulations need to be set for OS's in general. Anything considered basic OS functionality should not be subject to these kinds of investigations.

The EU obviously has something against these big American companies. They are trying to cripple MS out of the market position. Just think about it, 10 years from now any new innovation released by a 3rd party developer probably won't find its way into Windows. Yet OSX/Linux will be in the clear to do as they will. Forcing a user to use a browser is one thing, but just think of the repercussions going forward, MS is going to be at a huge disadvantage in Europe. Anti monopolistic laws were not put in place to take market dominance from the biggest players, its there to stop abuse, and from my point of view, including basic functionality should not be covered by this.

This is abuse of the system, and if the EU thinks they can protect their own investments by what are essentially illegal means, they have something coming. Eventually other countries will retaliate in one form or another.. then well all be in for a surprise.

RE: Capitalism
By Blessedman on 10/8/2009 6:50:12 AM , Rating: 1
The real problem with this is you might see 10 new browsers pop up in the next 5 years just to get their name on this ballot list, where does it end for Microsoft? How far do they need to go? Even if these new browsers are complete shit, they will use this ballot system as a way to propel their name.

Another HUGE problem with the idea that an OS shouldn't be monopolistic is compatibility, the nightmare of having 10 different flavors of OS's and 10 different UI's that would drive good idea back to the stone ages to try and develop. One OS should dominate for the sake of innovation in application development. An OS is just that an operating system it is the layer between the hardware and the user... The EU is just mad because they don't have control over such an OS or it's income.

RE: Capitalism
By BZDTemp on 10/7/09, Rating: 0
RE: Capitalism
By Nekrik on 10/7/2009 5:06:12 PM , Rating: 2
The Netscape vs. Microsoft argument is from 1996, they've made numerous changes and reprations since. This is no longer a valid argument, something a little more recent and relevant is needed if you want to prove their current business practices are monopolistic and/or anti-competitive.

RE: Capitalism
By Alexstarfire on 10/8/2009 5:53:05 AM , Rating: 3
Perhaps because it's valid. Sure, Windows has a bigger market share, but the companies are doing the same thing: packaging a browser with an OS. Is that wrong? No. Does it matter? Yes. I don't believe that Microsoft should be forced to provide other web browsers in it's OS. That makes no sense what-so-ever. I do believe that if MS is forced to do so then all other OSes sold in retail stores should be forced to as well, namely Mac OS. And while I believe MS shouldn't be forced to provide other web browsers in it's OS I do believe that it's web browser should be help to a higher standard than others. I don't believe this to be much of an issue now, but just take a look at IE6. Probably the most dominant web browser of all time, even if it's not now. So dominant that it has pretty much become the de facto standard for making web sites. This wouldn't be a problem if IE6 followed the web standards, but it didn't. As a result pretty much every site was made to run under IE6 and other web browsers which followed the standards pretty much got boned, and hard. That is something that shouldn't be allowed. When you screw over competition using your market share it becomes a problem. I know web browsers are free, which is why I believe MS shouldn't have to bundle others with it's OS, but we do have standards for a reason. If you just go around making your own standards just because you can you effectively control the whole market giving competition no chance.

RE: Capitalism
By BZDTemp on 10/8/2009 4:52:25 PM , Rating: 2
How can you that whole rant about MS not having to follow special rules due to market dominance and then end with
If you just go around making your own standards just because you can you effectively control the whole market giving competition no chance.

Your last sentence is exactly why Microsoft needs to be controlled. Just look at their new "open" document standard and the trick they pulled to get approved. And now they are already manipulating it!

If the EU was not going after Microsoft then it would de much worse. Remember this is not a thing that was initiated just months ago - we are talking years and what we have now is a more cooperative Microsoft.

RE: Capitalism
By vvk on 10/8/2009 5:36:09 PM , Rating: 2
About Opera. Opera is the best browser I ever used. However, this is not a discussion what browser is the best but about the choice. M$ wants to lock in the consumers to their , browser, e-mail, search engine etc. I still remember how M$ was shoving their instant messaging up users throat. No matter how many times I tried to un-installed it it was still coming back from the dead! That is horrible behavior of a monopolist.

About the regulators. If you are a monopolist the regulators may need to step in and defend the rights of the consumers (OSX is clearly not in the same boat as M$ as far as market penetration and influence goes, thus you can not expect the commission to have the same requirements for OSX as the ones imposed for Win 7.

RE: Capitalism
By omnicronx on 10/7/2009 12:39:48 PM , Rating: 2
but capitalism states that if you sell a product you should be able to bundle what you want with that product.
Using your market position to crush the competition is pretty much the only thing you cannot do, so Capitalism states no such thing. That being said, it should only cover markets in which the product is not free.

It has nothing to do with the fact MS has majority marketshare in the browsing market, its because of their OS marketshare. If this were a product like Office, I would have problem, packaging a program like this with Windows would mean anti trust cases across the board (including the US) not just Europe. As we all know this already happened to MS in the US in the late 90's, so your argument does not really hold true by any countries 'definition' of capitalism.

RE: Capitalism
By Yawgm0th on 10/7/2009 12:44:55 PM , Rating: 5
That being said, it should only cover markets in which the product is not free.
And in which the product is not inherently related. A consumer operating system needs a web browser and a media player. As you say, it does not need a productivity suite, which is why I think the EU is being ridiculous.

RE: Capitalism
By omnicronx on 10/7/2009 1:17:58 PM , Rating: 2
I 100% agree.

As said in another post, it is becoming quite apparent that the EU has a vendetta against big American companies in the tech industry. They want to split them up, and they want real competition. In the case of the OS industry, the only way to do that is to allow the competition to have something that MS cannot. (IMO)

In many other markets this may not be a good idea, but in the OS market, (especially in the business market) having an industry standard is a GOOD thing.

RE: Capitalism
By fatedtodie on 10/7/2009 1:38:57 PM , Rating: 2
The point that was trying to be made from what I can tell is he dislikes the crapware applications that are installed by default with all their inbred virus goodness that makes buying a prebuilt machine such a beauty of an experience.

Basically if he dislikes the crapware of one, his only other choices are the crapware of the next in line. Your argument that they use this crapware to leverage a price decrease is incorrect as that would mean the price to build your own (minus crapware) is more expensive with exactly the same hardware... this is false, and thus your argument fails.

RE: Capitalism
By fatedtodie on 10/7/2009 1:39:52 PM , Rating: 2
Okay what i clicked reply to, and what it replied to are different posts, please rate this down i guess

RE: Capitalism
By afkrotch on 10/8/2009 6:14:37 AM , Rating: 2
Your argument that they use this crapware to leverage a price decrease is incorrect as that would mean the price to build your own (minus crapware) is more expensive with exactly the same hardware.

Build the same box as a $400 Dell for $400. Don't forget the OS too. Good luck, cause it's almost impossible to do.

These large OEMs receive a good chunk of change to bundle in these free bloatware. They use the extra money to lower the retail costs of their PCs or simply gain some kind of profit on them. Majority of your $500 or less PCs have small profit or no profit for a large OEM. If it weren't for tagged on extras, like software, accessories, support, they may not get any profit.

As you get into your $1200+ PCs, the cost savings is mostly negated, as they start increasing the price of the parts. Charging you an extra $10 here and there, versus building your own machine. In this case, yes, you can easily build a cheaper PC than an OEM counterpart.

RE: Capitalism
By Danish1 on 10/8/2009 2:12:57 AM , Rating: 2
I agree 100% that the whole browser issue is way out of line and it should be entirely up to MS to decide which browser their OS ships with.

but that being said you sound like an ignorant butthurt American when you claim the EU has a vendetta vs. big American companies, the EU has fined a lot of European corporations for monopolistic and cartel behavior as well.

RE: Capitalism
By afkrotch on 10/8/2009 6:17:31 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, the EU doesn't have a vendetta against big US companies. They simply need any large company to funnel wads of cash into their accounts. Be it Microsoft, Intel, whatever that Spanish ISP was, etc. Only way to try to solidify that weakness that is the EU.

They should have stayed seperated. Seemed to work better.

RE: Capitalism
By Alexstarfire on 10/8/2009 5:59:52 AM , Rating: 2
It might be a good idea to have an industry standard, but when a company that makes the product is the one setting the standards you start having problems. Many times it's going to mean that you have to buy only their product to make sure everything works. It's hard for other companies to provide better products, or even equal products, if the standard could change at any time. It's the reason why we have web standards set by some third party. Everyone knows how the web sites should be coded and so everyone can make web browsers to run it properly. If something like IE6 ever happened again, what with it basically making it's own standard, then other browsers get screwed because they will no longer be coded to the web standards, but to the way a specific browser displays the web site just so that it works properly. That is something that just shouldn't be done.

RE: Capitalism
By foolsgambit11 on 10/7/2009 7:34:57 PM , Rating: 2
Well, Capitalism really only states that the means of production are privately controlled. It doesn't necessarily give people carte blanche to sell whatever they can produce, or sell it however they want. Laissez-Faire Capitalism (popular here in America) does tend to support the idea that businesses can do what they want, within very loose limits.

But we tend to forget that Capitalism is a means to an end, and not an end in and of itself. Its tenets should only be followed as long as they help us to reach the end. That's why we have labor laws, product safety laws, and competition laws. In fact, if you look up 'monopoly' on Wikipedia, under the heading 'Laws', it specifically mentions product bundling as anti-competitive behavior that is frequently prohibited in monopoly situations.

RE: Capitalism
By Alexstarfire on 10/8/2009 6:02:18 AM , Rating: 2
Ohh damn, then the makers of twinkies should be sued. What if I want some other brand of creme filling? How dare they not give me a choice.

Probably not the best example, but it's all I could think of off the top of my head. It's a bit late/early after all.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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