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

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
quote:
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.



http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/bradsmith/...

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
quote:
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.

quote:

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.

quote:
OEMs will not give you the ballot screen !

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

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
quote:
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
quote:
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.
quote:
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
quote:
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.
quote:
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.
quote:
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
quote:
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
quote:
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.


"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer














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