Print 80 comment(s) - last by FITCamaro.. on Oct 26 at 9:24 AM

Regulators don't buy Microsoft's excuses about a "technical error"

It had seemed that Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and the European union had finally resolved their differences when it came to antitrust issues.  Microsoft agreed that it would offer a special "ballot screen", which would give users the choice of multiple browsers when they first installed or used Windows 7 -- and as a result, third-party browser makers would be on a level playing field and face no "bundling" discrimination.  The EU asserts its claims were validated, as the ballot screen appeared to cause a large drop in Microsoft's EU browser market share.

But that fragile true has been shattered when Microsoft went back on its promise, and stopped offering the ballot screen -- temporarily -- with the rollout of Windows 7 SP1.  Microsoft in past comments has blamed the abandonment of the option on an undisclosed "technical error" in the update.

EU regulators are unsympathetic.

This week they announced a so-called "statement of objections" -- a procedural step serves as a warning of impending punishments.

The EU's antitrust regulator, the European Commission writes:

The European Commission has informed Microsoft of its preliminary view that Microsoft has failed to comply with its commitments to offer users a choice screen enabling them to easily choose their preferred web browser. In 2009, the Commission had made these commitments legally binding on Microsoft (see IP/09/1941)....

In its statement of objections, the Commission takes the preliminary view that Microsoft has failed to roll out the browser choice screen with its Windows 7 Service Pack 1, which was released in February 2011. From February 2011 until July 2012, millions of Windows users in the EU may not have seen the choice screen. Microsoft has acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that period.

Browser Ballot Box
Microsoft's Windows 7 Service Pack 1 "accidentally" turned off the browser ballot box.
[Image Source: Telegraph UK]

It's hard to say what, if anything, Microsoft can do at this point to avoid punishment for "accidentally" breaking its agreement with the EU.  One important thing to note, though, is that the precise punishment has not been announced.  Thus it is probably in Microsoft's best interest to provide sound technical evidence (if it has it) supporting its assertion that the ballot screen was turned off on accident.

The company faces tough questions, in the sense that even if it's telling the truth about the initial error being accidental, that it's hard to believe that the company wouldn't notice the ballot screen being gone for a full year.  Add to that the background that Microsoft had seen its market share disintegrate after the browser screen went live, and the picture painted is rather incriminating.

Microsoft has struggled in the past with the region's stricter antitrust laws.  It recently lost its appeal to vacate a €899M fine, although the EC did kindly reduce it to a mere €860M ($1.1B USD).  The software giant has paid close to $2B USD in total fines to the European union for antitrust offenses.  

Microsoft is also being investigated for API abuse, following claims by third party browser makers that they were being "excluded" from the ARM-architecture-compatible version of Windows 8.

Source: EU

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: If I was MS
By Sazabi19 on 10/24/2012 1:43:28 PM , Rating: 3
EXACTLY the point I was trying to get at in the 1st post FIT. This is stupid and if the EU doesn't like it then maybe they should make their own OS that they can use.

RE: If I was MS
By gamerk2 on 10/24/12, Rating: -1
RE: If I was MS
By Sazabi19 on 10/24/2012 2:25:21 PM , Rating: 2
No, IE is losing market space to Chrome and Firefox, that doesn't sound like it me. It's not anti competitive to bundle your own stuff, it's not like they lock it to where you can use only IE, then it would be. This is just anti-MS BS. I use Chrome because I like it more, IE is my way of downloading Chrome, nothing wrong with a default browser on your own OS. I used netscape back in the day, didn't care for it, liked IE better, now I like Chrome better. It sounds like you are hopping on that "give me" train.

RE: If I was MS
By Solandri on 10/25/2012 12:00:02 AM , Rating: 2
It's not anti competitive to bundle your own stuff, it's not like they lock it to where you can use only IE, then it would be.

The problem with bundling isn't that it prevents other software from being installed (it doesn't). The problem is that it prevents other software companies from having a viable business model. It's hard to compete with free when your main competitor is only able to give their product away for free because they're making fistfuls of money off of another product.

The free market only works when there is sufficient competition. So actions which eliminate competition across an entire market (such as giving a browser away for free) should always be scrutinized closely.

RE: If I was MS
By kleinma on 10/24/2012 3:29:35 PM , Rating: 2
So where the fuck is the browser ballot on iPads? Where is my browser ballot on android? Browsers are becoming synonymous with the OS you are running. IE claims something like 50% of the desktop browser market world wide, so it seems like the powers that be in europe think their citizens are just to stupied to get something else if they want something else. We have no ballot in the US, and I see a huge mix of various browsers.

While they are at it wasting time, they might as well go after google for their attempt at browser dominance by sneaking the chrome install into just about everything you do with google. Hell slap iTunes with some balloting too. Adobe and their damn monopoly on PDF readers!!!

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay

Most Popular ArticlesAre you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
Snapchat’s New Sunglasses are a Spectacle – No Pun Intended
September 24, 2016, 9:02 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki