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EU looks to punish Microsoft for browser non-compliance, and make a bit of extra revenue in the process

To date the European Union's antitrust regulatory body, the European Commission (EC), has pummeled operating system maker Microsoft Corp. (MSFTwith €1.6B ($2.1B USD) in fines for allegedly using abusive anticompetitive tactics in the European market.  But the EU is far from done.

According to Reuters, highly placed sources in the EC say that Microsoft will face more fines before the end of the month.  The commission's pending decision follows a so-called "statement of objections" filed last October.  One source at the EC comments, "The Commission is planning to fine Microsoft before the Easter break."

The planned action could slip a week or two, though, due to procedural issues.

Microsoft was mandated by the EU to provide a browser selection screen with Windows 7.  It did, but the browser selection screen mysteriously stopped working with Windows 7's first service pack.  Microsoft claims this was due to a "coding error".

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

That little "whoops" and Microsoft's baffling decision to test the EU's resolve, declining to rush a fix may cost Microsoft dearly.  Experts say Microsoft could potentially face a billion dollar fine or more.

Microsoft's board is unhappy with CEO Steve Ballmer for failing to address the issue.  In an annual proxy statement filed last October it cited that as one reason for cutting the rambunctious chief's bonus (this was not the first time Mr. Ballmer had his bonus cut for mistakes).

The EC's decision to mandate a browser choice screen dates back to 2009 when Microsoft had more of a dominant position in the EU browser market.  Today Microsoft is in third place with only about 24 percent of the market, behind Google Inc.'s (GOOG) 35 percent and Mozilla's 29 percent.  The browser selection screen appeared to be a key driving factor in Microsoft's slipping market share.

Some argue that Microsoft's trailing position makes the decision to continue browser selection screen enforcement unfair.  Others argue that Microsoft's dominant market share with Windows would be too dangerous were it not for continued enforcement.

Source: Reuters

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By FiveTenths on 3/1/2013 2:52:12 PM , Rating: 2
I'd say you are severely understating BP's "scew up"

The EU and Microsoft have already been down this road and MS paid. Now the EU is broke and looking for cash.

By NellyFromMA on 3/1/2013 3:15:44 PM , Rating: 2
Lets not forget the fact that Microsoft has caused NO ONE harm. In fact, it created an entire ecosystem that hadn't even existed before so that cry baby EU companies could have an opportunity to even cry foul to begin with.

BP, on the other hand, destroyed an entire ecosystem and many living things.

If you think those are comparable, you CRAZY FOO.

By michael67 on 3/2/2013 8:23:59 PM , Rating: 2
You forgetting that BP was not the only one screwing up Halliburton was responsible for the cement-plug, and the company man from BP is responsible. (final responsible man onboard on all dissensions)

I have work offshore on platforms, and even do the company man is responsible, he is not all knowing, and leaves some tings over to external experts and rely on there expertise.

So even do BP is fully responsible, some of the blame should also be lay with Halliburton, as they are the experts on the plug.

By eldakka on 3/3/2013 9:40:40 PM , Rating: 2
The EU and Microsoft have already been down this road and MS paid. Now the EU is broke and looking for cash.

Actually they haven't.

The 'payment' from the anti-trust proceedings required several things:
1) Cash fine.
2) Browser selection process on windows
3) Not sure, other stuff,

MS did 1), they failed to honour 2). Therefore they have not 'paid' up as they have not fully complied with the order.

Now they are being fined for not paying up, for breaching condition 2.

This is not even a judgement call like the whole anti-trust process required. It doesn't require objective expert witnesses, economic analysis, not even an investigation/judgement as to whether MS is still a monopoly. It's pretty straightforward:

A) Microsoft were ordered to and agreed to provide the user with the browser selection process.
B) Microsoft failed to provide that browser selection process.


"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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