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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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RE: Simple equation
By spronkey on 3/2/2013 4:49:53 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry but... what's wrong with IE? IE9 and 10 have CSS3 and HTML5 support that's more than fine, in many cases they are actually more complete browsers than the Webkit-based crowd. Their JS engines are also fine - and I have no significant issues developing quite complex JS apps on them. Oh, and they're fast! Don't forget that HTML5 and CSS3 aren't even standardised yet.

So please stop the IE bashing, these days it's just as good as the rest.

I agree that the EU should expand its ruling to cover all OSs - at the very least this would force Apple to (in the EU, at least) allow the default browser to be changed in iOS - I'm still amazed that this isn't seen as hugely monopolistic. At least MS let you change the default browser in Windows back when they bundled IE - Apple don't even allow that!

It's also useful to remember that a lot of people don't really understand what a browser is - so the ballot is somewhat confusing. To be honest, I don't have any issues with the OS vendor being able to put their browser first and claim that it's better than the others. As long as there's a simple choice.


RE: Simple equation
By Trisped on 3/5/2013 3:03:46 PM , Rating: 2
IE 9 has only partial CSS3 and HTML support.
IE takes forever to load, is slower when running complex javascript, and is slow loading the pages I visit regularly.

The only times I use IE are when I am testing a website I am developing or when I am posting a comment on MSDN (because strangely on IE does not put strange characters into the message). Every time I do use IE I am amazed at how many seconds I have to wait before it even starts loading the home page. I can not even use the menu while it is loading. With chrome I have never noticed a load time issue, as soon as I start the browser I can hit Alt-D, type in an address, and go.

So no, IE is still behind.

It is very easy to explain what a browser is, it is the thing you use to surf the web. The way Microsoft created the ballot screen they wanted it to appear confusing to the users so that they would take the one Microsoft suggested, rather then try out the other options. A more fair approach would be to keep a link to the ballot screen in the start menu, that way it would be easier for the average user to test out multiple browsers and find which one they like best.


"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il














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