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EU's continues to milk its favorite cash cow

How much does "whoops" cost?  If you're Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) the answer is $731M USD.

The EU pummeled Microsoft this week with a €561M fine for defying its browser selection edict, which called for special features to be added to versions of Windows sold in the European Union.  

Comments the EU:

The European Commission has imposed a €561 million fine on Microsoft for failing to comply with its commitments to offer users a browser choice screen enabling them to easily choose their preferred web browser. In 2009, the Commission had made these commitments legally binding on Microsoft until 2014 (see IP/09/1941). In today's decision, the Commission finds that Microsoft failed to roll out the browser choice screen with its Windows 7 Service Pack 1 from May 2011 until July 2012. 15 million Windows users in the EU therefore did not see the choice screen during this period. Microsoft has acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that time.

The fine brings the Commission's total looting of Microsoft on antitrust violations to around $2.8B USD.  Microsoft's latest violation traces back in 2009, during the launch of Windows 7.  At the time, Microsoft held a dominant position in the browser market thanks to its bundling of its Internet Explorer (IE) browser with its market-leading operating system.

Rival browser makers complained and the EU sided with them, mandating Microsoft to supply a "ballot" screen allowing users to pick between IE and third-party browsers like Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Chrome or Mozilla's Firefox.

Steve Ballmer w Windows 8
Microsoft is facing more big fines for breaking the EU's rules. [Image Source: AFP]

And the approach worked.  It appeared that the most powerful thing driving Microsoft's market share was inertia; most users simply never bothered to download or try other browsers, sticking with the one that was built in.  Once they were presented with a choice, they jumped ship from IE.

Microsoft clearly wasn't happy with this, but it promised to comply with the EU ruling.

Then in May 2011, it release Windows 7 Service Pack 1, which "accidentally" removed the browser selection screen due to a "coding error".  Despite multiple warnings from the EU, Microsoft didn't bother to fix this little "whoops" until over a year had gone past.  As a result the EU opened new proceedings, which culminated with this week's massive fine.

Today Microsoft is in third place in the PC browser market with only about 24 percent of the market, behind Google 35 percent and Mozilla's 29 percent.  But the EU argues vigorous enforcement must continue in order to prevent Microsoft from repeating history and gaining a dominant market position through anticompetitive tactics.

One apparent flaw in the EUs logic, though, is that the antitrust regulators fail to hold mobile operating system makers like Google or Apple, Inc. (AAPL) to a similar standard.  Apple -- whose iPad tablet accounts for the majority of tablet sales -- and Android -- who accounts for the majority of smartphone sales -- both only package their devices with their own proprietary built in browser.  The question remains -- how is that monopoly-promoted bundling any different than what Microsoft did?  

Opera Mmini
Smartphone market leader Google has not been required to provide a browser ballot to phone subscribers by the EU.

But for better or worse the EU appears content to make Microsoft its whipping boy. Microsoft will likely appeal the fine, but past appeals have largely failed.

For now Microsoft's tone was largely apologetic.  In a statement it comments, "We have apologized for [the error].  We provided the Commission with a complete and candid assessment of the situation, and we have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake - or anything similar - in the future."

Sources: Europa [EU press releases], Reuters [Microsoft response]



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This is a real pity...
By Beenthere on 3/6/2013 6:39:00 PM , Rating: -1
...that Microsucks didn't get fined $500 BILLION - that's with a "B" for their chronic violations of law. The only thing that criminal corporations understand is financial pain. Until they start locking up criminal CEOs for chronic violation of anti-trust laws, these criminal corporations will continue to violate law because it's extremely profitable to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

It's amazing that the clueless don't even know they are getting shafted and actually believe that the EU is evil for punishing criminal companies like Microsucks. Many people in the U.S. are so naive and cornfused as to believe that the issue is based on nationality, when that has absolutely nothing to do with the issue.

Microsucks was sued in the U.S. by the DOJ and they were found to be guilty as charged. The problem was that Microsucks hired the best law firms all over the U.S. to generate reams of legal pleadings to the point of overwhelming the DOJ who has far less resources than Microsucks. If that were not the case then Bill Gates would be in prison and Mircosucks would be 1/10th the size they currently are.

Hopefully Windoze 8 will be the beginning of the end for Microsucks reign of evil. It would be firring for Microsucks to defeat itself due to it's own arrogance and ignorance. With their mentality of being above the law, it would be so fitting for them to go tit's up thru their own doing and it could very well happen the way they have been going over the past 3 years or so.




RE: This is a real pity...
By ClownPuncher on 3/6/13, Rating: -1
RE: This is a real pity...
By Donkey2008 on 3/6/2013 11:23:12 PM , Rating: 2
Let the hate flow through you...


RE: This is a real pity...
By half_duplex on 3/7/2013 1:07:20 AM , Rating: 2
WHo plugged the typewriter into the TV for this retard anyway?


RE: This is a real pity...
By INeedCache on 3/7/2013 12:25:45 PM , Rating: 1
Seriously, "Microsucks"? "Windoze"? The vocabulary of the Microsoft haters - who are 10 years old. Post again when you grow up.


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