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|EU Might Require Microsoft to Bundle Other Browsers|
|EU Might Require Microsoft to Bundle Other Browsers [windowsitpro.com] |
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, antitrust regulators in the European Union (EU) are preparing to require Microsoft to bundle competing browsers in Windows. This sanction would effectively turn the EU's original complaint against the software giant on its head: "Because Microsoft has gained an unfair advantage over browser makers by bundling its own browser with Windows, the company will have to now bundle competing products, as well."
If this happens, it means the EU has chosen a far more drastic remedy than requiring Microsoft to unbundle Internet Explorer (IE) from Windows, a remedy that itself seems a bit far-reaching, even for the regulation-happy EU. But there could be a simple reason for the shift: The EU tried an unbundling strategy with Microsoft before, and that effort failed miserably.
Wow. If the EU can dictate something like this I'm not sure it sets a good precedent.
Should push come to shove I believe MS might have good reason to refuse... taking IE out is one thing, requiring MS to install competitors in system preloads is quite something else.
I suggested this several years ago (in a discussion here). Unbundling means that an inferior product is distributed but forced bundling of alternatives means that a superior product is distributed - it's a no-brainer.
A choice should be provided as to which alternatives are installed and which are set as defaults. Some sort of testing/approval system would have to be implemented by Microsoft, but they should already be testing these titles anyway (as part of their update development) so that's not a big problem.
Offering choices via Windows Update, has the advantage of being fluid, however, choices should be offered on DVDs, and in particular, on OEM machines (when first switched on).
Not in agreement. I would not be happy with someone telling me I have to distribute AND update somebody else's software on my dime simply because the end user wanted to use my software, too. I might agree to remove a function/program from my distro in interest of peace and competition, but nothing else. If a commission or governmental body can force Microsoft to do that guess how that precedent will trickle down on everybody else! Not liking this at all. If it were me in charge at MS I'd tell the EU they can go to Linux, we don't sell in EU anymore. And that the only Linux interoperability we MIGHT support is authored/distributed in the US.
And what should Microsoft do if US authorities required MS to provide alternatives in the US?
The only reason MS find themselves in this position is because they have broken more or less every anti-trust rule ever created over the years (and some might say, invented new ways to break the rules). Let's not forget, for instance, that they even sabotaged some of their own software so that it would not run under cloned versions of MS-DOS (so that they could blame the cloned OS as being faulty).
Microsoft have consistently used their position as operating system developers to give themselves an unfair advantage in the development of other software. You may think this is reasonable, but it has been ruled ILLEGAL in the US as well as Europe.
Large businesses are not permitted to use unfair practices to stifle smaller businesses - that's the law (in Europe and the US). So far, both Intel and Microsoft have got off very lightly in the US. Instead of complaining about the enforcement of European rules, you should be complaining about the lack of enforcement of similar rules in the US. Make no mistake, the only reason those rules have not been enforced in the US is that "Money Talks" (and they know what language to speak in the US).
I'm no fan of IE (I'm writing this using Firefox and Linux), but requiring MS to bundle other browsers is absurd.
I saw an analogy on another site that compared it to forcing a carmaker to include gearboxes from various competitors.
IMO, it's good that the EU investigate complaints into unfair business practices such as with the recent Intel/AMD case, but interfering with a company's products in this way does not help the consumer.
I don't like the fact that my taxes contribute to this pointless initiative either.
Its a hard one. Joe Public has a right to expect to do no more than plug in and switch on to have a working PC. My view is that the browser should be unbundled from the OS and it should be down to the PC manaufacturer which browser they ship not Microsoft.
I'm all in favor of forcing a bundling with a choice during installation / or during initial boot as to what browser should be active and a setting to easily switch back and forth.
The bottom line is that it's been long enough that Microsoft abused their de-facto monopoly on the OS market to "bundle" up IE (originally it was not bundled at all, nor was there any reason to do so aside of abuse of monopoly -which is where they broke the law(s)-) and create a second monopoly in the browser market, with an inferior product.
As to why forcing them to bundle vs. to force them to unbundle: the EU tried unbundling with Microsoft before, but Microsoft cheated. So that's what you get for cheating a regulator used to deal with cheating politician/countries, they hit back, hard.
A pity they didn't do this a decade ago already.
If MSFT doesn't want to play, they face a big shutdown in the EU, and shutting down companies is regulated as well as abandoning customers that have agreement/ongoing contracts, it'll cost them more to do that, than to play nice this time.
See, I agree with the money talks in the US -how else did they get out of the pending investigation ?-, it's just that the EU is quite adept at that game themselves, and it's going to cost Microsoft for their past transgressions.
Good work EU!
|Joe Public has a right to expect to do no more than plug in and switch on to have a working PC. My view is that the browser should be unbundled from the OS and it should be down to the PC manaufacturer which browser they ship not Microsoft. |
Does that mean that Windows should be stripped of Notepad/Email/Firewall/Games/Calculator and everything else superfluous to the basic system?
As others have said, companies should be fined/investigated etc for illegal business practices, and yes, MS are guilty of many of these, but should companies be prevented from adding new features to their products?
Microsoft holds a monopoly and so usual rules do not apply. When they are down to 50% market share, they can ask to be treated like other OS producing companies. Until then, and given their track record of greedy business practices, it is entirely right that the advantage of being a monopoly is nullified as much as possible by legislation.
No fan of MS, and I just don't use IE (there was a brief period around the turn of the millennium when I did - we all forget that for a short period, IE was arguably the best browser around - and if you argue that the late iterations of Navigator were better, you obviously weren't working in IT at the time and dealing with the constant crashes and bugginess of that bloated POS).
But this is a stupid, over-reaching law. MS should not be forced to cover the distribution costs for their competitors.
They should not be forced to bundle software with their OS when they have no stake in it, and no real code control of it.
Here's a thought:
The EU Parliament has a monopoly on writing up anti-competitive legislation for the EU region as a whole. The UN should step in and force the EU to "bundle" alternate anti-trust bodies, so that member countries can pick and choose which set of anti-trust laws they want to abide by.
|The EU Parliament has a monopoly on writing up anti-competitive legislation for the EU region as a whole. The UN should step in and force the EU to "bundle" alternate anti-trust bodies, so that member countries can pick and choose which set of anti-trust laws they want to abide by. |
A few clarifications: MSFT is tangoing with the EU commission, not the EU parliament (there is quite a difference between the two).
It's not a law aiming for MSFT that's being made or that they broke, it's a ruling against existing competitive rules that are made to ensure _fair_ competition.
It's utterly the opposite of an "anti-competitive legislation", it's a legislation is meant to prevent monopolies from abusing their power, that is meant to drive down prices by creating more competition.
This is legislation that a.o. also targets former state owned companies (like the incumbent telcos, railroads etc.) and forces them (and their government owners) to get by without state sponsorship and to actually compete. They never competed with anybody, not even among themselves. They had a monopoly and in many cases this monopoly was even by (state) law.
So the commission takes on these state monopolies and twists their arm till they properly compete, even against the will of some local politicians (who then run to the press and start to whine giving the EU a bad name).
The member states of the EU have all a veto right to any law they do not want to see passed in the EU parliament (unfortunately). We're stuck with that unanimous requirement, so very few proposals make it, and those that do make it all do have that unanimous support, so why would a member state ever seek things elsewhere as they had a simple veto right they could have exercised had they chosen to do so.
The bad name the EU has in many states is due to the local politicians playing their game and the press playing along:
- if it's perceived as good, the member states have to implement the EU directive into local law and they take credit for themselves, forgetting to point out the EU forced them to do this. And taking all credit for themselves.
- If it's perceived as bad by the general population, the politicians all hide behind "the EU makes us do this" -remember this is per definition wrong: they chose to go for it by allowing a unanimous decision- in the first place.
As far as Microsoft goes: they are a monopoly, they routinely break the rules and they are finding out their lobbying isn't paying off.
The rules were clear enough, but they chose this path themselves, they'll feel justice in the end. They need to figure out they are out of their league with the commission.
Love or hate MS, asking a company to include a competitors product is absurd!
Gee, nobody is downloading other browsers for free so now MS has to distribute competitive products to make it easier?
I fear this kind of foolishness will escalate. Google has been targeted too (not that that stopped them for adding fuel to the MS fire. Surely, sooner or later US regulators will wake up and feel compelled to start harassing EU-based firms.
This reminds me of the situation with Windows 95, when Microsoft was placing an MSN icon on the desktop and other online services (such as AOL and Prodigy) cried foul. Microsoft ended up placing an online services folder on the Win95 desktop, in effect giving free distribution to its competitors.
I'm a little perplexed by the EU bureacracy's obsession with browsers. Five or 10 years ago, they might have had a legitimate case, but Firefox seems to be doing pretty well these days, so the suggestion that Microsoft has a monopoly in browsers suggests is farfetched at best.
The EU has gone too far, Microsoft can't be expected to provide support for competitors platforms. Maybe the EU should require competitors to create their own operating systems if they want to be offering code that requires an operating system to run.
Can you imagine a car industry in which company A is forced to place company B engines in it's cars because company B can't make a frame yet? Insane.
|I'm a little perplexed by the EU bureacracy's obsession with browsers. Five or 10 years ago, they might have had a legitimate case, but Firefox seems to be doing pretty well these days, so the suggestion that Microsoft has a monopoly in browsers suggests is farfetched at best. |
The browser monopoly (nor it's absence) is not the reason MSFT is in trouble. The OS monopoly being used to stifle competition in the browser market is the problem. (Ab)using a monopoly in one area to create another one is what's illegal.
I wish MS would just take Windows off the European market. Bunch of damn socialists trying to play Robin Hood.
It seems unfair.
|Microsoft holds a monopoly and so usual rules do not apply. When they are down to 50% market share, |
Including myself, am assuming most users default search engine is google, however still based on what you are saying, you also mean that, Google should be required to have tabs like "Results from Yahoo/MSN/... etc for 'Query'".
Do you make Walmart have a section in their store like 'Products from Target'. Where do you draw the line?
|Can you imagine a car industry in which company A is forced to place company B engines in it's cars because company B can't make a frame yet? Insane |
There are no monopolies in the car market. Imagine one vendor having a word wide dominance on the car market, having trademarked and copyrighted the user interface so nobody can make a car that the drivers feel comfortable with. (I'll not start about closing all windows and restarting it every 10 miles you drive :) )
Imagine the car market being that there really is only one car maker that counts, they make cars in two variant: a car and a truck, that's it. Now that they ahve all the market, they start to try to build parking lots and make it so that no that their cars can park in their parking lots but no other, and that other parking lots become incompatible with their cars. Well nobody would want it would they ? But they are sneaky: they bundle the parking spot in the price of your car. In order to buy market share they will undercut the price all other are able to offer by making it "free". Oh well those buying cars are sponsoring it, there's no such thing as a free lunch.
Letting them unbundle it means they go: oh but the price of the car stays the same minus the parking privileges. It's not going to make a difference if you let them do that. OTOH: is you want to bundle the parking with the cars fine: but the cars have to come with a choice in were the driver want to have his parking rights from all parking lots. Now this will again allow the real costs to come into play, force them to keep compatibility and allow competition to play.
Is a car company not having a monopoly ever going to be able to pull this off and gain a new monopoly in the parking business? Surely not as they'll be outpriced on their cars all too soon. But once you have a monopoly it's too easy to gain other monopolies at the expense of the consumers "forced" to buy from you. The consumers in the monopoly market and the vendors (and ultimate the consumers too) in the other markets have to be protected from the monopolists.
[edited by: swa66 at 5:54 pm (utc) on June 2, 2009]
If this happens, I only hope some judges in the US find a way to stick it to some European companies.
I have trouble believing this isn't geo-politics dressed up in robes.
@poppyrich: the US has more or less similar laws, just nobody who cares to enforce them against MSFT.
Try to find a few European companies that have a global monopoly and are abusing it to create more. (They get tackled by the EU commission before it gets so blatant as what Microsoft is doing, but I doubt you hear about it in the US)
Good job on the EU side, a tougher stand is needed for MS. The reality is that being a monopoly, asking it to perform something that makes little business sense for their own interest is still completely valid.
MS brought this on themselves when they made IE part of Windows, because that's what it really is, no question about it.
Every, every modern operating system bundles a default browser with the distribution.
OSX => Safari (which is worse than all the flaws of IE, FF, Opera, combined)
Linux => Usually Firefox or Konqueror.
MS => IE
And IE 8 isn't a bad browser. It's not a good one, either, but at least it isn't bad.
And the browser wars are hot and healthily competitive right now. At least, for all except one browser company, which has been taking a silent beating over the past few years.
Opera has never been "big" on the desktop, but for a number of years was smoking the competition in the handheld market (ie: Web-able smart phones). It was doing great business and making lots of money marketing a small, lightweight version, to handheld manufacturers.
But they've been taking a beating since "real" smart phones started to emerge, with Windows Mobile, the Apple iPhone series, various Linux based phones. Very few, if any, of these devices have opted for Opera.
So Opera has been taking some pretty huge hits, and needs, once again, to adapt itself and find a new market.
Instead, they lodged a complaint with the commission. For once, it wasn't a complaint launched by Netscape, Google, Apple, various Linux backers/prophets.
In this specific case, the complaint originated from the company behind Opera, filed in December '07.
The complaint was so weak, that it was only joined by Mozilla foundation this spring. Mozilla is facing a dark horizon of it's own with the recent launch of Chrome.
This whole complaint stems not from a lack of healthy competition. Or an abuse of monopoly by MS. It stems from a single company (Opera Software), unable to cope with a change in the market. They're losing their mobile device cashcow, so they need a hand out. And they're willing to (ab)use the power of an EU commission to get their hand-out.
This particular commission needs to go away. It's idiocracy at a very high level.
How can you have a "monopoly" when there's Mac or Linux? How can you have a browser "monopoly" when there's Opera, Chrome or that POS Firefox?
All too often in history you'll find the only reason there is ever an actual monopoly it's because some bribed government, king or similar despotic entity granted one.
I hope Microsoft sticks to their guns on this one, if people want another browser from a company that doesn't make an OS they can learn to download it just like everyone else.
As for Monopoly, there simply isn't one. THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS like Mac or Linux with Opera or Chrome or Firefox so if people CHOOSE not to use those the end result isn't monopoly, it's choice.
edit: even from a security standpoint the EU is making a mistake, having all browsers on every operating system by default leaves that many more open doors for someone to gain access.
[edited by: JS_Harris at 9:59 pm (utc) on June 2, 2009]
|How can you have a "monopoly" when there's Mac or Linux? How can you have a browser "monopoly" when there's Opera, Chrome or that POS Firefox? |
As I was recently corrected when defending Google recently, a monopoly situation is not necessarily having just one seller of a product but, to quote wikipedia, where an "enterprise has sufficient control over a particular product or service to determine significantly the terms on which other individuals shall have access to it."
And Firefox a POS? I think you'll find a consensus among most web developers, geeks and professionals with Firefox being their favorite browser. Actually IE is usually the odd one where you have to make exceptions and corrections when creating web pages, although it is getting better with the latest versions. But most other browsers have a better support for standard HTML and CSS.
From a practical perspective, I know that I always have to correct IE bugs when it usually works right away with Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari. IE 6 is the bane of my professional existence.
It seems to me that some contributors to this thread are more concerned about the EU taking decisions that affect a US company than they are concerned about what the decisions are. Well, the US justice system "bottled out" after taking a decision in 2000 to split up Microsoft because of anti-trust violations. Had that original decision been implemented, the EU would not have had to take action now.
As for the EU picking on US companies, as I mentioned in a similar thread, in the last couple of years, the US has fined British Airways several hundred million dollars, arrested UK owners of gambling sites and tried to prosecute British Aerospace for bribery (of Saudi officials). And then, of course, there was the extradition and prosecution of three NatWest bankers, and lets not forget Gary McKinnon. Also, the US harboured IRA terrorists for decades, refusing to extradite them to the UK.
If you do business in a country, you are required to follow that country's rules. So far as I am aware, the EU is not telling Microsoft how to do business anywhere other than in Europe. If Microsoft don't like it, they can, of course, withdraw from Europe, but that would doubtless cause their share price to fall by about 30% (maybe more) so, being realistic, that's not going to happen.
|Let's not forget, for instance, that they even sabotaged some of their own software so that it would not run under cloned versions of MS-DOS (so that they could blame the cloned OS as being faulty). |
It seems to me that some contributors to this thread are more concerned about punishing Microsoft for perceived wrongdoings 20 years ago than the current situation. Perhaps the same anti-American, anti-Microsoft sentiment influenced the EU ruling as well.
|Perhaps the same anti-American, anti-Microsoft sentiment influenced the EU ruling as well. |
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