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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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January 14, 2008 7:22 AM

EU round two: Commission probing Microsoft conduct on new issues

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Four months after winning a major antitrust case against Microsoft on appeal, the European Commission is again coming after the Redmond software giant. The EC is launching a probe of Microsoft looking at whether the company illegally tied its Internet Explorer Web browser to the dominant Windows operating system, among other issues.

See coverage from Reuters, and The Associated Press.

The Web browser bundling inquiry stems from a complaint raised in December by the Oslo, Norway,-based Opera, which makes a Web browser by that name. At the time the complaint was raised, Microsoft said, "We will, of course, cooperate with any inquiries into these issues, but we believe the inclusion of the browser into the operating system benefits consumers, and that consumers and PC manufacturers already are free to choose any browsers they wish."

This latest salvo from the EC is not surprising, especially given EC Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes' comments last fall after winning her first case against the company, which centered on communications protocols allowing server software to interact with the Windows operating system for desktops. Bundling of another product, Windows Media Player, with the operating system, was also at issue. More on that after the jump.

Update, 9:55: Microsoft has issued a statement: "We will cooperate fully with the Commission's investigation and provide any and all information necessary. We are committed to ensuring that Microsoft is in full compliance with European law and our obligations as established by the European Court of First Instance in its September 2007 ruling."

Also, here's a link to the European Commission's press release.

"Microsoft must now comply fully with its legal obligations and desist from engaging in anti-competitive conduct," Kroes said at the time of her September win. "The commission will do its utmost to ensure that Microsoft complies swiftly. ... I will not tolerate continued non-compliance."

In a second part of the probe announced today, the EC will investigate another complaint from the European Committee for Interoperable Systems. The EC is looking into whether Microsoft is withholding interoperability information for a range of products including Office, server products and the .NET framework.

I doubt Microsoft's legal team is surprised by this. After the September ruling on the first EC case, I asked Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith whether any additional features of Windows could fall under the same scrutiny that Windows Media Player received.

Smith said:

"I think that it's fair to say that features that the commission regards as being present in competing applications may be subject to the kind of scrutiny the media player was put under. We basically went through that kind of process already for Windows Vista. For example, there was a lot of scrutiny on the desktop search feature, on the encryption feature, on the various security features in general, on the new file format for portable documents and that's probably a fairly indicative list of the kinds of features that one would predict they'd focus on in the future.

"It is, I think, extremely important that we were able to have a constructive discussion a year ago on Windows Vista. And, to some degree, having seen today's decision, I can't help but say, thank goodness that we had a good dialogue last year. It doesn't mean that they won't reopen something, but at least we start with having had a good dialogue and having really covered things quite comprehensively a year ago."

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Posted by philonous

11:07 AM, Jan 14, 2008

"Saint Peter don't ya call me 'cause I can't go - I owe my soul to the company store". Words from an old song about working in the coal mines. We are equally bound by the monopoly of ms. Want to buy a computer? you get a choice of any operating system you want as long as its ms. Wow, what a choice. Too bad the rest of our lives aren't that simple. One food store, one construction company, one car manufacturer, one political party, one and only one manufacturer for all the things we need. . . . If you believe this hogwash I have a bridge to sell you.

Posted by Kevin

9:02 PM, Jan 14, 2008

It would be helpful if the EC could explain why it's OK for telco's to offer voicemail and other services that were offered by 3rd parties (your home phone), leveraging their monopoly on local phone service, but somehow adding a browser (a basic functionality of a computer OS in today's world), is illegal.

There are other examples of the same behavior by EU companies that are *never* prosecuted as well.

And before you ask, the same thing we've seen here in the US with Telco's is also prevalent in the EU, yet it's ignored because they are "local" monopolies...

Note that Opera, per their own web page was founded by Telenor, their local phone monopoly, who is probably still their majority stockholder...

Posted by Wesley

3:08 PM, Jan 15, 2008

Well, first of all, it seems the only way that anyone can get to Microsoft and stop this Internet Exploder. Seriously, we (intelligent people) have been trying for years, not because we hate Microsoft, but because we hate that so many people out there use that crummy, bug-loaded software because they do not know any better. It is a boon to finally have an avenue to attack the corporate giants shitty software and kill it, if possible. Or at least force people to find a browser that has won numerous awards for being the best and most secure. IE can not lay claim to that. Also, on the Opera statement from Kevin. Who cares? Phone service is crap anyway. Those that have home phone service apparently can not see the great boon to just using a cellular phone!

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