Saturday, January 17, 2009

In other EU “Dept. of Silly Ministries” legal news…


cc credit: work by southtyrolean on flickr

Just saw this:

Microsoft Ordered to Delete Browser -

Then wondered when we won’t next see this:

BRUSSELS (DS) — The European Union said Friday that Ford and GM’s practice of selling tires together with their individualized transportation systems (i.e. cars and trucks) violated the union’s antitrust rules.

It ordered the battered US vehicle making giants to untie tires from their products in the 27-nation union, enabling makers of rival tyres to compete fairly.

“These Yanks tying of tires to their vehicles harms competition between tyre makers,  undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice,” the E.U. said in a statement.

It gave the Big Two eight weeks to respond, adding that the companies could defend their position in a hearing if it found that useful for the amusement of the EU court systems.

A frustrated US product spokesman issued a statement saying, “We are committed to conducting our business in full compliance with European law, no matter how difficult our attempts to navigate and understand confusing EU member government ministries might be.”

The commission’s investigation into these latest charges of unfairly equipping their vehicles with tires began a year ago, after European Carmakers filed a complaint. They argued that US car makers hurt EU competitors not only by bundling tires with vehicles, in effect allowing them to drive vehicles these products directly off the dealer lot after purchase, but also continued to hurt their feelings by not following accepted internationally accepted standards as to which side of the road is the proper one to drive on.

According to the EU spokesman after catching his breath from a laughing-fit, Chrysler was left out of the suit because, “…nobody takes them seriously anyway…they are like that software made by penguins in the Arctic.”

I’m certainly no Internet Explorer fan, but I’m thinking most folks are savvy enough to know how to download and install an alternative browser to IE on their own by now.

I can’t believe I am saying this, but I can’t imagine a Windows OS release that didn’t include any web-browser included at all as part of the install package.  Certainly Microsoft has a right to include a web-browser in their software OS packages?  Yes I wish the Windows OS didn’t require IE for operation of some things, but sheesh.  Cut ‘em some slack here guys…

I haven’t forgotten the uproar and furor that IE generated last time this reared its head.  But come, on.  Now I think things are getting a bit silly overseas!

--Claus V.


Anonymous said...

It is not as if Microsoft, Opera, Google or Mozilla (what no Firefox link!?) are getting any monetary benefit or suffering any loss by having Internet Exploiter bundled with Windows.

Anonymous said...

Further more, if Windows does NOT come with a browser how are people suppose to get a browser on their machines? So then these browser companies have to spend extra money for making install CD's and the associated packing. I could see this actually giving Microsoft and advantage as they could afford to either give away Internet Exploiter or sell it a lower cost than says Opera, Safari, Chrome or FIREFOX. The smaller browser makers such as Opera and Safari even possibly Firefox would not be able to compete. Such for giving consumers choice.

Anonymous said...

and yet one more comment. I smell a rat here or at least double standard. If they are going to make Microsoft "untie" Internet Explorer from Windows then they should make Apple "untie" Safari from OS X. Fair is fair! Macs can use Firefox, Opera, Safari, Chrome and yes even Internet Exploiter.

Jon B said...

I have never understood it either. I did a paper on this in college (MS & antitrust with the EU) using a very similar argument about car manufacturers including cd-players in their cars while their are 3rd-party alternatives available - now it looks like it's coming true! This is definitely a case of taking anti-trust too far (like they did with MS & IE) and I think it's going to hurt industries if the EU continues with this nonsense.

JC said...

What is the difference between the case you report and this one: ?

Joe said...

What's next, Midnight Commander and WinZip suing Microsoft over including a file manager and zip compression software with Windows? A free market society allows competition for a reason. I mean seriously, before Opera tries to take on Microsoft with silly political battles over trusts, maybe they should worry about Firefox and Chrome first?

Claus said...

@JC - Thanks for the link! It was a good refresher on the past MS anti-trust lawsuit.

IANAL, however, in my mind that lawsuit boiled down to the facts that 1) MS had included its browser with the system and kept the source-code secret thus other the developers of other competing browsers could not interface their browsers as effectively as IE could deliver, and 2) that MS used it's position to (negotiate) force OEM companies to not allow other browsers a place on the desktop/system without suffering a hit on any volume-discounts they got from MS on the OS side. Fair enough and I can agree with the decision.

This one (which I fully haven't spent enough time reading/researching) seems a bit different.

Per that same Wikipedia post you cited: United States v. Microsoft - Criticisms of the Case:

"Jean-Louis Gassée, CEO of Be Inc., which at the time made a competing operating system which eventually folded in the face of Microsoft's dominance, criticized the emphasis on the "packaging problem."[citation needed] He claimed Microsoft was not really making any money from Internet Explorer, and its incorporation with the operating system was due to consumer expectation to have a browser packaged with the operating system. For example, BeOS comes packaged with its web browser, NetPositive, and Mac OS X with Safari. Safari is offered as a free download for both the Windows and Mac OS on Apple's website.

Instead, he argued, Microsoft's true anticompetitive clout was in the rebates it offered to OEMs preventing other operating systems from getting a foothold in the market."

I'm sure there is a lot more to this story and I am waiting for the tech-lawyers to begin to weigh in, but as others have asked, how is the consumer who buys Windows to get an alternative browser if no IE is offered? Are all EU member citizens savvy enough to have another system or source to download the code for Opera, IE, Firefox, Chrome (or whatever) on their own without a GUI-based web-browser? Or will they have to buy one from the store?

Maybe this is just the first move in a new plan to force MS to "bundle" competing web-browsers on the installed desktop along-side IE?

That would bring in a new set of issues. Would MS be responsible if that third-party bundled browser software turned out to have a security bug, that then was compromised, and then crashed/tookover/nuked the MS system for the user?

I suspect we have only seen the beginning of this thing, and the end-result is going to be much different than what we see right now.

Anyone remember how that SCO/Novell thing turned out?

--Claus V.