December 22, 2004 5:40 AM PST

EU upholds penalties against Microsoft

A European court on Wednesday dealt a blow to Microsoft, ordering the company to start offering a version of Windows without a bundled-in media player.

Bo Vesterdorf, president of the European Court of First Instance, said that Microsoft must comply with penalties imposed by the European Commission in March even as the company's appeal wends its way through the system.

Special coverage
Europe plays hardball
with Microsoft
Ruling requires software
giant to unbundle Media
Player from Windows
and pay a massive fine.

The Commission ruled in March that the software giant used its monopoly in operating systems to try to manipulate the markets for media players and work group server operating systems. It ordered the company to offer a version of Windows without its bundled media player and to share more technical detail with rivals--orders that will now go into effect.

"The evidence adduced by Microsoft is not sufficient to show that implementation of the remedies imposed by the Commission might cause serious and irreparable damage," the court said in a statement.

The company, however, has the right to appeal Wednesday's decision to the president of the European Court of Justice. Any appeal would have to be lodged within the next two months.

Microsoft hasn't yet decided whether it will appeal the ruling, general counsel Brad Smith said during a conference call on Wednesday.

"We don't know whether we will appeal. I don't think it will take two months, but I think we should take enough time to decide whether to do that," he said.


Brad Smith
general counsel,
Microsoft

Smith told reporters he remained optimistic that the company still had a good chance to win out on the merits of the case.

"The court nonetheless recognized we have a number of arguments that are important and will need to be weighed seriously and could well win at the end of the day," he said. He later added that "I'm not suggesting that victory is guaranteed, but there's clearly cause for optimism as we see the litigation path moving forward."

For instance, "the court recognizes there's an important question in respect to Microsoft's argument that the Commission should have given more weight to the positive effects (of the combination)," he said.

Smith said that the company would act immediately to begin addressing the ruling. Microsoft plans to set up a Web site later Wednesday so that the company's competitors will be able to begin licensing various communications protocols specified in the ruling.

While some of Microsoft's protocols are already available for licensing, the ruling covers a new category of communications protocols in the Windows server.

Smith said the company does have some experience with this, pointing to the company's consent decree with the United States government.

The company will also continue working on a special version of Windows, excluding Media Player, for the European market. That

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68 comments

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Stupid
Offer a Windows version without a media player? How ridiculous is that? How about offering a version of Windows without icons, drop-down menus and a desktop? Someone please explain to me the logic behind this mission to hinder Microsofts ability to offer options to its user base. If a judge should do anything, they should force Microsoft to offer more not less!
Posted by (28 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Missing the point
They are (trying to force) forcing Microsoft to offer the option of
installing Windows without the media player. Again, it is an issue
of how Microsoft is trying to pull wool over everyone's eyes by
saying that the media player is an integral portion of the OS.

Remember, like they said that removing Internet Explorer would
make the user experience in Windows much, much worse. Oh
really? What about the scores of alternative browsers (that work
better and more securely, by the way)?

Microsoft is trying to control or at least be the Big fish in
everything digital. And based on their track record as a software
developer, they can only do this by leveraging their monopoly
over the OS market, because the quality of their software leaves
something to be desired.

Etc. Ad nauseam.
Posted by zarathustra911 (35 comments )
Link Flag
Agreed
Removing media player does not create additional opportunities or better products for consumers. It is only an action meant to punish Microsoft, and will offer little to no benefit for consumers or competitors. More choice? Not at all. Just less convenience.

What really bothers me, is that the companies who are complaining are US-based companies. They brought forward their arguments in a US court and lost. Their strategy was to do the same thing again overseas in hopes of a different outcome. The EU is having a hard time explaining why they are revisiting complaints that have already been resolved.

And another thing... If bundling MediaPlayer is anti-competitive and destructive to the industry, then why did nobody say anything when MediaPlayer came bundled with Windows 3.1??? And every version of Windows since then? Bundling MediaPlayer is not a new anti-competitive behavior, it is an established part of an existing product. But a failing company will do anything to damage their competitors. The benefits of this ruling are insignificant. The goal is clearly to hurt Microsoft regardless of the impact to the market. Lashing out in revenge is not a solution or a fix to any market problems.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Hooray!! Choice arrives.
It's a token of almost insubstantial significance. But symbollic
nontheless. While I only use Windoze boxes as door stops at my
house due to these kinds of connivances, it's good to see the
pig-minded take a fall. Here's to Europe. They are smarter on
the other side of the pond. The US screw job needs a few more
set backs. Get ready here they come.
Posted by oo7curtis (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hooray!! Choice arrives ??
The "choice" is in front of your eyes. If you dont like the Windows Media Player simply go and download one of the hundreds of other ones. Simple. That's choice.

As far as the "Windoze" comment get a life you trolling zealot and try next time to contribute something worth while instead of your pre-packaged anti-Microsoft sensationalist babble.
Posted by (28 comments )
Link Flag
Missing the larger picture?
Some of you may cheer on as the EU "deals a blow" to the "bad guy." But I offer a differing opinion.

1) This lawsuit was filed by ORACLE, and Real Player. I can understand why Real would want to sue, but why Oracle? Since when was a Media player program a database? It doesn't take a genius to see the egotistical forces at play here coming from Larry Ellison.
2) The EU has been becoming more and more brazen in its disregard for the Trans-Atlantic agreements they agreed to abide by. The current agreement between the US and the EU is that one will defer the ruling of one's own company to their own respective jurisdictions, and abide by their judgements. This certainly has NOT been the case.
3) The EU rulings are NOT meant to enhance competition, but rather EUROPEAN competition. The scuttling of the Boeing merger. And now the ruling against Microsoft - all are CONSISTENT negative judgements made against non-EU member companies. All the while, larger non-competitive EU-Based mergers are allowed to proceed. Coincidental?
4) Despite everyone's complaints, bundling is a fact of life - and a natural progression to any product engineered and produced by humans. If we unbundled everything, then I would be forced to:
a) Buy a separate memory manager for my OS
b) Buy a browser for my OS
c) Buy a disk defragmentation software
d) Buy a media player to listen to music
e) Buy a GUI interface
f) Buy an "improved" kernel that multi-threads
Let's get real here folks, it's called PRODUCT IMPROVEMENT. Without it, EVERYTHING will be more expensive! If we were to follow this flawed logic, we should also sue:
a) Car manufacturers for "bundling" airbags
b) TV manufacturers for video improvements
c) Semiconductor companies for integratation
d) Our government for bundling "services" and taxing us extra for them.

If the EU had any technical sense, they would have concentrated on the real technical issue: unbundling the browser from the OS (like the DOJ case) - because that is where the majority of the OS vulnerabilities are coming from! Not the darned media player!

By going after the wrong fish, and listening to "compatitors" like Larry Elisson (who are not the least bit competing against MS), the EU has demonstrated an uncanniny ability to miss the BIG picture.

I don't know about you, but I really don't like the idea of the EU deciding what I WANT in THE PRODUCTS I BUY in the United States.

The myriad of sensless government regulations are bad enough in the US, I don't need the EU butting in with what they beleive to be right in the global market.

To date, the US government has done a terrible job of representing their constituents - both on a consumer level AND on the corporate level. It's time for the government officials to stop bickering with each other over menial "ideologies" - and START DOING THEIR JOBS.

And for those of you who think that this EU "victory" is any real or meaningful one, think again on the issues I have mentioned earlier. The DOJ DID go after the right issues with MS, and did get a good settlement. The EU, on the other hand, is continually focusing on the wrong things, with thier own interests in mind.
Posted by Tex Murphy PI (165 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Um.... not really
Since when do you have to "buy" everything that is not bundled. There are free GUIs, free browsers, free media player, etc... that are better than what is bundled, but the average user will not know of the options if everything is already there.

Maybe "unbundling" isn't the key in the sense of not including the software at all, but how about at least making the software optional to install? You know, like cars have options. You aren't forced into a specific engine or transmission, you know.

And why go after TV manufacturers for improved video technology? TVs are specifically for video. Computers are not specifically for media, you know!
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
Link Flag
US-EU...
If a European company wants a presence in the US, then have to follow the US laws.
If a US company wants a presence in the EU, then they have to follow the EU laws.
Sounds logical to me.
MS has violated the EU laws, so they are being punished for that.
M$ has also violated the US laws (they are also a convicted monopolist in the US), but no-one over there had the ba*** to do anything.
The settlement has only been good for M$, and didn't change their behaviour one bit. (e.g. iTunes stops working after an update to XP SP2...)
Posted by Steven N (487 comments )
Link Flag
Don't Forget
What a lot of people don't realise is that WMP is more that just what you see. Just like IE, WordPad and Netmeeting there are a lot of underlying APIs that a lot of other programs rely on. WMP is various forms has been around since Windows 3.1, and just removing it completly will break many programs, including several of my own.

I hope that all Microsoft does is remove the interface, not it all... On the other hand, maybe they should remove it all and show that while it is easy to set up a demonstrator, it is a complete different story to get people to be prepered to buy a crippled WinXP.

www.SinnerComputing.com
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You are missing a few important points
IE, WMP, messenger, ect do not need to be tied in with the OS and with each other. In fact, that is very poor software engineering. The decision to do so was a deliberate, marketing ploy. Nothing more. All of those apps should be completely isolated from each other.

If MS would have properly created its software, it would have saved itself a ton of grief and money. A lot of the bugs and vulnerabilities can be laid at the feet of this misguided decision. It also would have saved them a ton of legal expenses. Take that, along with their clearly greedy and illegal arm twisting of OEM computer manufactures and MS would not be nearly as hated.

They also would not be a huge as they are, which is all the care about. They don't care how well their software performs or whether computer users are happy, they care about power and domination. They did not get to where they are at through superior software design, but rather through tactics that would make any mobster teary eyed.
Posted by (242 comments )
Link Flag
Re: M Mange
You build computers? Wow color me impressed. Tell me again how you think you know anything because you can connect computer parts.
Posted by (242 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just Me
Dude, you don't have a clue. Did you forget the whole topic of this thread? Try contributing something instead of your typical babble you seem to love so much. I can see why you name is "just me"  embarrassed of your own stupidity are we?
Posted by (28 comments )
Link Flag
Lesson 2
Lesson 2 Of Computing...

Let's separate Hardware from Software :)

Hardware:
"Connecting Computer Parts"

Software:
WMP, IE, Windows, everything related here.

Andrew knows what he is talking about, and I can back him up, being a programming student myself. If you cannot add anything worthwhile, please don't bother.
Posted by (4 comments )
Link Flag
I don't blame Microsoft.
If they don't use WMP what are the alternatives really? QuickTime and real player are both intrusive. Real used to bundle spyware. How many popular non-Microsoft windows applications are there that don't start with windows and/or install spyware?

Windows users are basically constantly under attack by 3rd part software vendors. If I were Microsoft I'd be writing free replacements for everything and giving it out with Windows.

As for server, since when did Microsoft have a monopoly in the server market? Maybe Red Hat should no longer be able to bundle Apache httpd.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Reply Link Flag
STUNNED Into A Reply---
Yes, I am STILL continually AMAZED by the ARROGANCE and IGNORANCE of 'Microsoft Apologists'.


"... US-based companies. They brought forward their arguments in a US court and lost"

First, for those people who are grotesquely-ignorant, Microsoft actually LOST EVERY major-portion of the "U.S. Anti-trust case" (EVERY court that heard the case found AGAINST Microsoft. EVERY appeal was denied, ...all the way to the U.S. Supreme-Court).

Microsoft's strategy then became (and still is) to simply mis-use every available 'legal-delaying tactic', and 'political-manipulation', until much of the case no longer seems to matter. And now, even the very U.S. courts that initially approved "...the MS settlement", have begun stating that it HAS FAILED to meet ANY of the three elements of such a resolution (...It failed to actually redress the action, ...it failed to deny the 'fruits' of the 'wrong-doing' to the perpetrator, and finally, ...the settlement" FAILED, in any way, to repair the damage caused to the market-place).


"... MS isn't forcing anyone to use IE or the media player"

Actually, YES, Microsoft is forcing everyone to use their "middleware", by intentionally integrating their 'applications' directly into the 'OS', they (Microsoft) have made it virtually impossible to use "Windows", in any capacity, without using THEIR 'applications' (the most that Microsoft has EVER done, ...was to superficially 'hide' a few of their products from being prominently displayed in the main user-interface).


"... If Windows Media Player is such a ball of crap, then what do you care if they bundle it?"

Because, if Microsoft controls 95% of the PC-OS market, ...due to 'unfair trade practices', (which WAS the official finding of BOTH the U.S. AND European Anti-trust cases) ...Microsoft is thereby in a position to IMPOSE "Microsoft PROPRIETARY Standards" for Microsoft's sole-benefit, ...whether the "marketplace" truly wants it, or not (and, this IS, in fact, EXACTLY what Microsoft HAS been REPEATEDLY caught DOING FOR DECADES).


"... And have IE installed hinders using an alternative browser how?"

Well, for starters, how about the number of SERIOUS SECURITY-HOLES that, thanks to "IE's integration into "Windows", are now SYSTEM-WIDE SECURITY-HOLES, that DIRECTLY effect EVERY APPLICATION (including non-Microsoft alternatives)?

Not to mention, Microsoft's well-PROVEN policy of keeping certain 'API' functions intentionally arcane, and secret, for the sole purpose of causing GRIEF to 'competitors'.

And finally, there's Microsoft's disadvantaging competing-products by specifically writing 'OS code', 'applications', and 'protocols' intentionally to "...break competing products" (yes, this was also PROVEN to have been done, ...IN COURT).


"... Removing media player does not create additional opportunities or better products for consumers."

Actually, preventing a CONVICTED-MONOPOLY from dominating another market DOES (by definition) allow greater competition. That is the POINT of 'Anti-Trust Law'.


"... No one is forcing you to use Windows"

So, exactly, ...which part of "...ILLEGALLY-CREATED, and MAINTAINED, MONOPOLY" ...don't you understand..?
Posted by Gayle-Edwards (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Justice
So just because Microsoft was found guilty once they are guilty for ever? Seems a bit harsh to me to use the findings of a past case to use as evidence of future infringents. Remember that Microsoft is a company, not a person. While it can be argued that people never change, labling Microsoft as a guilty for a different case that has already been dropped in the US is dubious.

Apple was guilty of illegally using the "Apple" name. Does that mean that they also stole the iPod and iTunes names? Sounds silly to me, but it is the same logic that you, and many others, use.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
Do the Europeans (regulators?) find that difficult to install a browser or media player of their choice? So, what about those promotions that you get when you buy an electronic gadget. This is not about antitrust, they just don't like non-european corporations to make profits. My guess is that Apple and Google are not far off from similar anti-trust cases.
Posted by SJ-USA (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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