back to article Microsoft vs European Commission: the verdict

Microsoft has lost its appeal against European Commission charges of anti-competitive behaviour. Bo Vesterdorf the softly spoken retiring judge of the Court of First Instance led the judges into the Luxembourg courtroom and invited everyone to sit. He quickly and quietly delivered the verdict, stood and led the judges out …


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  1. Nick Pettefar

    Appeal the appeal?

    Will this go on forever? If they appeal the appeal and lose that can they appeal that too?

    What are the implications now?

  2. AndyB

    When Hell freezes over

    So MS has two months to appeal, eh?

    Of course they will appeal. This will ping-pong backwards and forwards for years to come with appeal after appeal after appeal.

    By the time the EU finally gets MS to comply, Old Nick will be having snowball fights.

    In the meantime PC users will continue to get shafted and Windows vendors will still be forced to display those bollocky "we recommend Windows Fista" everywhere.

    (Damn, why is the 'F' key so close to 'V')

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can't wait for the day when I buy a Windows PC and it doesn't have a media player with it!

    Because if I knew how to get another media player then having WMP bundled doesn't bother me - I just wouldn't use it - and if I didn't know how to get one...well, I should've thought of that, shouldn't I?

  4. David Wood

    Rip off Britain

    And we wonder why they charge use twice as much for Vista!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what about

    Apple bundling the amount of software they do? They also include a proprietory media player and browser as well as loads of other crap. Where is the lawsuit against them?

    Not a MS fanboy but like to see fair play

    Expect a load of bullshit from the Apple fanboys as to why it is ok for their god to do it but no one else

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good times.

    This decision certainly helps clarify the monopolist's options - provide API specifications, or defy the EU.

    Good times.

  7. Rob Beard

    Two months to appeal?

    So Microsoft has two months to appeal the appeal?

    Hmmm... why do I get the feeling they'll keep appealing?


  8. Hugh_Pym

    Historical Comparissons

    Technological near monopolists of earlier ages like IBM and before them Bell Telephone operated for years under antitrust rules in the US. It is difficult to see why Microsoft has escaped this so far except by looking at the government of the US.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This will stay in the courts for years. It will prove once and for all that big business has more muscle than the rule of law and they can bend it to their will and be damned with the democratic consequences of doing so. Personally I thought the EUs case was always pretty tenuous to start with; Microsoft state categorically that they produce a proprietary operating system with proprietary protocols so I could never see where they were obligated to reveal this to anyone else. The whole media player thing was just as farcical, I could never see where Microsoft was obliged to provide a platform and therefore a business for something as wretched as Real Player. It certainly hasn't stopped the massive use of ITunes in which just about everyone agrees is better than WMP. If you truly believe in the free market then you believe in winners and losers because you can't have it both ways, de facto monopolies are absolutely intrinsic to laissez-faire capitalism in which the winner takes everything and the loser is utterly obliterated. The entire case has sounded like special pleading from the very beginning where everyone wants the supposed "benefits" of capitalism but none of its downsides. People better decide what they want.

  10. Carl Fletcher

    Re: So what about

    It's simply because Microsoft are a monopoly. The rules that a monopoly company have to comply with are different from normal. Bundling is abusing the monopoly that MS has as it forces everyone to use their bundled software. Apple has no monopoly to abuse.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    appealling behaviour

    Microsoft can appeal to the European Court of Justice regarding the rulings of the Court of First Instance.

    Thereafter, there are no further appeals possible.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about Apple?

    Apple haven't been found guilty of abuse of monopoly. MS have, and this was/is supposed to be part of their "punishment".

  13. Thomas


    The EU aren't concerned that operating systems shouldn't have media players included, they've found Microsoft guilty of using a dominant position in one market (i.e. the operating system) to distort competition in another (i.e. media players). It's known as bundling and is also the reason why Windows hasn't (at least in the past) come with a DVD player out of the box.

    Apple won't face any similar sort of legal challenge because they have something a lot less than a dominant position in the operating system market.

  14. Tom Chiverton

    Why not apple ?

    Because Apple haven't broken the law (refusing to allow resellers to do whatever the hell they like), actively preventing competition by or installation of competing products, etc. etc. etc.

  15. Chris Beach

    Bundling wasn't the issue!

    The problem wasn't the bundling of media player, but that a 3rd party couldn't 'replace' it, with the same level of functionality. And its disappointing that the EU didn't have the ability to work that simple fact out.

    and where are the actions against Apple? Isn't it the same issue, you can't remove QT or Safari and still expect the OS to work. At least I can get 3rd party apps that can fully playback WindowsMedia, I can't say the same for mov's!

  16. Danyer

    Re:So what about

    Apple is not a monopolist. They can bundle whatever they want.

    Remember the phrase: Monopoly is not a crime. Abuse of monopoly is a crime.

    Microsoft has abused its dominant position in one market (OS vendor), to dominate another market (multimedia streaming).

    P.S. I don't own an Apple.

  17. Ramon Casha

    They can't just keep on appealing... and other stories

    It's normally normal that you can appeal a decision from one court at a *higher* court. Yes, MS can appeal but they can't just keep appealing one decision after another indefinitely. Eventually they will get to the highest court - I'm not sure if that would be the ECJ itself.

    Yes, Apple does bundle stuff, as do many others. However Apple does not control around 90% of the market. Nor have they been found guilty of monopolistic practices. Microsoft has. Its path to success is littered with the remains of companies it crushed out of existence using these illegal practices. For instance, you are basically forced to BUY Microsoft Media Player because its price is included in Windows, and you're not given the option of not buying the media player component. A company like Real Networks wouldn't stand a chance, because few users would want to buy yet another media player after they've already paid for this one.

    Now imagine if Windows were stripped to the core OS, and its price reduced accordingly. Then, OEMs can decide to bundle the OS with their own choice of media player, browser, antivirus, and any other combination of software which they feel is the best choice for users.

  18. Niall Campbell

    re: so what about

    Obviously doesn't know what he's writing about. Quick Time has no effect on the OS. You can install just the OS without QT and suffer NO ill-effects. Safari. Just a Mac browser, bit like IE is bundled with Windows. You don't have to use it. I don't.

    OSX also has plenty of useful software for the home user that install but you aren't forced into using that either. Hell, if you wanted, you could install tons of MS crap like Office or WMP..(Should that read WMD?), but that is youir choice and your choice alone.

    Where MS falls down is it foists it's own 'standard' on the everyone who uses their OS>

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  20. Richard Kay

    Monopoly and redress

    Preventing abuse of monopoly powers is an essential activity of legislators and judges for a free market to thrive and for the public interest in having a free market to be effective. AFAIK all political parties agree on this. What is difficult is that the technology changes at a much more rapid pace than the glacial legal process we are seeing. Also if those involved in applying appropriate remedies don't understand the immediate need for patent unencumbered documentation and unrestricted source code availability for API and protocol implementations, then these remedies will fall very far short of the mark.

    This would not prevent Microsoft from being able to continue developing and selling their products - it would simply force relevant aspects of this development into the public domain. Making Microsoft place appropriate source code into the public domain would work much better than fines, though fines greater than their illegal monopoly profits are appropriate if they delay compliance.

  21. AndyB

    Re: Why not Apple?

    "Because Apple haven't broken the law (refusing to allow resellers to do whatever the hell they like), actively preventing competition by or installation of competing products, etc. etc. etc."

    Actually, as far as restricting choice, Apple are MUCH worse than MS. Ever tried buying a Mac without OSX so you can install (just) Linux on it? Ever tried buying OSX to install on your PC?

    No, Apple aren't breaking the law because they don't restrict choice (unlocked iPhones, anyone?), they certainly do, and are, IMHO, worse than MS.

    Apple aren't guilty because they don't have the overwhelming market dominance that MS have with Windows. Its abusing this dominance that is the crux of the matter.

    You can be sure that if the positions were reversed and Apple had the dominant system and maintained the OS lock-in and bundled software they currently do, then the EU Commission would be down on them as hard (if not harder) than they are on MS.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: So what about...

    The rules change when you hold a monopoly position in a market because the monopolist is in a position to tilt the playing field in their favour. The antitrust rules in the US and EU are intended to level the playing field if the monopolist is tilting it.

    Apple don't have a monopoly in desktop OSs so they can bundle what they like, same as RedHat and Oracle. When it comes to the iPod and iTunes it's a different matter, and the EU have suggested they may investigate them over the lockin and blocking of interoperability.

  23. antonio

    EU fines

    I am not a Microsoft fan, but I am suspicious about all these multi-million fines from EC. I remember that EC fined also the creator of Pokemon for the too high price of the Pokemon trading cards. The EC got millions, and I still pay the same price for the cards (my son is a Pokemon fan). It looked like to me more a "tangent" that Pokemon had to pay to be left alone and do the price they wanted.

    Microsoft is an easy target to milk money from.

  24. Ian Davidson

    Not so Appealing

    If I understood a gent on the radio very early this morning, there is one higher court available (ECJ?) but in order to lodge an appeal, MS apparently have to demonstrate that the present judgment contains an 'error in law'.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the end, Microsoft will win

    Who can hire the most expensive, most talented lawyers ? Not the EC !

    Microsoft will appeal and will win, having influenced the necessary representatives from the member countries. Want to lose a Microsoft R&D facility in your country then don't support Microsoft by speaking with head of the EC. The EC has a poor track record of corruption (hence the accounts have still not been signed off) so the scope is wide for Microsoft to turn this around.

    Never mind. In the interim, Microsoft will fix Vista (to perhaps bring it back to XP performance levels on better hardware) and the majority - particulary large corporates - will blindly keep on supporting this monopolistic organisation.

    I wonder if any bookies are offering odds on Microsoft's eventual success (if this can be clearly defined - e.g. a reduction of the fine by more than 50%), I'd put money on it. Also, if they continue to refuse to comply, will a further fine follow ?

  26. András Puiz

    About Apple

    Microsoft has a (legal) monopoly in the field of operating systems, and is trying to use that monopoly to (illegally) thwart competition in another field (media players).

    Apple is being scrutinized in the field of music downloads, where it has a near-monopoly. It isn't being scrutinized in the field of operating systems, where it has a small market share.

    As simple as that.

  27. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    @ Futility

    >> Personally I thought the EUs case was always pretty tenuous to start with; Microsoft state categorically that they produce a proprietary operating system with proprietary protocols so I could never see where they were obligated to reveal this to anyone else.

    If Microsoft had (for example) only a 30% market share on the desktop then it wouldn't be an issue - they would have to work with open standards because if they didn't then people (business users in particular) would stop buying Windows because it didn't work with their other stuff. But Windows has a 90%+ market share on the desktop, so users (and in particular businesses) require that 'the other stuff' has to talk Windows to be acceptable. By making their protocols complex, encrypted, and effectively secret, Miscrosoft have used this situation to force the position they have now: If you want servers to work with your desktops then they effectively HAVE to be Windows servers.

    This is the issue, by having got to a near monopoly on the desktop (by various, sometimes illegal IMHO, practices) they have effectively frozen out third parties from providing servers to work with them. Now they must document the protocols (note, only the protocols, it does not and never has required MS to release any source code) which will allow third parties to produce servers that will work with Windows desktops - ie users will have choice.

    The result should be that in future Microsoft will have to sell it's servers based on features/performance and being "better than the others" rather than being the ONLY practical choice available - and I don't think that will be a bad thing ! It also means that third parties will be able to make desktops that will properly interact with Windows servers - again giving choice that is in no way detrimental to users.

    I imagine the Samba team are already hard at work ...

  28. Ian

    Why not Apple?

    "Apple bundling the amount of software they do? They also include a proprietory media player and browser as well as loads of other crap. Where is the lawsuit against them?"

    Apple does not bundle software (ilife- itunes and iwork) with their OS.... they bundle it with their hardware like Dell (not that I'm suggesting AOL and works is useful!)

    The basic stuff like a browser and media player being included all started because of microsoft.... if Apple had not retaliated then they would no longer exist like BeOS and all the other operating systems MS put out of business

  29. Steven Jones

    Possible backfire ?

    One thing that might backfire on Windows users is that functionality that might have been bundled into the product in the future may have to be paid for separately. When regulators force unbundling (such as has happened in the telco arena) there is regulation of the wholesale pricing of the underlying products. In principle, this should mean that the base operating system should have a regulated price based on its stripped-down functionality. In plain speak, Windows stripped of media players, movie editors, web browsers and the like should be cheaper and these separate products provided as charged-for enhancements (there are some very grey areas here - there are the possibilities of "retailers" bundling products together; it's just that the product with a dominant market postiion is not allowed to effectively cross-subsidise the related products).

    Personally I would like to see something done about the maze of complex licensing schemes that Microsoft uses to control aspects of the retail and wholesale markets. For example, the difference between OEM and ful retail licenses for products which owe virtually nothing to any real differences to costs. Why, for example should there be so m\any special cases where products can be bougfht at special prices (students, teachers, OEMs) where others have to pay full retail prices. That's largely a distortion of retail markets, largely as a long term marketing policy. If MS were compelled to provide products on a non-discriminatory basis at wholesale prices to retailers and OEMs who could bundle then as they sought fit then this might go some way to correcting this. This would apply to any of the areas where MS has "market power" - that includes, of course, Office Suites as just one example.

    For those who are fans of Apple, then it is true that they don't appear to have "market power" for desktop operating systems (although given the market penetration among some of the "creative types", maybe there is really a sub-market here). However, where Apple clearly do seem to have such market power is in iTunes. Apple claiming that iTunes just applies conditions imposed by record companies won't wash here - that's no reason why they won't allow other media players to inter-operate with iTunes subject to satisfying DRM/security arrangements.

    Finally there any fully unbundled OS product set presents a massive security problem. TO make this work there would have to be a very securely designed, layered OS which really did allow separately bundles products to run in a secure environment which wouldn't allow exploits in one exposed product to compromise an entire system. That's a hugely challenging technical job. The purists might argue that a properly designed OS would do that, but combining that with a unified users experience with multiple suppliers is difficult indeed.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Read the document Case COMP/C-3/37.792

    It is a very good idea to download the en.pdf after searching for the case

    Case COMP/C-3/37.792 Microsoft

    It is not only a well written document about the case it is also computer history and Microsoft history.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Standard of debate

    Thought I'd take a moment to say thanks to all for the interesting discussion. Compare the BBC website, where half the comments (and obviously all the recommended ones) are of the 'OH NO TEH EVIL EU BRITISH FREEDOM' variety.

  32. Geoff

    Re: So what about

    "Apple bundling the amount of software they do? They also include a proprietory media player and browser as well as loads of other crap. Where is the lawsuit against them?"

    Apple install iTunes, Quicktime, iMove, Safari and a few other Apps.

    Microsoft install Windows Media Player, Movie Maker and Internet Explorer.

    On Linux you usually get a standard install that includes a browser a media player and some other software. You dont always get a choice at setup there either, it varies by distro.

    One thing though, Quicktime bundled with a Mac isn't the full thing, it doesn't do Full Screen and several other things for that matter, you need to buy the Pro version or get another media player to get full functionality.

    Another difference with Apple, is that if you dont want to use the App, you drag it to the wastebasket and install something else. Linux is the same, you just remove the package. Ever tried removing Internet Explorer?

    Apple gives you what you need to get going, you need a browser so you can get to the web to download another browser. Microsoft do the same, so do almost all of the Linux Distro's, the Difference is, that after you've got going, you cant remove IE on Windows, but you can remove Safari on OSX, or Firefox on Linux.

    Apple is primarily a software company, their hardware is designed to show off their software. It's why they dont sell their hardware without it. If you buy a Vaio, you get windows and several sony supplied or built Apps that add extra features to utilise the hardware to it's full potential. With Apple they just make it look neater as they control the OS.

    You could have picked a machine with Linux if you wanted (if you could find one, good luck finding a laptop with any other OS in consumer world: BSD, Solaris? You'll be lucky), otherwise your going to end up with Windows, from whichever manufacturer you choose to buy, and if you end up with Windows, you end up with IE and WMP, in fact you may even be forced down the windows route because of a dependency on a peripheral or software that doesn't work with anything else, accessibility hardware for example.

    So what we're saying is that, if you have a requirement for Windows your forced into taking the entire MS Windows Stack, not just the bits you need and once you take it, you have no need to look for anything else for your other requirements and this puts other manufacturers at a disadvantage. If you buy a Mac you buy it for the software anyway, thats why it is not anti competitive for Apple. Incidentally Apple pre-installs office trials alongside it's own iWork, you dont see Microsoft pre-installing StarOffice alongside MSWorks, do you?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re:Standard of debate

    There is a comment on the BBC HYS that says "I suggest that anybody who doesn't know what an "API" is stays out of this debate because you really don't know what you're talking about."

    I think that says it all

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ So what about

    Almost all media players are capable of playing .movs because .mov is just a wrapper for an open format (MPEG4). About the only one that can't is WiMP and that isn't because of any technical deficiency or licensing reasons, but... drum roll... because of MS's abuse of its monopoly position. MS won't code WiMP to support .movs because it doesn't want to provide ignorant Windows users like yourself with the ability to use its competitor's formats.

    Fwiw, all of the following major alternative media players can play back .mov files:




    @ Geoff - while QT is still not the full thing, it does (finally) support full screen playback again, without the need to buy the Pro version.

  35. Richard Kay

    @Futile and appropriate remedies

    "Now they must document the protocols (note, only the protocols, it does not and never has required MS to release any source code) which will allow third parties to produce servers that will work with Windows desktops - ie users will have choice."

    In practice this doesn't prevent the protocol documentation being obscure, ambigous, misleading and incomplete. The only way to prevent this getout is to require source code which implements these protocols and interfaces to be placed into the public domain. This doesn't have to be working products currently on sale - test suite and other simplified working example code would probably be more relevant.

    The fact that documentation of APIs and protocols isn't enough to implement these was one of the reasons OSI failed to develop the standard computer networking protocol suite where the IETF succeeded in in the seventies and eighties. IETF standards require independent implementation - which can only be achieved in practice by releasing source code.

  36. Marcus Bointon

    Apple's stuff is replaceable

    Sure Apple bundles stuff, but it's all done using open APIs and pretty much every piece of it is completely replaceable. Hell, most of the OS is open source anyway. No anticompetitiveness lurking in there.

    You can run different browsers on Windows, but now try replacing the internet explorer control (as used in things like Outlook 2003 to render HTML) with firefox. Well, I'll save you the bother - you can't. Apple's webkit is way more flexible, and again, it's all open source (it's probably running on your Nokia phone by now). There's nothing preventing anyone from rolling their own renderer and installing it in place of webkit (though they'd be dumb to do so as WebKit is such a great bit of software!). Most of the OS works that way, with a few exceptions for things like Quartz which remain closed.

  37. Daniel Bennett

    New installer?

    Pretty simple for M$ and @pple to be safe from the EU crap.

    On the installer, just let us choose what we want by unticking boxes (e.g. WMP and Windows Messenger).

    There, job done.

    Wheres the problem in anyone doing that on an installer is beyond me. So far I have to edit the installer myself before installing it on (other) machines.

  38. Brennan Young

    QuickTime != QuickTime Player

    Just a small point of pedantry. QuickTime is a multimedia 'layer' supported by dozens of multimedia tools and players. It can be closely compared to 'DirectX' on Windows.

    In theory you can boot Mac OSX without QuickTime, but there's no 'QuickTime uninstaller', and even if you could manage to remove every trace of QuickTime from the system, I doubt you'd be able to run very many multimedia programs, since it is required for almost all multimedia functionality on the Mac.

    QuickTime *Player* is Apple's lightweight player application for QuickTime-legible media. It's just a GUI wrapper around some (but by no means all) of the QuickTime API. Apple has been very careful not to add too many features to their player because they've wanted to encourage 3rd parties to develop QuickTime-based tools, and even 'competing' multimedia players like VLC and mPlayer.

    Compare with iTunes, which is Apple's heavyweight jukebox app, also built around QuickTime, and designed partly as a 'gateway drug' to the iPod experience. As has been pointed out, Apple is starting to get into trouble in various countries for abusing its near-monopoly in the handheld-music-player market, but iTunes does not leverage the iPod 'monopoly' as much as the proprietary codecs used by the iPod, which 'force' you to use Apple's players.

    Then again, anyone buying DRM-encumbered music is basically saying to the seller "shaft me now, hard, and repeatedly". Most iPod users I know get their music from ripped CDs and (ahem) other sources.

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