back to article Microsoft to comply with Brussels over browser choice gaffe

Microsoft has reportedly agreed to comply with any sanctions laid down by competition officials in Brussels, who are currently probing the software giant's allegedly mistaken banishment of a "browser choice" screen, which would have allowed European customers to pick which browser they wanted to run on their Windows-based …

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  1. Big_Ted
    Windows

    Does this include Windows 8 ?

    Not the RT version but the x86 version ?

    There is already an OS that doesn't allow it unless their standard is followed, yes Apple's iOS.....

    However as windows 8 pro is not a closed garden and will be freely available to purchase surely it should be required on it as well.......

    1. dogged

      Re: Does this include Windows 8 ?

      Windows 8 (I don't know about RT because it's not loose in the wild yet, whereas my ExoPC tablet is happily running 8 Pro) already includes the browser ballot. And that's using the "got from Technet before it's even publicly available" version.

    2. Shagbag

      Oh FFS Microsoft

      How many times can MS get away with 'forgetting'?

      They're laughing in the face of the EC.

      Being on the receiving end of the EC's biggest fine ever, didn't seem to concern them.

      I believe it's about time the EC said enough is enough and start to dictate to MS what it must do if it wants to sell its products in the EU. The EU is a big market for them and they need the profits. The EC is in a strong position and should exploit it for the benefit of all EU citizens.

      1. Lewis Mettler
        Thumb Up

        Re: Oh FFS Microsoft

        Either all Microsoft employees are really dumb and stupid or they just think they can continue illegal practices if they ignore authorities.

        I am sure Ballmer told the underlings to jut ignore the EU commission requirements. If they complain, I can act dumb and stupid and act like I had no idea what our obligations may have been.

        Ballmer is pretty dumb. But, not that dumb. He is just dishonest and coniving. Hoping that if they just ignore the EU they can use their illegal practices to get a leg up on everyone and screw their customers.

        It is that simple.

        1. David Neil
          Thumb Down

          Re: Oh FFS Microsoft

          Something I have found in life that when the choice is between a fuck up and a conspiracy, it's usually the former.

  2. Joe 48

    I still don't get why this only appies to MS

    Hoping some intelligent Reg readers can answer a question I've always had. Why doesn't Apple have to provide choice too, rather than the rubbish called Safari?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: intelligent Reg readers

      Bit of an oxymoron there isn't it?

      1. Big_Ted
        Unhappy

        Re: RE: intelligent Reg readers

        Bit of an oxymoron there isn't it?....................

        How dare you call be a stupid cow........

    2. Big_Ted

      Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

      Because iOS is not an OS you can purchase and Apples tablets can only have it on them so is not classed as an OS so much as an interface in the same way as an epg on your tv etc.

      Also Apple are not trying to displace and destroy all other browsers but are simply saying that you can do a browser for their iOS but it must conform to the same api's etc as safari.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

        That bollocks.

        iOS blocks all other browsers allowing only browser skins onto of an intentionally gimped JIT-less version of Safari using legacy slower APIs

        In short, ensuring everyone uses Safari, whilst fooling the Eurocrats that they are giving users a choice,#

        1. elderlybloke
          Happy

          Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

          Dear Barry,

          I am using an IMac with Firefox browser and Thunderbird email.

          They work just as well as when I am on an Ubuntu OS computer.

          Am I alone in this?

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

        With the exception of Opera Mini, which got round the official censors by offloading all the work to Opera's servers and riding a wave of publicity that made it very difficult for Apple to say no, every alternative browser out there is Safari. Or rather the WebKit renderer with the JavaScript engine stuck in first gear.

        This is like every alternative browser in Windows being restricted to being an MSHTML control.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

      at risk of waking a few trolls.....

      because windows is the DOMINANT operating system. People tend to use whatever browser is put in front of them, so as default installing MS IE they were cutting out other providers browsers.

      1. VaalDonkie
        Windows

        Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

        I always thought you could just download an installer for FF, Opera, etc. Seems like I was wrong.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

        Just a precision:

        "because windows is the DOMINANT operating system."

        ...on the PC, which as a consumer item is becoming less and less relevant by the day.

        To answer the OP's question (while not making any claims whatsoever as to my level of intelligence), the reason why Apple is not forced by regulators to provide any choice is, as I understand it, because they never got sued / investigated and found to have abused their (at the time) monopoly position. At least that's what I make of it. HTH.

    4. FordPrefect

      Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

      MS were found to have a monopoly in the PC market for operating systems and were found to be abusing there monopoly position in the operating system market to try and get a monopoly in the browser market. Apple has never had been judged to have a monopoly in any market. Which ofc it doesnt in desktop or laptop computer systems. Again in the mobile phone sector there is plenty of choice and apple are not in a monopoly position there. Tablets is an area which apple might find itself in a monopoly position as ipad is still the biggest selling tablet although with others catching up now somewhat that will start to change hopefully.

      1. Tinker Tailor Soldier
        Meh

        Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

        Point of order.

        MS was found to hold a legally acquired monopoly in PC operating systems.

        MS were found to be guilty of illegally trying to extend this monopoly to browsers by Penfield-Jackson, but this verdict was remanded to the lower court.

        Subsequently MS settled with the DoJ meaning that no US court has found that MS did in fact illegally attempt to extend its legally acquired monopoly to browsers.

        Not sure about exact EU rulings, but get your facts straight.

        1. Goobertee
          Unhappy

          @Tinker Tailor Soldier

          Speaking of getting your facts straight, the verdict was not remanded to a lower court and still stands. The penalty phase was remanded to a lower court. The penalty is what was settled with the DoJ lawyers and I'm sure it's only coincidence, of course, that the DoJ seemed to soften their position dramatically after the occupant of the White House changed.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

      "Why doesn't Apple have to provide choice too,"

      Because apple users (careful not to call them owners,because they aren’t owners) are used to apple telling them what they need and don’t feel the need to complain about it.

      I just dare a apple user to go ask this on the official apple forums. see how long it takes for the post to be deleted and for them to be punished for questioning the great turtle-neck in the sky... you can't stand out or be individual...

    6. toadwarrior

      Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

      Because apple hasn't been convicted of abusing any monopolies that warrant such a punishment.

      Their PCs do allow complete freedom over the browser. IOS sort of does but then again it's sold as a more of a complete packaged consumer electronic device than a customisable PC. Just as if you moaned that your PS3 only had one browser, you'd probably be told to quit wasting people's time.

    7. NightFox

      Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

      These answers all seem to refer to iOS, I think the original question is referring to why Apple can get away with including Safari in OS X and not being required to offer a browser choice on first run.

    8. Dave 15 Silver badge

      Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

      Because Apple is Apple and untouchable, worthy of praise everlasting, and of course so perfect that it is impossible to work out why on earth anyone would call anything they produce rubbish far less replace it with something that clearly can't be as perfect if its not Apple. Ask the BBC for their unbiased opinion - Apple is superior to everything and rightly they have a patent on the shape of the planet and the way the plants revolve around the sun and the way the sun revolves around Apple

      1. Chad H.

        Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

        Its not about Apple being untouchable, its they havent committed the same problem as MS have yet. They are not in a market dominating position (50%+) of any major market like MS have been with OSes.

      2. mhenriday
        Boffin

        Wow ! Tycho Brahe is back, after a wait of more than four centuries !...

        Henri

    9. Madboater

      Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

      Ask Opera, they are the ones who made the case that MS were abusing their monopoly by providing customers with a product for free.

    10. Ian Johnston Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS

      Because Apple is a trivial irrelevance in the PC market (suck it up, fanboiz). It was to do with Microsoft's dominance of the PC OS market, not simply because they included a browser.

    11. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS (@various)

      The rules are in place to prevent distortion of the market that harms the consumer.

      Apple are not in a position to distort the market so as to harm the consumer. Microsoft were. That's not just a legal technicality — it happened in real life. Microsoft used its desktop monopoly to kill Netscape. Once Netscape was dead it said 'Oh, IE6, that's good enough isn't it?' and more or less walked away. That left us with IE6 for five full years; it wasn't really standards compliant where it tried to be and it included deliberately proprietary technologies but there was no competition. Supporting IE6 for all that time was a significant cost to the industry. Supporting IE6 is still a significant cost for some businesses. So Microsoft very visibly distorted the market. In doing so it harmed the consumer.

      Microsoft is hence required to include a browser selection screen to reduce its ability to leverage its desktop share to distort the market for browsers and to create a more competitive market. The more competitive market benefits the consumer.

      Conversely, Apple has never distorted the market. If it were to release a barely compliant browser with proprietary standards then people would simply ignore that browser and possibly that device. It doesn't have a hegemony such as to be able to dictate standards for web pages, and it never will.

      To be fair to Microsoft, the company has jumped quite enthusiastically aboard the standards train now and I can see no reason to believe they'd repeat the errors of the 1990s. Having a proper, standards-compliant browser engine gives them the target portability they need to compete as the set of target devices becomes more complicated than 'Intel, on the desktop'.

      (aside: don't believe Opera's hype; they used people's anti-Apple sentiment as a cheap marketing foil. Including a Javascript engine is clearly contrary to the terms and conditions both before and after Opera's submission. Nothing Opera Mini does is contrary to the terms, either at the time or now. At no point was Opera Mini or any other app of its ilk rejected. Opera Mini is just one of a multitude of proxy browsers available for iOS — most of the rest dealing with Flash rendering — and none of the others have had to kick up a fuss to get approved)

      1. Joe 48

        Re: I still don't get why this only appies to MS (@various)

        Some great replies. I still don't fully get it though.

        I was a hardcore FF fan for years and MS never stopped me installing it. If I wanted a new browser I simply installed it.

        What about other software installed by default in Windows. Notepad, paint etc. those all have better offerings too. yet those aren't getting removed.

        I just find it all a touch pointless.

        I get they got sued and some lawyer agreed but I still don't fully understand the logic of the decision.

        1. ThomH Silver badge

          @Joe 48

          The various agencies have to investigate and find a monopoly abuse. In this case Microsoft went too far to cut Netscape out of the market. One of the things they did to achieve that was the bundling.

          So Microsoft used its dominant position in one market (home computers) to distort competition in another (Internet browsers). That's the definition of anti-competitive behaviour. The idea is to prevent a company that's doing well in one market from being able to obtain control of another artificially. Control over a market isn't in itself punishable but the law intends to allow natural market forces to operate.

          So there's the fact that when Microsoft acted the market for home computers and the market for internet browsers were considered to be separate. People were paying for Netscape when the behaviour began so that's not entirely unreasonable, though it's a little peculiar to think about now.

          There's also the fact that Microsoft used the one monopoly to obtain the other. Were history radically different such that the iPhone ended up with 100% market share then the browser policy still might not be a problem — the product was launched with the explicit feature that third-party browsers (or, at the time, any third-party apps) weren't permitted. That's still the case. So at no point would Apple have used the one monopoly to obtain the other, rather consumers would have judged that the limitation was not a troubling impediment.

          As for notepad, paint, etc, they don't matter either because they've always been inherent parts of Windows and/or because they would be considered a natural part of the desktop.

          Putting the legal abstractions aside: at no point was there some other company producing far and away the most popular examples of something like notepad or like paint that Microsoft brushed aside through brute force of its desktop position. Conversely there was such a browser manufacturer. Bundling was only one part of what Microsoft were found to have done but it was something the court could realistically attempt to remedy with its existing powers.

          The point is to protect the markets and allow consumers to use their free will so that if there is a single dominant player then it gets there on merit. The system's imperfect but all justice systems are and the stink of the various agencies acting against Microsoft is part of what gave Firefox a push.

  3. Marty
    Joke

    somewhere someone is missing the point....

    the thing that strikes me is that it took 17 months for anyone to notice, never mind Microsoft. Surely the people that were crying about IE in the first place should have noticed..

    so the thing that springs to mind is that nobody gives a rats ass about the browser choice thing. The whole antitrust investigation and fines was just a waste of time, effort and money....

    joke, because the whole fiasco is one !!!

    1. Paw Bokenfohr

      Re: somewhere someone is missing the point....

      Agreed - I don't remember the press screaming about this, or anyone really noticing at all. I certainly didn't, but then of course I would have had FF installed as my default browser before SP1 was added to my system, rather than buying a PC with W7SP1 pre-installed and setting it up from there.

    2. Test Man
      Thumb Down

      Re: somewhere someone is missing the point....

      There is a very good reason why it took 17 months for anyone to notice.

      Because no one cared whatsoever.

      It's a silly punishment that punishes no one and doesn't rectify the supposed imbalance. If it did, everyone would have noticed when IE's domnance crept up again.

      So, in short, pointless.

      1. Lord Voldemortgage

        Re: somewhere someone is missing the point....

        I'm not sure it punishes no one - I've had to sit through some browser choice nonsense more than once and it certainly felt like a punishment.

        The stupid thing about it is that no one who genuinely wanted a different browser would have the slightest difficulty in getting one and anyone who didn't care was just inconvenienced by having to make a choice, quite possibly between things they did not understand or care about.

        I was never convinced that MS bundling IE constituted any sort of abuse of their position - some of the things they did with IE, particularly at v6 were pretty despicable (and we are not yet clear of the consequences) but forcing them to offer browser choice did nothing to rectify those wrongs.

        1. Andy Fletcher

          Re: somewhere someone is missing the point....

          @Voldemortgage Yikes, it's almost as if you think Brussels ought to have bigger fish to fry.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: somewhere someone is missing the point....

            They are just a bunch of overpaid, corrupt, lazy to$$ers spending most of the day playing on their iPads and complaining about Microsoft dominance. Pc gone made.

            1. Madboater

              Re: somewhere someone is missing the point....

              The point is that no one presents an OS without a web browser any more (even my TV has one). Yet somehow MS are in the wrong for doing so. It is a failure of other browser makers to advertise their product, and expect MS to do the work for them.

      2. Craigo

        Re: somewhere someone is missing the point....

        "Because no one cared whatsoever." Indeed..

        Any techy type people would have already considered their choice of browser and installed their favourite.

        Any non techy people don't actually care what software they use to browse the Internet, as long as it works (yeah yeah, I know)

    3. Ben Liddicott
      Pint

      Re: somewhere someone is missing the point....

      The point is to shake down microsoft for a billion dollar vig which goes straight into the Eurocrats' coffers.

      THe fact that nobody noticed before and therefore doesn't care - well the second half is irrelevant since Eurocrats aren't interested in what people think, and the first half - well that just means the upcoming fine for this one is larger, so that's a bonus.

      It's a feature, not a bug.

    4. Cameron Colley

      Re: somewhere someone is missing the point....

      I think you are missing the point. The fact that "nobody noticed" is the point and the problem.

      The decision and Microsoft's penalty are a little outdated now, since bureaucracy is glacial in its pace, but that is irrelevant. Microsoft are being made to do this because they abused their position to force their own standards upon the internet -- the results of which are still being suffered in businesses across the world including those who just wish to upgrade from IE6 to IE9.

      Please do not forget history lest we be forced to repeat it.

      1. Lord Voldemortgage

        Re: somewhere someone is missing the point....

        ". Microsoft are being made to do this because they abused their position to force their own standards upon the internet"

        No, that is not the reason.

        That is what was wrong about what they did but even if they had offered a completely standards-compliant browser they would still have been subject to this sort of ruling.

        That is precisely where the fail is with this - there's no more inherent harm in Microsoft bundlign a browser than there is in them providing Notepad but the text editing lobby were clearly not so persuasive.

        Brussels did not object because IE imposes some proprietary de facto standards but because they believe it "harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice."

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IFC's anyone?

    Has anyone seen any reports of (or maybe witnessed it firsthand) Identified Flying Chairs in Seattle?

    Surely this would have warranted some serious furniture flinging in Redmond?

  5. regadpellagru
    Joke

    See,

    our QA dept is in the US, so this went totally unnoticed ...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wish I had a choice of browser on the WII, that monopolistic Opera browser is so terrible.

  7. James Gosling
    Facepalm

    Too Little Too Late

    Mean, ugly, angry, nasty, aggressive and arrogant! These are all words I associate with Steve Ballmer and likewise Microsoft. Surely it isn't in the interests of any company to project these "qualities". And it's this perception which Microsoft has nurtured itself. They really are their worst enemy. A new CEO would be a good start!

    1. Philippe
      Happy

      Re: Too Little Too Late

      James, i do agree to a very large extent with your description of Ballmer and the negative impact he has on Microsoft image.

      Having said that ,I sincerely hope thathe will stay around as since George W Bush has left power, Monkey boy is the only American stand up comedian left.

    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Too Little Too Late

      No, stick with Ballmer.

      If he takes MS down with him, I won't be sorry.

  8. Gordon Pryra

    "severe consequences"

    Funny that line, do they mean as severe as the consequences the UK Gov got from ole Vivian Redding regarding BTs sale of tracking data to phorm?

    Or as severe as the consequences Google face every time they ignore the varios laws around Europe?

    its just more tubthumping from people trying to proove they do something at work and need continued funding.

  9. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Illegal software?

    So the OEM copy of Windows 7 that was installed on my recently-purchased notebook is illegal*.

    Presumably I can now demand that Amazon or Samsung or Microsoft supply me with a legal version. It's not that I care about the browser ballot, I just hate pre-installed OEM Windows and would love to be sent a real install disk.

    *If not illegal, it's evidently not "of merchantable quality and fit for the purpose for which it was intended", as the UK Sale of Goods Act has it. One of the purposes for which it was intended, albeit a minor one, was offering browser choice.

    1. Al Jones

      Re: Illegal software?

      Nope, the Browser ballot is delivered as a Windows Update, and that update has been available on the servers all along - if you re-installed Windows 7 at any time over the last 17 months, you'd get the browser ballot screen when you run Windows Update.

      But that particular updated isn't listed as required by Windows 7SP1, so if you installed Win7, then applied SP1 before going online and getting Windows Updates, you weren't getting the ballot screen. And if you got a brand new PC with Win7 SP1 pre-installed, you didn't get the ballot screen.

      The "fix" is fairly simple, and it happens on the Windows Update servers, not on the PCs/laptops, (the Ballot Screen is added to the list of required updates for SP1 machines). Your Win7SP1 laptop is no more or less "of merchantable quality" because of this change - the system was always intended to download updates and fixes for the supported life of the OS, and this is just an additional one.

      Someone at MS goofed - but the fact that nobody outside MS seems to have noticed for 17 months indicates that the original ruling was a joke, not that MS was trying to pull a fast one.

      1. mhenriday
        Boffin

        Had occasion yesterday, Al, to help a a computer-naive retireee set up a brand new laptop

        with Win/ SP1 pre-installed. The browser ballet screen was not among the 57 «important» (hardly «required» - although they will keep appearing, like a bad penny everytime one checks the updater) updates which Windows Update recommended be installed. Thus Kelly's statement to the effect that «Microsoft recently began offering the browser choice screen to users of Windows in the EU's 27 member-states [of which Sweden is one] once again» is not universally true. Given this fact, it seems obvious that Joaquin Almunia will be force to confirm a breach on the part of Microsoft ; it will be fascinating to see just what the promised/threatened «severe consequences» for the company turn out to be....

        Henri

  10. Spoonsinger
    Mushroom

    Just face it...

    You are basically f..ked if you go the new M$ route, and totally f..ked if you don't. But what If there was another alternative in the real world. Well no you are f..ked there as well - including all other considerations (and all other options - which wiser people than me will point out). Yeh! the new world order. I welcome my new <fill in the spaces> overlords.

  11. Eduard Coli
    Gimp

    Kickbacks, contributions not good enough?

    This will teach Ballmer to not be cheap when tipping the politicians who serve him and M$ so well.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a shame iOS and WP both supply a default browser you can't remove or fully replace.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and the search engine?

    Anyone tried to replace the default search engine in IE? Bloody hard work and impossible to figure out without googling the answer, at least with IE8 (and with my limited intelligence).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: and the search engine?

      IE8? Click the down arror to the right of the search box and click Add Search Providrs, then choose from there. Took me 30 secods to get Google replacing Bing thre when we updated PCs here. (No one took my Firefox suggestion seriously, more's the pity :( )

  14. UKHobo

    throw the book at them - they can afford it

    A measly €1.6bn fine last time and after a while they decided to play silly buggers again. We need an in-the-clear fool proof no holds barred way to bail out the Spanish + Greek + Italian + Irish + other knackered economies in the EU. I reckon a nice new whopping €10bn Microsoft EU fine should help out a bit.

  15. David Strum
    Mushroom

    What a load of hassle

    I just want to be on line - I dont care what I use!

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