Leaked EU papers signal guilty verdict, vast fine for MS

Obstructive conduct as well - surely not?


An escaped European Commission antitrust document makes it clear that Microsoft is in deep trouble with Europe's authorities. The document, leaked to the Wall Street Journal, charges that Microsoft's server software - specifically, Windows 2000 - has been deliberately designed to exclude rivals, and that the company has illegally bundled Windows Media Player in a bid to establish a monopoly in Internet music and video.

European Union competition commissioner Mario Monti moved swiftly today to mute the effect of the leak, describing talk of fines as "premature," but from what the WSJ says about the document, he's on a clear loser here. Obviously, the Commission hasn't yet formally decided what to do about Microsoft, but equally obviously it's pretty much decided what Microsoft has done.

The document appears to set down the preliminary findings of the Commission's investigation, and according to Monti these have been given to Microsoft, which must now reply. The company has, claims the document, illegally used its Windows monopoly in a bid to leverage itself into an equally dominant position in the business and internet server market. This is what Sun claimed in one of the complaints to the EU that sparked off the investigation, and it would appear that the Commission views Microsoft as guilty as charged.

The Commission's apparent view on Media Player is puzzling, however. As reported by the WSJ, the document charges that "Microsoft illegally sought to dominate music and video software for the Web," and that it "illegally bundled" Media Player with Windows. But the report does not cover XP, which is the most obvious target for such charges. A Microsoft bid based on XP to dominate this area may be successful in the future, but any such efforts the company has made previously have been less than stellar in their effect. So it's not clear whether the Commission intends to charge Microsoft with attempted but failed murder, or whether the document is simply signalling that XP will be rolled into the case.

Monti's claim that talk of fines is currently premature is more than a little humorous, given that the document itself apparently brings the subject up, saying that Microsoft's efforts to mislead the investigation could result in a higher fine. The Commission has the power to fine Microsoft up to 10 per cent of revenue, which would come to a couple of billion dollars, but if it reckons that the company is very guilty indeed (which does seem to be the case) then the fine would surely be the maximum allowable without any non-cooperation penalty being included.

The non-cooperation is however possibly the best bit of the leak. Aside from claiming obstruction, the Commission says that Microsoft produced no less than 34 letters allegedly from companies supporting its case. Says the WSJ: "In many instances, the letters had been written by Microsoft, or the companies weren't aware they were to be used as evidence in the case, the Commission said."

Now, where have we heard that one before? ®


Other stories you might like

  • It's one thing to have the world in your hands – what are you going to do with it?

    Google won the patent battle against ART+COM, but we were left with little more than a toy

    Column I used to think technology could change the world. Google's vision is different: it just wants you to sort of play with the world. That's fun, but it's not as powerful as it could be.

    Despite the fact that it often gives me a stomach-churning sense of motion sickness, I've been spending quite a bit of time lately fully immersed in Google Earth VR. Pop down inside a major city centre – Sydney, San Francisco or London – and the intense data-gathering work performed by Google's global fleet of scanning vehicles shows up in eye-popping detail.

    Buildings are rendered photorealistically, using the mathematics of photogrammetry to extrude three-dimensional solids from multiple two-dimensional images. Trees resolve across successive passes from childlike lollipops into complex textured forms. Yet what should feel absolutely real seems exactly the opposite – leaving me cold, as though I've stumbled onto a global-scale miniature train set, built by someone with too much time on their hands. What good is it, really?

    Continue reading
  • Why Cloud First should not have to mean Cloud Everywhere

    HPE urges 'consciously hybrid' strategy for UK public sector

    Sponsored In 2013, the UK government heralded Cloud First, a ground-breaking strategy to drive cloud adoption across the public sector. Eight years on, and much of UK public sector IT still runs on-premises - and all too often - on obsolete technologies.

    Today the government‘s message boils down to “cloud first, if you can” - perhaps in recognition that modernising complex legacy systems is hard. But in the private sector today, enterprises are typically mixing and matching cloud and on-premises infrastructure, according to the best business fit for their needs.

    The UK government should also adopt a “consciously hybrid” approach, according to HPE, The global technology company is calling for the entire IT industry to step up so that the public sector can modernise where needed and keep up with innovation: “We’re calling for a collective IT industry response to the problem,” says Russell MacDonald, HPE strategic advisor to the public sector.

    Continue reading
  • A Raspberry Pi HAT for the Lego Technic fan

    Sneaking in programming under the guise of plastic bricks

    There is good news for the intersection of Lego and Raspberry Pi fans today, as a new HAT (the delightfully named Hardware Attached on Top) will be unveiled for the diminutive computer to control Technic motors and sensors.

    Using a Pi to process sensor readings and manage motors has been a thing since the inception of the computer, and users (including ourselves) have long made use of the General Purpose Input / Output (GPIO) pins that have been a feature of the hardware for all manner of projects.

    However, not all users are entirely happy with breadboards and jumpers. Lego, familiar to many a builder thanks to lines such as its Mindstorms range, recently introduced the Education SPIKE Prime set, aimed at the classroom.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021