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Microsoft Government Politics

Microsoft Responds to EU With Another Question 545

An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft has responded to the latest round of EU requests by asking how much the EU thinks they should charge for Windows Server Protocols. The EU has stated the Microsoft should charge based on 'innovation, not patentability' and that they have 'examined 160 Microsoft claims to patented technologies' concluding 'only four may only deserve to claim a limited degree of innovation.' The EU is also starting to discuss structural remedies as opposed to the behavioral remedies they are currently enforcing. At what point has/will the EU overstepped its bounds?"
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Microsoft Responds to EU With Another Question

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  • At what point? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vivaoporto ( 1064484 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @11:29AM (#18855701)
    Q: At what point has/will the EU overstepped its bounds?
    A: Is it really necessary that every Slashdot summary ends with a very polarizing question?
  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @11:29AM (#18855711)

    The EU's goal is ostensibly to ensure proper competition in the market, right? And let's face it, MS's only real competition is Free Software. Therefore, the only possible fair price for the protocol specs is free, and with free redistribution, so that it's able to be used by Free Software.

    (Note that I'm talking about interoperability specifications (and patent licenses) only... Microsoft should be able to charge whatever it wants for its reference implementation.)

    • by stevedcc ( 1000313 ) * on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @11:42AM (#18855933)

      Well, the US convicted Microsoft of being a monopolist, then did nothing about it. There's clearly a problem (I don't think we need to argue about that on Slashdot.) So, is it just the idea that the great all powerful US isn't doing it that some people find annoying? Or would you rather some other "superpower" like China, India or Russia ends up having to do it (in 15 or 20 years time).

      Reality needs to be faced. Your government can't deal with the wayward MS business, the EU wants to deal with your problem for you. Isn't that nice of them?

    • by ( 653730 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @12:11PM (#18856447)
      In fact, it's funny that Microsoft tries to promote their own document format because they say that interoperatibility is important and that they support open protocols blah blah blah, and then they don't release the specs for the protocols they're using in windows server, because those protocols is what make windows server succesful (because 95% of clients are windows and only windows server can serve them)
  • Trade Wars (Score:2, Informative)

    by N8F8 ( 4562 )
    The EU has been very heavy handed [] recently using any and all trade laws to hurt tech companies. It would be nice to have one or two of them say "screw you" and pull out of the market. A EU without Apple, Hitachi, Toshiba or Microsoft?
    • A EU without Apple, Hitachi, Toshiba or Microsoft?
    • To hurt tech companies or to protect European consumers?

      (Retort with: Or European companies?)
    • You seem to be confusing heavy handed with enforcing trade laws and protecting consumer interests.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) *

      Those tech companies would pull out if and only if the EU's punishment were worse than losing the EU market. For example, what would happen if MS stopped selling Windows in Europe? The entire continent would switch to Free Software almost instantly. I'll bet Microsoft is willing to put up with a Hell of a lot to prevent that from happening! And that's not just because of the lost sales directly, but also because it would prove to US businesses that Free Software is viable on a grand scale.

      • The entire continent would simply keep working on XP, while the black market for the now-illegal goods would be thriving in the span of a few months. THAT's what would happen. Prohibitionism, anyone? Besides, the day a gov't chooses what software I run is the day I become a MS fanboi.
    • Microsoft has sold only 244 legitimate copies of Vista in China a while back. I think the figure is a bit higher in Europe.

      The European market is worth pursuing and frankly I'm glad the EU is forcing MS to open its protocols so others can compete. Otherwise MS will have a stranglehold on the desktop forever without really deserving it other than the fact there are no other viable choices.
    • by ledow ( 319597 )
      EU without Apple:

      A sad loss of one of only two "real" competitors to the Microsoft OS monopoly (the other, I would hazard, being the Free/OSS/Unix-y crowd all bundled together). Apple wouldn't want to risk it for the world.

      EU without Hitachi:

      So what? Plenty of other companies in and out of the EU that compete in all their product lines.

      EU without Toshiba:

      So what? Plenty of other companies in and out of the EU that compete in all their product lines.

      EU without Microsoft:

      That's what they are TRYING to do...
    • I think that we would be doing fine without Hitachi and or Apple.

      Besides that EU without Microsoft = Open Source or Apple will win over time.
    • A EU without Microsoft is a wet dream.

      Please let it happen.

  • Which bounds? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by asninn ( 1071320 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @11:33AM (#18855771)
    Its bounds? The EU pretty cannot overstep its bounds - if Microsoft wants to do business here, they'll have to play by the rules, just like - and this is important - EVERYONE ELSE. If they're unwilling to do that (and I'm not saying "unable or unwilling" since it's pretty much impossible for them to really be unable), well... nobody's forcing them to do business here. There's no dog-given right to act like an arse, and our politicians haven't been bought out 100% yet (just 99%).

    On a side note, it's really rather funny to see that all the hatred for Microsoft on Slashdot suddenly vanish as soon as it's Microsoft vs. the EU - then suddenly, defending a fellow US-American company suddenly seems to become more important than pointing out how much Microsoft as a convicted monopolist engaged in illegal anti-competitive tactics is hurting innovation/the industry/society.
    • Re:Which bounds? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by HoosierPeschke ( 887362 ) <> on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @11:48AM (#18856049) Homepage

      On a side note, it's really rather funny to see that all the hatred for Microsoft on Slashdot suddenly vanish as soon as it's Microsoft vs. the EU - then suddenly, defending a fellow US-American company suddenly seems to become more important than pointing out how much Microsoft as a convicted monopolist engaged in illegal anti-competitive tactics is hurting innovation/the industry/society.

      Not all of us, I'm glad someone isn't putting up with MS's crap.
    • Re:Which bounds? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @11:49AM (#18856079)
      Well, speaking as an American, I'm glad the EU is spanking Microsoft, since our government is so completely bought and paid for by corporate interests that there is no longer any meaningful regulation of anticompetitive behavior here. In any event, I don't view Microsoft as an American company in any meaningful sense. If a foreign power had damaged US productivity and parasitically drained off as much capital from US businesses as Microsoft has, it would be construed as an act of war. Microsoft helps America only in the sense that it helps itself to lots of American money it could not access if American regulators still gave a shit about competition.

      As far as I'm concerned, the EU hasn't gone far enough. But to be fair, and to avoid attributing to EU regulators a moral high ground they don't in fact possess, I have my doubts that the EU would have gone as far as it has if Microsoft was a European company. On the other hand, it's questionable whether, say, French agricultural subsidies affect nearly as many people as Windows.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ak3ldama ( 554026 )
        Well put. I hope that the EU goes farther. I also hope they set an example for how to deal with such a powerful, and at times morally bankrupt, company as Microsoft. Challenging the validity and usefulness of their patents is a step in the right direction.
    • Re:Which bounds? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sane? ( 179855 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @12:38PM (#18856925)

      Quite right.

      My only wish is that they didn't keep on giving Microsoft chances and simply hammered them for their existing crimes. Break them up into OS and apps and have done with it; we all know that's what's needed. The EU can, and has the power and moral right to do so. Forget all this "its a US company", it an international company that has played a monopoly hand in the EU. If the US can get away with hijacking legal EU businessmen, the EU can get away with imposing breakup on a company even outside its borders. From a practical standpoint, if the choice was "break in two or all your copyrights are cancelled" what do you think would happen? What do you think China would do?

      The funny thing is this is Microsoft bringing it on their own heads. If they had made this data freely available years ago there would BE no case. Its purely because they decided to play cute that they are here. Bluffing on a weak hand is never a smart move.

  • The EU has already pushed too far. I personally refuse to use MS products, so I'm not a MS fan, but the EU has gone too far in interfering with the market. Yes, the US has gone too far in "promoting" innovation through patents, but the EU has swung too far the other way. Besides, if you won't allow software patents (which I am against), then you should allow software to be a trade secret. If you are concerned about the monopoly, how about all governments use an open standard for all government business?
    • by Alioth ( 221270 )
      The EU isn't asking for the software to be opened, merely the protocols. It's not too much to ask for a company convicted of abusing its monopoly position.
  • by s31523 ( 926314 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @11:36AM (#18855831)
    Where does a 500 pound gorilla sit? Anywhere she wants, except in the 600 pound gorilla's seat.

    I don't know who is the 600 pound gorilla in this case, but it sure is interesting to see a case where M$ doesn't just walk all over someone and is actually being bullied back....
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @11:37AM (#18855837)

    The EU has stated the Microsoft should charge based on 'innovation, not patentability'... The EU is also starting to discuss structural remedies as opposed to the behavioral remedies they are currently enforcing.

    Imagine if the EU dumped its focus on trivial crap like software patents and applied the same reasoning to medicine patents.
    • Imagine if the EU dumped its focus on trivial crap like software patents and applied the same reasoning to medicine patents.

      Imagine if everybody dumped their focus on (name over-emphasized thing here) and applied the same amount of energy to disease, poverty, war, etc.

  • It's about rent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @11:40AM (#18855899) Homepage Journal
    Namely, renting access to your own data.

    In other words, how much should customers have to pay to get at their own data, which happens to reside on Microsoft products?

    Lets take MS's argument seriously for a moment, to see where that leads us.

    Suppose there is software A, which holds the data, and software B, which accesses the data. How much does MS charge for that A-B interface? There are two possible answers to this. First, they charge 0. Then everybody should pay zero. The second possible answer is that the cost of the A-B interface is part of the cost of A,B, or both.

    In that case, they are illegally bundling it, forcing users to buy access to the other product when they buy A or B, but not allow customers to use it to access competitive software. They should unbundle the interface and show that all three components are priced competitively and independently.

    Whatever the piece of innovation that MS feels it should be compensated for, customers should be able to buy it without having to buy other MS products.
  • by simm1701 ( 835424 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @11:41AM (#18855915)
    What point could it?

    Well if it bankrupted the company then yes that would be too far certainly. If it made it so the company when complying with the law (ie not being fined) could not actualy make a profit after costs, that would be too far.

    Many prices are restricted by goverments - I suspect even in the US though I don't know for certain. Things like the cost per unit of electricity, water, gas, telecoms, public transport when run by private companies. These are to ensure that companies that have effective monopolies cannot abuse the position.

    Same with mircosoft. I agree they should be able to charge what they want for their software. But where they have a protocol or an API that completely separate instance of software talk to (eg from a different computer on the network of from a piece of software that is not part of the OS, or not part of the same software suite) then those interfaces, protocols and APIs should be documented and the information provided for free.

    Yes they can protect their code and their implementations, but the fact you have a microsoft server should not force you to have a microsoft desktop in order to use it - other desktop made by others should be able to communicate on the same level. And vice versa, it should be perfectly possible, from complete and freely available documentation to implement a server that will behave from a clients point of view in the same way a microsoft server would. This is simply fair competition.

    Microsoft would then have to get by on the merits of it software, rather than on vendor lock in.
  • Microsoft has hurt the global economy to the tune of billions of dollars in lost productivity because of security vulnerabilities, unstable software, and proprietary formats. All the while better alternatives have existed but legal and marketing efforts by Microsoft have kept them out of the public's hands. Bill Gates has used his ill gotten wealth to push patented drugs on Africa which has probably lead to massive death since generic drugs could be mass produced much more easily. The Gates foundation has also funded The Discovery Institute, the main group preaching intelligent design lies. If the EU were to imprison all present and past members of the board of directors and executives of MS and seized all of Microsoft's wealth, they would not be going overboard. They would help millions of people and control a known industrial menace. Perhaps a nuclear attack on Redmond would be going to far, but I'm not sure.
  • We're talking about a sovereign body here. These guys set the rules *AND* the bounds. If their ultimate remedy is to dump Microsoft entirely, then so be it. The opposite end of that spectrum is to do virtually nothing like the U.S. did. Somewhere in the middle would be to stipulate rules for their behavior as a condition of continued participation in their marketplace. They make the rules. They set the bounds. I don't think "overstepping their bounds" is even possible.
  • Oh for goodness sake (Score:4, Interesting)

    by samael ( 12612 ) * <> on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @11:52AM (#18856127) Homepage
    The EU should just tell MS how much they can charge and get on with it. Why the pointless back and forth?

    The hell with it - MS should have to open them for free. In fact, I'd be in favour of mandating that _all_ protocols should be open. You don't need to open your implementation, but other people should be able to use your protocols.
  • It may well be the case that Microsoft are being forced to under-charge for these protocols - but the fact is they have been found guilty of anti-competitive behaviour by the EU. Now, rather than pay the fine and be apologetic, even after trying to lie and bully their way to not being found guilty, they continue to try and lie and bully. Remember the "ooh, well, maybe we'll just pull out of the EU" threat they tried? So they lie, cheat, and bully, and suddenly expect the EU to sit down and give them a fai
  • by Myddrin ( 54596 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @11:56AM (#18856183) Homepage

    As others have pointed out, the cost of doing business in the EU is being regulated by the EU. That's life and if the fines/interference/etc is too onerous, Microsoft is free to abandon that market and concentrate on the US, Africa, Asia/Pacific Rim.

    Personally, I'd love to see such a move coming from Redmond. It would accelerate adoption of non-Microsoft solutions in Europe. The resulting ripple effects would have some nice benefits for those of us developing stateside. :)

  • I don't know how many times I saw this discussion. Every time US citizens see this as a direct attack on their country. Every time there are links posted to examples that european companies are fined in the same way and that they comply to the terms of EU. Every time there are posters that think it's an attack on a free market. There's no such thing as free market in any country and I don't know if anybody knows any benefits of monopolies in any kind of market.
  • Bounds? What Bounds? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @12:03PM (#18856291) Journal

    At what point has/will the EU overstepped its bounds?
    It's an awfully good question, but I doubt there's one good answer. On one level, the EU, like any government, pretty much makes the rules, with only a constitution (or in the EU's case, the treaties that amount to a constitution) as a limiting factor. I have no idea whether the EU can legally force structural changes on Microsoft, though I suspect that it does have that kind of power.

    Assuming the EU has the power, the next question is should it? Well, I personally think it's going to be the only way to bring Microsoft into line. It has a long history of nodding yes to the courts and the authorities, and then just finding some new way of doing what it wants. The EU certainly has had limited success getting Microsoft to even adhere to the demands it has made already, and certainly cannot be ignorant of Microsoft's behavior in elsewhere in the world. Since Microsoft won't co-operate in any meaningful way, likely won't stop the behavior that has lead to the present impasse, what other option is there than to remake it into something that will obey European rules?
  • by rs232 ( 849320 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @12:29PM (#18856769)
    The commision ruled in 2004 that Microsoft broke European competition laws and directed them to release complete interoperability documentation [] on the protocols, MS pretended to not understand what the Commision was on about and released some source code. The Commision also said that MS acted to stifle innovation [] by tying Media Player to Windows.

    The real question is whether a single company should get a lock in on PROTOCOLS, never mind what they should charge for them. Is this an example of the polluted protocols MS talked about in that Valloppillil email.

    "By extending these protocols and developing new protocols, we can DENY OSS [] projects ENTRY into the MARKET."

    'At what point has/will the EU overstepped its bounds'

    At what point will MS realise it isn't dealing with the DOJ?
  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @12:51PM (#18857147) Homepage

    At what point has/will the EU overstepped its bounds?

    The EU is a government. They will have overstepped their bounds when their constituents say they've overstepped their bounds. Note that Microsoft is not one of those constituents, nor are any Americans or American companies. This is a concept Microsoft and it's supporters seem to be having a problem getting their heads around.

Mr. Cole's Axiom: The sum of the intelligence on the planet is a constant; the population is growing.