Richi Jennings

Microsoft fined $732M in anti-trust euro-SNAFU

March 07, 2013 6:14 AM EST

Is Steve Ballmer worried for his job?

microsoft europe fine anti-trust

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has been fined €561 million by European regulators. It failed to comply with a monopoly-busting agreement to offer a browser ballot screen in Windows 7. The first service pack broke it, 'by accident.'

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers break out the popcorn.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.

 
Gregg Keizer reports:

It was the first time that Europe's regulators had punished a company for shirking an antitrust agreement. ... The settlement reached in late 2009 stemmed form a complaint by Norwegian browser maker Opera Software. ... Microsoft agreed to show European users of its Windows operating system a "browser ballot" [with] download links to rivals' browsers [but] failed to display the browser ballot to users of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) for some 14 months...saying it had been purely a "technical error."
...
Microsoft itself not only reported that all was working as it should as late as December 2011 -- deep into the time the ballot was absent -- but its support personnel knew of the problem...in March 2011.  MORE


 
But the latest Robert X. Cringely calls it an "itty-bitty fine":

Microsoft quietly replied, "Thank you, sirs, may we have another?" ... this fine is so infinitesimal relative to the $51 billion in cash Microsoft has amassed from its European operations alone...that it amounts to a small service charge.
...
Boy, the E.U. commissioners sure showed Microsoft, didn't they? ... Fines don't work. They might be a way for bureaucrats to demonstrate they're earning their...salaries, but as a deterrent they're less than useless. ...you need to put a few of them in orange jumpsuits and leg manacles and make them do the perp walk for the cameras.  MORE


 
Preston Gralla sees through the story:

[The fine] may be a black eye and financial whack for Microsoft. But the real loser may be Google.
...
Microsoft may even have agreed to pay the fine as a way to curry favor...because the company has been asking the E.U. to take action against Google for...anti-competitive search practices. ... The investigation focuses on whether Google uses its Internet search results to give its own service an illegal, unfair advantage over competitors. ... The financial implications can be staggering. ... Google could be fined...$5 billion. ... In addition, the E.U. would want Google to change the way it ranks search results. ... Microsoft may have lost the battle as a way to hope to win the war.  MORE


 
And Kevin Morrill follows the money:

Now Microsoft will spend thousands more man hours developing and testing silly stuff the EU wants that has nothing to do with customer benefit. Instead of $700 M being returned to shareholders, it can now be frittered away by EU on agriculture subsidies (aka votes).  MORE


 
Meanwhile, this anonymous coward waxes sarcastic:

Can't believe their arrogance.
...
the audacity to think it can still get away with bundling its own browser! ... You'd never see this sort of behavior out of more responsible corporations like Apple.  MORE


 

Subscribe now to the Blogs Newsletter for a daily summary of the most recent and relevant blog posts at Computerworld.