Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 17th Sep 2007 15:17 UTC, submitted by Rahul
Legal Microsoft suffered a stunning defeat on Monday when a European Union court backed a European Commission ruling that the US software giant illegally abused its market power to crush competitors. The European Union's second-highest court dismissed the company's appeal on all substantive points of the 2004 antitrustruling. The court said Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, was unjustified in tying new applications to its Windows operating system in a way that harmed consumer choice. The verdict, which may be appealed only on points of law and not of fact, could force Microsoft to change its business practices.
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> It means that WMP should not be a required dependency in Windows,
> but be optional. It should be completely removable. The same goes for
> IE.
> It doesn't mean that Microsoft cannot deliver a media player, they just
> cannot make it a hardwired dependency.

Unfortunately, the distinction is not that clear from a technical point of view. I'll take IE as a better example than WMP. If you remove IE, then of course everything that depends on it will break. Depending on the amount of breakage, this may already be regarded as "IE cannot be removed", and will therefore force a technically nonsensical decision upon MS (namely to make other components independent of IE, thus forking the IE code instead of keeping IE a re-usable system component).

The usual counter-argument is that IE should be removable and replaceable by a sufficiently similar component (e.g. a replacement that was written by a competitor) such that users can choose the better implementation. The necessary move by MS would be to release the complete interface specification. This is not going to work in practice, as the oft-argued clean separatoin of interface and implementation does not exist in most real software. This is much less a trick to crush competitors, than poor engineering happening when software is developed - although it comes quite handy as an argument for MS not to release a specification.

I am all for tackling a problem at its root. In this case the tight integration of system components, and the inability to remove and replace a component, is not the root of the prolem. MS's monopoly is. There are plenty of examples where similar practices have not lead to antitrust rulings nor to an uproar among the consumers simply because the offending company did not have a monopoly, and the consumer had to choice to move to another vendor in case the situtation escalated.

Therefore, the natural and IMO correct solution to the whole problem is to crush MS's monopoly. There are plenty of ways to move that way, none of which is currently pursued by the governments in general (although there are some exceptions). It seems to me as if we rather rest assured that we can hit MS with the big "antitrust" hammer whenever it freaks out, denying the fact that MS has a position of power which we are too scared or to whiny to attack.

Reply Parent Score: 6

dsmogor Member since:

I thing MS has already been pushed to behave more well by this "hammer". Otherwise redhat would be now drowning in the swapm of MS inspired patent ligitations.

Reply Parent Score: 1