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07.10.09

Microsoft Lobbying in Europe Goes Up a Notch

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Vista 7 at 5:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

EPO backlash

Summary: Microsoft’s latest steps in Europe are dissected despite great secrecy

A WHILE ago we showed that one familiar Microsoft lobbying arm had just published an anti-Free software paper.

Well, that little story is not exactly over. As the FSFE’s departing top gun (Greve) puts it, “Microsoft sockpuppets [are] accusing [the] European Commission [of] hav[ing] “Free Software bias” [URL] Could I get a spending comparison, please?” Greve draws attention to this new IDG article.

According to the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), the emphasis on open standards in the Commission’s white paper amounts to a bias in favour of open-source software.

Paul Meller helps ACT hide its identity as a Microsoft mouthpiece. Meller is known in the relevant circles for his pro-Microsoft bias and he is one of the most prominent examples of those who are refusing to see/acknowledge EU lobbying in general or Microsoft lobbying in particular (see this recent example from ACT).

Having previously "schmoozed" Neelie Kroes to escape most severe punishments, Microsoft seems to be trying something similar right now. Microsoft reportedly tries to end those antitrust cases which it perceives as a nuisance.

Microsoft Corp., which has been fined 1.68 billion euros ($2.34 billion) in European Union antitrust cases, is in preliminary talks to settle two additional probes before EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes leaves office, four people familiar with the negotiations said.

Any agreement would have to resolve a case over Microsoft’s Internet browser as well as a separate investigation into word processing and spreadsheet software, said the people, who declined to be identified because the talks are confidential.

Watch this recent video.

The optimists almost ignore a clear opposition to Microsoft’s self-elected ‘punishment’ (opposition from the Commission, Opera, and Mozilla at the very least) and bend over to characterise the omission of a Web browser from Vista 7 as a fair thing:

When Windows 7 ships without IE8 will it be good news for free software browsers?

There is but only if we stop looking at OEM PC shipments as a mark of success. One of the main supporters of the EU anti-trust case was — unsurprisingly — Opera. However, they feel this unbundling move isn’t enough. To paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies: well they wouldn’t would they? Opera would prefer consumers are given a choice of browser to install when they first boot their PC. This is — quite frankly — unworkable as the list of browsers would become unwieldy and confusing and at that stage all the user will want to do is turn on their shiny new kit and start playing with it.

But giving some choice could be a nice side-effect of all this. OEMs could offer alternative browsers and they would likely include Firefox. If that proved a success then we could see other software alternatives being offered. Eventually we could end up with the scenario I describe above: consumers specifying not only the hardware but the software that comes with their OEM PC.

Lastly, just minutes ago I received a letter from the European Ombudsman. They have assigned people to handle the complaint about Microsoft and ACT, so thanks to everyone who helped.

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10 Comments

  1. Will said,

    July 10, 2009 at 5:37 am

    Gravatar

    “the emphasis on open standards” (i.e. standards that anyone, including proprietary software companies, can implement freely) “in the Commission’s white paper amounts to a bias in favour of open-source software.”

    Someone failed logic class.

    aeshna23 Reply:

    No they didn’t fail logic class. It’s an admission that open-source software is superior when the playing field is level.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    If this fails at first, then they’ll spread some more ActiveX controls.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Oops. This was intended to be a response to Alex (below).

  2. Alex said,

    July 10, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Gravatar

    What will happen, is that Microsoft will strong-arm the resellers to only include IE and will use this to prove that ‘people do not want other browsers’. Resellers are not restricted in what browser they have to install on a windows machine, just like they are not restricted in what to put on the shelves.

    I’ve seen this somewhere already… ah, the netbook fiasco.

    Nothing will change.

    twitter Reply:

    Some things do change. Just ask Circuit City and CompUSA. Best Buy, which is also a M$ “partner” is going the same way. When you don’t give customers a real choice, you don’t make as much money as you should. That usually means you fire your employees and go out of business. The netbook “fiasco” has only begun. M$ will not survive in a world where computers cost under $200 and all this nonsense about browsers will fade away like the trivial issue it is.

    Alex Reply:

    Twitter, I see your point.

    Sadly, these changes are not due to EU’s decision. The EU’s penalty is toothless. They could have asked anyone selling Windows as part of a product, to bundle it with the latest version of FF/Chrome.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Prevention is always better than cure and the problem is that the EU Commission responds too late to obvious crimes. Take OOXML for example — the Commission promised it would investigate.

  3. André said,

    July 13, 2009 at 4:51 am

    Gravatar

    Which “crimes”?

    What is at stake:
    - either a very moderate preference for more openness with public procurement as a leverage
    or
    - laissez-faire.

    Here’s the Commission whitepaper
    http://www.co-ment.net/text/1328/

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    July 13, 2009 at 5:22 am

    Gravatar

    Which “crimes”?

    Good question. Which ones? There are so many.

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