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07.02.10

Microsoft Under Pressure in Europe

Posted in Antitrust, Europe, Microsoft at 11:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bolzano streets

Summary: Bolzano is scrutinised for locking out competition of Microsoft; the reasoning for browser choice ballot in Europe is shown more clearly

SEVERAL DAYS ago we wrote about the latest tender-related story from France. There isn’t so much leeway for Microsoft to just sign boiler room deals with people who consult neither the public nor Microsoft’s competitors. Why is it not working for Microsoft anymore? Because the public begins to understand and get involved, sometimes even suing the government. To give the example of Switzerland:

  1. Microsoft Sued Over Its Corruption in Switzerland, Microsoft Debt Revisited
  2. Can the United Kingdom and Hungary Still be Sued for Excluding Free Software?
  3. 3 New Counts of Antitrust Violation by Microsoft?
  4. Is Microsoft Breaking the Law in Switzerland Too?
  5. Microsoft Uses Lobbyists to Attack Holland’s Migration to Free Software and Sort of Bribes South African Teachers Who Use Windows
  6. ZDNet/eWeek Ruins Peter Judge’s Good Article by Attacking Red Hat When Microsoft Does the Crime
  7. Week of Microsoft Government Affairs: a Look Back, a Look Ahead
  8. Lawsuit Against Microsoft/Switzerland Succeeds So Far, More Countries/Companies Should Follow Suit
  9. Latest Reports on Microsoft Bulk Deals Being Blocked in Switzerland, New Zealand
  10. Swiss Government and Federal Computer Weekly: Why the Hostility Towards Free Software?
  11. Switzerland and the UK Under Fire for Perpetual Microsoft Engagements
  12. Lawsuit Over Alleged Microsoft Corruption in Switzerland Escalates to Federal Court

Another important story/issue which was mentioned before (in this separate post) has led to an awakening to the fact that Microsoft is a threat to Europe’s control of its own technology. And now there’s this gentle protest from the FSFE:

on 25 May 2010 the regional government authority of Bolzano decided to spend 2.2 million EUR over the next three years to renew software licenses from Microsoft Ireland, and to buy additional licenses. All this was done without a public call for tender, making it impossible for competing suppliers of similar software to make offers of their own.

We ask you to rethink this decision. It will influence your strategic position over a much longer time frame than the three years for which the licenses will last.

The European Commission’s vice president Neelie Kroes said on June 13 2010 in Brussels:

“Many authorities have found themselves unintentionally locked into proprietary technology for decades. After a certain point that original choice becomes so ingrained that alternatives risk being systematically ignored, no matter what the potential benefits. This is a waste of public money that most public bodies can no longer afford.”

With your decision to buy Microsoft Sharepoint and Microsoft Office communication server software without evaluating Free Software alternatives you will increase your organisation’s dependence on Microsoft. You will take your IT systems further down the one-way street of proprietary formats and proprietary software, locking in your organisation’s own data along with that of the citizens of Bolzano.

Bolzano is in Italy where Microsoft has a history of allegedly corrupt tender 'wins'.

Microsoft ought to be careful because as the European Commission has proven, it can and will take action. One example of this action is the Web browsers ballot which Microsoft was compelled to implement (or face heavy fines). Microsoft tried to dodge this one repeatedly, as we explained in:

  1. Browser Ballot Critique
  2. Microsoft’s Fake “Choice” Campaign is Back
  3. Microsoft Claimed to be Cheating in Web Browsers Ballot
  4. Microsoft Loses Impact in the Web Despite Unfair Ballot Placements
  5. Given Choice, Customers Reject Microsoft
  6. Microsoft is Still Cheating in Browser Ballot — Claim
  7. The Microsoft Who Cried “Wolf!”

The ‘Microsoft press’ has just published this article about why “Microsoft Is Busting Its Own ‘The Browser Is Part of the OS’ Myth”

This column is not going to revisit the oft-debated question of whether Internet Explorer really is part of Windows. That matter is ancient history, a relic of the U.S. Department of Justice versus Microsoft trial that ended more than a decade ago. Authorities allowed Microsoft to continue to bundle IE with every copy of Windows sold.

Nor am I going to dwell on the more-recent European antitrust case that revolved around the same topic. That case, of course, ended with Microsoft agreeing to provide European Union users with a “browser ballot,” which makes explicit the fact that they have a choice of browsers.

Indeed. And if Microsoft is not careful, more antitrust action may be coming its way. As Microsoft found out in Quebec last month [1, 2, 3], it is not above the law.

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5 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    July 2, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Gravatar

    The purpose of the browser ballot had nothing positive to do with choice, no matter what the user picks, he is still stuck with MSIE.

    Choices on the browser ballot:

    MSIE + Chrome
    MSIE + Opera
    MSIE + Firefox

    No, the whole browser ballot is a red herring, a successful one, to take the attention off the anti-trust case.

    twitter Reply:

    True, browser wars are a distraction. The choice is Windows + a choice of browser preferences which may be undone with the next Windows Update. No real choice is given to customers by OEMs and Vendors, so everyone pays the Windows tax unless they buy a used computer. A few vendors are jumping to meet demand for quality software but Microsoft makes sure that everything costs more than Windows by manipulating hardware OEMs and retailers.

    Some good news is that South Korea has dumped it’s long standing and obnoxious Active X requirement for financial transactions.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    The FSF’s response to this is noteworthy; they want to unbundle the OS.

  2. crabby said,

    July 4, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Gravatar

    I never understood that M$ was so connected to various guv’s around the world. I’m going to start my own revolt against M$ at the local Primary School. I’d love to see people rise up against the scourge of Corporate Tyranny that some hyper-aggressive corporates have foisted on us and our Children. May the two Steve’s (Ballmer and Jobs) Companies burn!!

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