The European Union Commission has fined Microsoft Corp. €561 million ($733 million) for breaking the terms of an earlier agreement to offer users a choice of internet browser.
The penalty is a first for Brussels — no company has ever failed to keep its end of a bargain with EU authorities before.
The commission’s top regulator, Joaquin Almunia, said at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium Wednesday that negotiated settlements are vital for enforcement to be carried out quickly. But he warned that the whole point would be undermined if companies then don’t abide by the terms of the settlement.
"They must do what they committed to do, or face the consequences," he said.
Almunia added that the large fine took into account the size and length of time the company violated the terms of its agreement, as well as the need to defer other companies from backsliding on their promises to competition authorities. He said the fine was less than it might have been because Microsoft had co-operated with the investigation.
Quite a profitable racket they have there.
Microsoft Corp. is facing the prospect of a fresh, hefty fine by the European Union after the U.S. software giant failed to meet an earlier promise to offer users a choice of different Web browsers.
The European Commission on Wednesday filed a formal complaint against Microsoft for not following through on a commitment to offer its users alternatives to its own Internet Explorer Web browser on a recent version of its Windows program.
The Redmond, Wash., company had agreed to the measure three years ago and, if proven guilty, could face a maximum fine of as much as 10% of its total annual revenue, or $7.4 billion. Analysts, however, say it would be less.
There’s less and then there’s a lot less. I would offer the suggestion that one never stand between a bureaucrat and some loot.
During a news conference in Brussels, the EU’s antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia underlined the gravity of the offense and signaled his intention to use the case as a deterrent to other firms. This is the first time a company is being investigated for breaching its commitments.
"This is a very serious message not to infringe the commitments that had been agreed," Mr. Almunia said."Companies should be deterred from any temptations to renege on their commitments or even neglect their duties," he said.
In a statement, Microsoft said it "sincerely apologized" and reiterated that the mistake was a technical glitch on its Windows 7 version, known as Service Pack 1.
It’s going to be an expensive mistake.
Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and Robbie Bach delivered the keynote last night at the 2010 Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas and it was the usual mixture of self-congratulatory boosterism and product and technology demos. Here is my list of highlights:
After a report on how well Windows 7 is selling, there were the PC demos including a prototype Hewlett-Packard slate PC that the technical press was pining for.
It looks like a touch enabled netbook to me and while it may have a niche, I suspect I would be screaming for a keyboard (or at least a stylus) in under a minute of usage. Perhaps more interesting were the ultrathin Lenovo A300 laptop with a 21.5" screen and the Sony VAIO home entertainment notebook with a 24" screen. How big does a laptop have to get before it becomes a single element desktop?
HP is making Bing the default Web search engine and MSN the default home page on all their PCs in 42 countries.
Ballmer put the usual lipstick on this pig and Robbie Bach appeared later to flog upcoming games (including another lucrative Halo version) and tout Project Natal, the motion sensing technology that will appear later this year to replace the standard controllers for some games.
Bach also announced Mediaroom 2.0, the latest version of Microsoft’s IPTV offering for service providers which now supports PCs and smartphoes as well as set top boxes and Xbox consoles for TV viewing.
Microsoft really did not have much of its own to show again this year. I am almost beginning to miss the goofy Bill Gates future technology skits.
Today’s the big day for Microsoft’s client operating system crew – Windows 7 is now generally available:
Today Microsoft Corp. announced the worldwide availability of its new Windows 7 operating system. Windows 7 delivers on a simple premise: make it easier for people to do the things they want on a PC. The new operating system offers a streamlined user interface and significant new features that make everyday tasks easier and allow people to get the most out of computers of all styles and sizes.
Er, about those new Windows 7 features:
Best of all, Windows 7 represents a departure from Microsoft’s usual “success is measured by the length of the feature list” philosophy. This time around, it was, “Polish, optimize and streamline what we’ve already got.”
Rather like a service pack, eh? Yes there is new eye candy in Windows 7, but wariness of antitrust regulators forced some standard applications to be dropped along the way:
Finally, out of fear of antitrust headaches, Microsoft has stripped Windows 7 of some important accessory programs. Believe it or not, software for managing photos, editing videos, reading PDF documents, maintaining a calendar, managing addresses, chatting online or writing e-mail doesn’t come with Windows 7.
What kind of operating system doesn’t come with an e-mail program?
Instead, you’re supposed to download these free apps yourself from a Microsoft Web site. It’s not a huge deal; some companies, including Dell, plan to preinstall them on new computers. But a lot of people will be in for some serious confusion — especially when they discover that the Windows 7 installer has deleted their existing Vista copies of Windows Mail, Movie Maker, Calendar, Contacts and Photo Gallery. (Mercifully, it preserves your data.)
Some good news is that since Windows 7 is Vista SP3, the device driver model did not change and Vista device drivers will work for the most part on Windows 7. However, you really should hit Microsoft’s Web site and download the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to check your Vista system for incompatibilities before upgrading. For example, I have an Epson scanner that apparently needs an update.
Finally, if I seem a little grumpy about Windows 7 – I’m not really. It seems like the operating system Vista should have been and would have been if not for a development catastrophe. I fully expect that businesses who were reluctant to adopt Vista will rapidly get on board since the defects of usability and compatibility have been remedied (by time if nothing else in the latter case).
What I do find irritating is that Vista users are being charged for what is effectively a service pack. Through no fault of their own they purchased an operating system that wasn’t finished yet. Admittedly Vista SP1 and SP2 helped, but now that Vista is finally finished Microsoft has slapped a different brand on it and is charging for the upgrade.