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Paul Merrell

Microsoft Loses E.U. Antitrust Case - washingtonpost.com - 0 views

  • It ordered the software giant to untie the browser from its operating system in the 27-nation E.U.
  • The commission's investigation into Microsoft's Web-surfing software began a year ago, after the Norwegian browser-maker Opera Software filed a complaint. Opera argued that Microsoft hurt competitors not only by bundling the software, in effect giving away the browser, but also by not following accepted Web standards. That meant programmers who built Web pages would have to tweak their codes for different browsers. In many cases, they simply designed pages that worked with market-leading Internet Explorer but showed up garbled on competing browsers.
  • At the time of the complaint, Opera said it was asking E.U. regulators to either force Microsoft to market a version of Windows without the browser, or to include other browsers with Windows.
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    The Post too says that DG Competition ordered the unbundling of MSIE from Windows. But again no attribution for the statement. They also leave the impression that Opera's complaint regarding the undermining of open web standards was upheld, something not stated in either the Microsoft or DG Competition announcements. So the questions of the day are: [i] did the Commission order the unbundling of MSIE from Windows; and [ii] did the Commission also rule on the undermining of open web standards. The latter question could be of critical importance in the still ongoing proceeding regarding the ECIS complaint in regard to the undermining of ODF by Microsoft pushing OOXML.
Paul Merrell

Microsoft Ordered to Delete Browser - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union said Friday that Microsoft’s practice of selling the Internet Explorer browser together with its Windows operating system violated the union’s antitrust rules. It ordered the software giant to untie the browser from its operating system in the 27-nation union, enabling makers of rival browsers to compete fairly.
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    The Times goes farther than the DG Competition announcement, saying that Microsoft has been ordered to untie MSIE from Windows throughout the E.U. No source is attributed for the statement. The DG Competition announcement does not state what remedy it proposes to order. So take this report with a grain of salt. The Times is well capable of error.
Paul Merrell

Rapid - Press Releases - EUROPA - 0 views

  • MEMO/09/15 Brussels, 17th January 2009
  • The European Commission can confirm that it has sent a Statement of Objections (SO) to Microsoft on 15th January 2009. The SO outlines the Commission’s preliminary view that Microsoft’s tying of its web browser Internet Explorer to its dominant client PC operating system Windows infringes the EC Treaty rules on abuse of a dominant position (Article 82).
  • In the SO, the Commission sets out evidence and outlines its preliminary conclusion that Microsoft’s tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice. The SO is based on the legal and economic principles established in the judgment of the Court of First Instance of 17 September 2007 (case T-201/04), in which the Court of First Instance upheld the Commission's decision of March 2004 (see IP/04/382), finding that Microsoft had abused its dominant position in the PC operating system market by tying Windows Media Player to its Windows PC operating system (see MEMO/07/359).
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  • The evidence gathered during the investigation leads the Commission to believe that the tying of Internet Explorer with Windows, which makes Internet Explorer available on 90% of the world's PCs, distorts competition on the merits between competing web browsers insofar as it provides Internet Explorer with an artificial distribution advantage which other web browsers are unable to match. The Commission is concerned that through the tying, Microsoft shields Internet Explorer from head to head competition with other browsers which is detrimental to the pace of product innovation and to the quality of products which consumers ultimately obtain. In addition, the Commission is concerned that the ubiquity of Internet Explorer creates artificial incentives for content providers and software developers to design websites or software primarily for Internet Explorer which ultimately risks undermining competition and innovation in the provision of services to consumers.
  • Microsoft has 8 weeks to reply the SO, and will then have the right to be heard in an Oral Hearing should it wish to do so. If the preliminary views expressed in the SO are confirmed, the Commission may impose a fine on Microsoft, require Microsoft to cease the abuse and impose a remedy that would restore genuine consumer choice and enable competition on the merits.
  • A Statement of Objections is a formal step in Commission antitrust investigations in which the Commission informs the parties concerned in writing of the objections raised against them. The addressee of a Statement of Objections can reply in writing to the Statement of Objections, setting out all facts known to it which are relevant to its defence against the objections raised by the Commission. The party may also request an oral hearing to present its comments on the case. The Commission may then take a decision on whether conduct addressed in the Statement of Objections is compatible or not with the EC Treaty’s antitrust rules. Sending a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the procedure. In the March 2004 Decision the Commission ordered Microsoft to offer to PC manufacturers a version of its Windows client PC operating system without Windows Media Player. Microsoft, however, retained the right to also offer a version with Windows Media Player (see IP/04/382).
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    It's official, hot off the presses (wasn't there a few minutes ago). We're now into a process where DG Competition will revisit its previous order requiring Microsoft to market two versions of Windows, one with Media Player and one without. DG Competition staff were considerably outraged that Microsoft took advantage of a bit of under-specification in the previous order and sold the two versions at the same price. That detail will not be neglected this time around. Moreover, given the ineffectiveness of the previous order in restoring competition among media players, don't be surprised if this results in an outright ban on bundling MSIE with Windows.
Paul Merrell

Microsoft Statement on European Commission Statement of Objections: Statement of Objections expresses Commission's preliminary view on the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows. - 0 views

  • REDMOND – Jan. 16, 2009 – “Yesterday Microsoft received a Statement of Objections from the Directorate General for Competition of the European Commission. The Statement of Objections expresses the Commission’s preliminary view that the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows since 1996 has violated European competition law. According to the Statement of Objections, other browsers are foreclosed from competing because Windows includes Internet Explorer.
  • The Statement of Objections states that the remedies put in place by the U.S. courts in 2002 following antitrust proceedings in Washington, D.C. do not make the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows lawful under European Union law.
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    Microsoft's version of events, notable for the statement that DG Competition included a specific ruling that it is not bound by the U.S. v. Microsoft decision in the U.S. That only states the obvious, but is perhaps intended to forestall somewhat Microsoft arguments that the legality of its bundling was conclusively determined in the U.S. case. If so, it may have worked; Microsoft makes no such claim in this press release.
Paul Merrell

Rapid - Press Releases - EUROPA - 0 views

  • The Commission found that Intel engaged in two specific forms of illegal practice. First, Intel gave wholly or partially hidden rebates to computer manufacturers on condition that they bought all, or almost all, their x86 CPUs from Intel. Intel also made direct payments to a major retailer on condition it stock only computers with Intel x86 CPUs. Such rebates and payments effectively prevented customers - and ultimately consumers - from choosing alternative products. Second, Intel made direct payments to computer manufacturers to halt or delay the launch of specific products containing competitors’ x86 CPUs and to limit the sales channels available to these products.
  • Intel awarded major computer manufacturers rebates on condition that they purchased all or almost all of their supplies, at least in certain defined segments, from Intel: Intel gave rebates to computer manufacturer A from December 2002 to December 2005 conditional on this manufacturer purchasing exclusively Intel CPUs Intel gave rebates to computer manufacturer B from November 2002 to May 2005 conditional on this manufacturer purchasing no less than 95% of its CPU needs for its business desktop computers from Intel (the remaining 5% that computer manufacturer B could purchase from rival chip maker AMD was then subject to further restrictive conditions set out below) Intel gave rebates to computer manufacturer C from October 2002 to November 2005 conditional on this manufacturer purchasing no less than 80% of its CPU needs for its desktop and notebook computers from Intel Intel gave rebates to computer manufacturer D in 2007 conditional on this manufacturer purchasing its CPU needs for its notebook computers exclusively from Intel.
  • Furthermore, Intel made payments to major retailer Media Saturn Holding from October 2002 to December 2007 on condition that it exclusively sold Intel-based PCs in all countries in which Media Saturn Holding is active.
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  • In its decision, the Commission does not object to rebates in themselves but to the conditions Intel attached to those rebates.
  • Intel structured its pricing policy to ensure that a computer manufacturer which opted to buy AMD CPUs for that part of its needs that was open to competition would consequently lose the rebate (or a large part of it) that Intel provided for the much greater part of its needs for which the computer manufacturer had no choice but to buy from Intel. The computer manufacturer would therefore have to pay Intel a higher price for each of the units supplied for which the computer manufacturer had no alternative but to buy from Intel. In other words, should a computer manufacturer fail to purchase virtually all its x86 CPU requirements from Intel, it would forego the possibility of obtaining a significant rebate on any of its very high volumes of Intel purchases. Moreover, in order to be able to compete with the Intel rebates, for the part of the computer manufacturers' supplies that was up for grabs, a competitor that was just as efficient as Intel would have had to offer a price for its CPUs lower than its costs of producing those CPUs, even if the average price of its CPUs was lower than that of Intel.
  • For example, rival chip manufacturer AMD offered one million free CPUs to one particular computer manufacturer. If the computer manufacturer had accepted all of these, it would have lost Intel's rebate on its many millions of remaining CPU purchases, and would have been worse off overall simply for having accepted this highly competitive offer. In the end, the computer manufacturer took only 160,000 CPUs for free.
  • Intel also interfered directly in the relations between computer manufacturers and AMD. Intel awarded computer manufacturers payments - unrelated to any particular purchases from Intel - on condition that these computer manufacturers postponed or cancelled the launch of specific AMD-based products and/or put restrictions on the distribution of specific AMD-based products. The Commission found that these payments had the potential effect of preventing products for which there was a consumer demand from coming to the market. The Commission found the following specific cases: For the 5% of computer manufacturer B’s business that was not subject to the conditional rebate outlined above, Intel made further payments to computer manufacturer B provided that this manufacturer : sold AMD-based business desktops only to small and medium enterprises sold AMD-based business desktops only via direct distribution channels (as opposed to through distributors) and postponed the launch of its first AMD-based business desktop in Europe by 6 months. Intel made payments to computer manufacturer E provided that this manufacturer postponed the launch of an AMD-based notebook from September 2003 to January 2004. Before the conditional rebate to computer manufacturer D outlined above, Intel made payments to this manufacturer provided that it postponed the launch of AMD-based notebooks from September 2006 to the end of 2006.
  • The Commission obtained proof of the existence of many of the conditions found to be illegal in the antitrust decision even though they were not made explicit in Intel’s contracts. Such proof is based on a broad range of contemporaneous evidence such as e-mails obtained inter alia from unannounced on-site inspections, in responses to formal requests for information and in a number of formal statements made to the Commission by the other companies concerned. In addition, there is evidence that Intel had sought to conceal the conditions associated with its payments.
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    This is an uncharacteristically strong press release from DG Competition. I still must read the order, but the description of the evidence is incredible, particularly the finding of concealment of its rebate conditions by Intel.
Paul Merrell

Rapid - Press Releases - EUROPA - 0 views

  • As regards interoperability, in its Microsoft judgment of 17 September 2007, the Court of First Instance confirmed the principles that must be respected by dominant companies as regards interoperability disclosures. In the complaint by ECIS, Microsoft is alleged to have illegally refused to disclose interoperability information across a broad range of products, including information related to its Office suite, a number of its server products, and also in relation to the so called .NET Framework. The Commission's examination will therefore focus on all these areas, including the question whether Microsoft's new file format Office Open XML, as implemented in Office, is sufficiently interoperable with competitors' products. As for the tying of separate software products, in its Microsoft judgment of 17 September 2007, the Court of First Instance confirmed the principles that must be respected by dominant companies. In a complaint by Opera, a competing browser vendor, Microsoft is alleged to have engaged in illegal tying of its Internet Explorer product to its dominant Windows operating system. The complaint alleges that there is ongoing competitive harm from Microsoft's practices, in particular in view of new proprietary technologies that Microsoft has allegedly introduced in its browser that would reduce compatibility with open internet standards, and therefore hinder competition. In addition, allegations of tying of other separate software products by Microsoft, including desktop search and Windows Live have been brought to the Commission's attention. The Commission's investigation will therefore focus on allegations that a range of products have been unlawfully tied to sales of Microsoft's dominant operating system.
    • Paul Merrell
       
      Note the scope of the original complaint now being prosecuted by DG Competition: [i] tying MSIE to Windows; [ii] adding proprietary tehnology to MSIE that conflict with open internet standards; [iiii] tying desktop search and Windows Live, presumably to Vista. Initial press reports of the DG Competition statement of objections mention only the tying of MSIE to Windows issue,. So we do not yet know whether the other complaints are being prosecuted. But perhaps worthy of note, the press's acknowledged source of information iis Microsoft, which has incentives to soft-pedal the scope of the objections. Also note from the press reports that the Comission has not yet announced its position on the ECIS complaint involving Office and OOXML.
Paul Merrell

MICROSOFT CORP (Form: 10-Q, Received: 01/22/2009 09:02:43) - 0 views

  • In January 2008 the Commission opened a competition law investigation related to the inclusion of various capabilities in our Windows operating system software, including Web browsing software. The investigation was precipitated by a complaint filed with the Commission by Opera Software ASA, a firm that offers Web browsing software. On January 15, 2009, the European Commission issued a statement of objections expressing the Commission’s preliminary view that the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows since 1996 has violated European competition law. According to the statement of objections, other browsers are foreclosed from competing because Windows includes Internet Explorer. We will have an opportunity to respond in writing to the statement of objections within about two months. We may also request a hearing, which would take place after the submission of this response. Under European Union procedure, the European Commission will not make a final determination until after it receives and assesses our response and conducts the hearing, should we request one. The statement of objections seeks to impose a remedy that is different than the remedy imposed in the earlier proceeding concerning Windows Media Player.
  • While computer users and OEMs are already free to run any Web browsing software on Windows, the Commission is considering ordering Microsoft and OEMs to obligate users to choose a particular browser when setting up a new PC. Such a remedy might include a requirement that OEMs distribute multiple browsers on new Windows-based PCs. We may also be required to disable certain unspecified Internet Explorer software code if a user chooses a competing browser. The statement of objections also seeks to impose a significant fine based on sales of Windows operating systems in the European Union. In January 2008, the Commission opened an additional competition law investigation that relates primarily to interoperability with respect to our Microsoft Office family of products. This investigation resulted from complaints filed with the Commission by a trade association of Microsoft’s competitors.
Paul Merrell

News - Antitrust - Competition - European Commission - 0 views

  • Google inquiries Commission accuses Google of systematically favouring own shopping comparison service Infographic: Google might be favouring 'Google Shopping' when displaying general search results
  • Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on comparison shopping service; opens separate formal investigation on AndroidWed, 15 Apr 2015 10:00:00 GMTAntitrust: Commission opens formal investigation against Google in relation to Android mobile operating systemWed, 15 Apr 2015 10:00:00 GMTAntitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on comparison shopping serviceWed, 15 Apr 2015 10:00:00 GMTStatement by Commissioner Vestager on antitrust decisions concerning GoogleWed, 15 Apr 2015 11:39:00 GMT
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    The more interesting issue to me is the accusation that Google violates antitrust law by boosting its comparison shopping search results in its search results, unfairly disadvantaging competing shopping services and not delivering best results to users. What's interesting to me is that the Commission is attempting to portray general search as a separate market from comparison shopping search, accusing Google of attempting to leverage its general search monopoly into the separate comoparison shopping search market. At first blush, Iim not convinced that these are or should be regarded as separable markets. But the ramifications are enormous. If that is a separate market, then arguably so is Google's book search, its Google Scholar search, its definition search, its site search, etc. It isn't clear to me how one might draw a defensible line taht does not also sweep in every new search feature  as a separate market.   
Paul Merrell

Update: EU hits Microsoft with new antitrust charges - 0 views

  • January 16, 2009 (Computerworld) Microsoft Corp. confirmed today that European Union regulators have formally accused the company of breaking antitrust laws by including the company's Internet Explorer (IE) browser with the Windows operating system. "Yesterday, Microsoft received a Statement of Objections from the Directorate General for Competition of the European Commission," the company said in a statement on Friday. "The Statement of Objections expresses the Commission's preliminary view that the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows since 1996 has violated European competition law." According to Microsoft, the EU claimed that "other browsers are foreclosed from competing because Windows includes Internet Explorer."
Paul Merrell

EurActiv.com - EU to oblige Microsoft to offer competitors' browsers | EU - European Information on InfoSociety - 0 views

  • "If the Commission's preliminary conclusions as outlined in the recent statement of objections were confirmed, the Commission would intend to impose remedies that enabled users and manufacturers to make an unbiased choice between Internet Explorer and competing third party web browsers," Jonathan Todd, spokesperson for EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, told EurActiv.
  • This line stems from the mistakes the Commission recognised it had made by imposing remedies on Microsoft in the Media Player case (see background). Indeed, although Microsoft is now obliged to offer a version of Windows without Media Player, for the most part, users are opting for the readily available bundled offer, which provides extra software at the same price. "That remedy was rubbish," acknowledged an official in the Commission's competition department. 
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