CyberTech Rambler

January 19, 2009

European Commission investigating Microsoft practices … again

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:11 pm

A feeling of deja vu, twice actually. First, EC is investigating Microsoft practices again (scroll down to Microsoft and click the one with ECIS) ; Second, it are covering the familiar ground of Internet Explorer again.

To be fair to the EU, it is looking at two separate complaints. The first is about interoperability of .NET and OOXML. The second is about tying IE with Windows, and as part of the second complaint, IE not respecting open web standard. It is, however, the second complaint that is making the rounds in the grapevine.

In all cases, Microsoft will claim it is taking steps to change the nature the product, no doubt OOXML farcical ISO standardization, Mono project and changes in IE8 will feature prominently. Nonetheless, in all cases, EC, as the competition authority, will still have to decide on the following

  1. Was there a violation of competition law?
  2. If so, there should be punishment, regardless of the “changed” nature of the market today. It may be inconsequential today that I stole a loaf of bread from you a year ago, but you will still want to see me punished.
  3. Is the current remedy that Microsoft is undertaking sufficient, or it needs to do more, or it needs to do it quicker?

For the browser part, I hope it is not what Mary Jo Foley thinks it might be: a rehash of Microsoft IE trouble in US. It may be true that whatever happens in US does not naturally translate to the EU, and Microsoft deserves to be punish for committing the same crime in EU, if it was found guity of. If it is simply about EU having its say, it is a waste of tax payers money.

I hope the tying is restricted being a small part of the  complaint. EC has the duty to investigate it and punish Microsoft if it is indeed guilty. I would love that EC concentrates on IE’s failure since the US case. If you like, an update of the US case. The two big questions I can think of currently is

  1. If a company sign up to a standard, e.g. promise to implement the standard and/or help to create the standard, what is its obligation. If I remember correctly, part of Opera’s complain is about Microsoft paying lip service
  2. If any company has a dominant market position, what is its responsibility in implementing the commonly found standards in that area, whether or not it signs up to the standard. This is a rehash of Opera’s complain that Microsoft did not implement open web standards in IE.

EC is full of technocrats and I meant it as a compliment. Just look at its 2004 Microsoft decision. Compare to its US case where the whole prosecution case, defense case and judgement which is vague and looks as if it was written by a layman, the EC case is full of competent technical analysis of both the technology field AND antitrust laws. If EC takes up the two questions, it will be a piece of work that everyone interested can follow and use as guidance.

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