Settlement ‘unlikely’ in EU’s antitrust case against Microsoft

“Hopes of a last-minute settlement to Microsoft’s antitrust case in Europe dimmed yesterday, after a morning meeting between competition commissioner Mario Monti and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, broke up early with no apparent meeting of minds, said people close to the talks,” Paul Meller reports for Macworld UK.

“Monti is demanding even tougher remedies from Microsoft in return for a settlement that averts a precedent-setting negative ruling in a week, the people said,” Meller reports. “Monti’s meeting with Ballmer was brief, one person said. It followed a four-hour meeting with Microsoft’s chief lawyer, Brad Smith, on Tuesday afternoon. The person added that another face-to-face meeting between Monti and Ballmer is ‘unlikely.'”

Meller reports, “If no settlement is reached between now and next Wednesday, the European Commission is scheduled to adopt a negative ruling forcing Microsoft to offer two versions of its Windows operating system in Europe: one with Microsoft’s music and video software, Media Player, stripped out of the operating system and sold separately.”

“The ruling will also order Microsoft to license more secret code in Windows to allow rivals to build software that works smoothly with Windows, and it will fine Microsoft between

18 Comments

  1. This ruling still will have no real teeth to it. M$ will drag the appeals out in the courts for several years, so it’s not like this ruling will have much of an impact on M$ for a good while, if ever. This ruling just makes it look like something is being done is all, even when it actually isn’t really…

  2. Yes, this “ruling” against Microsoft is ceremonial at best. They’ll never actually have to abide by most if not all of the penalities in any judgment against them. They’ll just keep appealing and appealing until they’re either severely watered down or simply go away.

  3. I hope they zap them as much as possible but M$ is known for being able to slime around these things. They billions of dollars to spend to have people help them figure out how to cheat the system.

  4. I don’t think the appeals process in the EU will be as easy to play with as compared to the US. Europeans still do some things the old way and their judicial system is more bureaucratic than our own judicial system. I doubt they’ll give Microsoft the slap on the hand their looking for.

  5. Hey, maybe Europeans will get some great projects fully subsidized after EU finishes with MS. Or EU can just waste the money like a good bureaucratic organization instead of taxpayers’ money. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

    Rob,
    I don’t think they can do that in this case. IIRC (IANAL), MS can appeal which takes about 5 years to finish, but in the meantime all remedies are enforced. There is no stay. Someone who knows can correct me?

  6. The thing to notice here is Microsoft’s track record. Going back as far as the ’80s Microsoft has often lost the initial court battle. This happens because the procedings involve people — Microsoft people. These individuals come across very negatively in court. Thus Microsoft very often loses the initial round.

    However, look at Microsoft’s track record on appeals. They almost always win, and when the don’t win, they get the terms of the settlement changed to something very, very benign such as “I promise I won’t do it again.” or “I’ll give away X millions of dollars of Microsoft software to the plaintiffs (where X millions of dollars is based upon the full retail price and the cost to Microsoft is a very small fraction of the retail price).” This is because the appeals process is over 95% paperwork and arguments are mostly done through briefs. Very seldom are lots of witnesses called on appeals. Thus Microsoft’s lawyers have much better control of the situation.

    I expect Microsoft to soundly lose this round. However, upon appeals, I expect the terms fo the EU settlement to not be much worse, if any worse, than the final settlement in the US antitrust case which was, effectively, “Yes, I broke the law, but I promise not to do it again.”

  7. 1%?!? I have a better idea….how about I give the first 25 people 20GB Apple iPods. (Assuming I get more than 100k euros) ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

  8. Microsoft will probably pay the fine, as long as it’s in the form of free M$ software for schools or Xboxes or their new portable Media Centers donated to somebody. M$ would consider it a billion dollar ad campaign rather than a fine.

    As for the stripped version of Windows, no problem. They’ll make a version that doesn’t work and no one will buy it.

    While they’re doing that, they’ll appeal.

  9. I am willing to wait and see before I pass any judgement on EU. EU is not stupid and so far, the are showing some balls that Bush’s DoJ is lacking. And unlike in the US, Microsoft does not have lobbyists and payoff systems in place to influence Brussels.

    I am actually optimistic that EU will do something that DoJ cannot accomplish.

  10. “I don’t think they can do that in this case. IIRC (IANAL), MS can appeal which takes about 5 years to finish, but in the meantime all remedies are enforced. There is no stay. Someone who knows can correct me?”

    I’m afraid that is not the case at all. Here’s a quote from the AP News story…note the last sentence.

    “Microsoft could appeal to the Luxembourg-based Court of First Instance and later to the European Court of Justice � a procedure that could take several years. Microsoft could also ask the court to suspend any order to change its behavior pending a final ruling.”

  11. Before anyone is too quick to praise the EU, just wait and see what penalty Microsoft actually has to pay in the end after all the appeals are finished. And just watch, Microsoft will absolutely get the injunction they’re going to request. You’ll see it’s just as easy to slide your way thru the EU courts as it is the US courts if you have enough money and influence on your side. I hate M$ as much as anyone, but no one should get their hopes up here for any real change to happen at all.

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