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Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft
Wednesday, January 28 2004 @ 07:46 PM EST

While Dark Darl hints that -- despite admittedly having zero proof in hand -- he believes Linux enthusiasts are attacking his company, there are indications that after a 4-year investigation into the facts of the case, a guilty verdict is expected soon from the European Commission in their investigation of Microsoft.

The EC reportedly thinks Sir Bill has been a naughty boy and reports are coming in that his company is going to be declared guilty of anticompetitive behavior:

While the ruling is still in its draft phase, and details of any final decision are yet to be made public, all the signs are that it won't be going Microsoft's way. The EU's Competition Commissioner, Mario Monti, has been touting the draft resolution over the Windows Media Player dispute around various departments in the EC -- which EU commentators believe rarely happens in cases where antitrust cases go in the company's favour.
Fines are predicted although it's also possible that continuing negotiations could resolve the matter, according to the Guardian:
. . .leaks from the document to various European media suggest the commission may fine Microsoft and force it to make sweeping changes to its Windows software. Microsoft could be fined up to $3bn, although in practice the figure is likely to be lower.

Negotiations between the two parties are still under way, and they could end amicably. "We're doing what we can to come to some amicable settlement," Microsoft founder Bill Gates said last weekend in Davos, Switzerland.

The commission's primary allegation is that Microsoft designed Windows 2000 to function better with the company's own servers in order to squeeze out rivals and that the firm is withholding vital information to prevent competitors remedying the situation.

It also alleges that the group's decision to "bundle" its Media Player software with Windows gives it an advantage over rivals. It is therefore widely expected to demand that the software be "unbundled" and sold separately.

Once the EU decision is final, it will be possible for individual countries to bring their own antitrust suits against Microsoft. Techworld adds these details:
The draft ruling says that the failure to grant rivals access to Windows computer code, which runs on over 95 percent of the world's personal computers, is an abuse of Microsoft's dominant position, and it proposes ordering the company to reveal the code to rivals, said one person on condition of anonymity. The Commission is the European Union's (EU's) executive body.

The source said the draft ruling also finds Microsoft guilty of stifling competition in the media-playing software market. The company's own software, called Media Player, is bundled into Windows, giving it an advantage over rival products such as RealNetworks's Real Player.

However, the EC source said the draft ruling stopped short of demanding the total separation of Media Player from Windows. "The Commission doesn't appear to be pushing for the total unbundling of Media Player from Windows," the source added.

Instead, the person said the Commission will order Microsoft to offer a version of Windows without Media Player included, alongside the bundled version currently on sale.
On the home front, you'll be amazed and shocked to learn that Microsoft's "independent analysts" on its new "Get the Facts About Windows and Linux" page were commissioned by Microsoft, according to this investigative report by Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Microsoft Corp. is touting the results of "independent analyses" in its latest effort to show corporate decision-makers the merits of its Windows operating system vs. Linux, its biggest open-source competitor.

The studies were, in fact, performed by well-known, independent research firms such as IDC, Giga Research and Meta Group. But the reports themselves tell the rest of the story: They were conducted "at the request of Microsoft," "commissioned by Microsoft" or "prepared under contract from Microsoft."

Microsoft, in other words, paid for the studies to be done.

Some analysts say that doesn't meet the definition of "independent." Microsoft says it does.

Well, now, if you bump into an aging friend at a restaurant and she introduces you to a man she calls her fiance and he is showering her with attention and compliments all evening, and later you find out she had to pay the man to take her out to dinner and all, how do you feel? That she is pitiful? Obviously. What do you think about her honesty? And how do you take all the praise the man was heaping on her all night? Similarly, if the only way a company can get anyone to say nice things about them is to pay them cold, hard cash, it's just not the same as unsolicited praise. And how much do you trust the "independent" analysis?

Here's the detail I like the best: the "Get the Facts on Windows and Linux" site doesn't indicate that the "independent analysts" were commissioned, but if you download the individual reports some reveal it:

The Web site itself makes no reference to funding for the eight third-party studies it cites. But several of the studies, available for free download from the site, indicate in their text that Microsoft funded them.
The other funny part is that apparently some analysts interviewed thought being paid by the company you are analyzing constitutes "independent analysis". How very 1984 Newspeakish.

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