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More on the EU Microsoft Meeting; and Intel Gives Linux a Leg Up on the Desktop
Wednesday, November 24 2004 @ 01:44 PM EST

There is a bit more information on the sudden meeting called by Bo Vesterdorf, the judge trying to decide whether to suspend penalties against Microsoft during its appeal in the EU antitrust case. Unfortunately, some of the information was inaccurate at first.

Forbes had the inaccurate version, from an International Herald Tribune reporter's article, titled "EU Court Sets Talks on Microsoft Plaintiffs' Desertion Could Damage Case", which it later corrected. Update6 from the Associated Press gets it closer to right, and the Forbes headline is now "EU Say Microsoft Case Remains Intact":

"The European Union insisted Wednesday its antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. remains intact despite a surprise meeting called by the judge following the desertion of two of the EU's biggest allies.

"'Just the fact that certain parties have withdrawn from the proceedings doesn't change the facts of the case at all,' said EU antitrust spokesman Jonathan Todd. 'Hence the proceedings will follow their normal course at the court.'"

I don't think "intact" is the precise word I'd pick, but it is surely closer than to imply the case is in shambles. Logic and a little knowledge of the legal process helps here.

Just as in the US antitrust case, which was the US v. Microsoft, although many parties complained and leaped on the cart with the Justice Department, none of them could change the fact that Microsoft's chief antagonist was the US Department of Justice. Similarly, the EU case is the EU Commission investigating Microsoft, not CCIA v. Microsoft or Novell v. Microsoft. And RealNetworks Inc., bless their hearts, continue to remain in the EU process. So is FSF. Considering that the media player is at the center of a principal antitrust claim -- the Commission ordered Microsoft to offer a version of their OS without a bundled media player, after all -- Novell and CCIA deciding to withdraw from future participation doesn't make that penalty go away:

"David Stewart, a senior lawyer with RealNetworks, told Dow Jones Newswires that it and other companies 'remain resolved to support the decision and protect consumers.'"

Thank you, RealNetworks. I hate the Windows Media Player's EULA. In fact, to tell you the truth, the oppressive EULA and the media player being bundled in is one key reason why I stopped using Windows.

And don't forget that the Commisssion on its own initiative decided to broaden the original investigation into complaints filed to look into the media player issue, so it's not a situation where anybody pulling out would affect that. "The European Commission enforces EU competition rules on restrictive business practices and abuses of monopoly power for the whole of the European Union when cross-border trade and competition are affected." So they have the authority to act.

Originally it was reported that Novell and CCIA were withdrawing prior evidence from the case, but I checked with Novell, and their spokesman, Bruce Lowry, says that isn't true. CCIA has now also denied withdrawing anything, so the update corrected the initial inaccuracies, making it clear that neither CCIA nor Novell were withdrawing prior evidence.

Having been a media victim myself, I knew enough not to believe a word until checking. In a breaking story, to be fair, it is sometimes necessary to make corrections as new info comes to light. But checking your facts before you publish a story is good too. Speed isn't all there is to journalism.

So what is the meeting for? Here's what Novell told ComputerWorld :

"The meeting, called by Judge Bo Vesterdorf of the Court of First Instance (CFI) in Luxembourg, will be held Thursday, said Bruce Lowry, a spokesman for Novell Inc., one of the companies that has withdrawn from the case. 'The judge called a meeting and invited all parties to the EU action to attend in order to discuss procedural matters having to do with the withdrawal of the CCIA and Novell,' he said."

Here's more from the Seattle Times and the NY Times [sub req'd]. I can't help but wonder if the reported payment to Ed Black will come up, but I don't know and can't speculate.

But even if all the parties and the judge and the Commission ended up pocketing some millions and tossing the case, Microsoft has another problem: India and China and Intel. According to Bloomberg, Intel is offering computer makers in India and China a Linux support kit, with software drivers, documentation and resources to "more easily design, build and sell Intel-based desktops with the Linux operating system,'' Intel said in a statement:

"The Intel software kit supports versions of Linux made by Novell Inc., Red Hat Inc. and Red Flag Software Co. and helps computer makers install them on Intel motherboards and processors. The software kit also helps simplify the installation of 'basic office automation' programs.

"Microsoft's Windows made up about 96 percent of total desktop operating systems sold in India in the year ended March 31, according to a survey by Indian Market Research Bureau, a local researcher. Intel's Pentium microprocessors had 86 percent of the Indian market, the study said.

"Intel spokesman Robert Manetta said his company began to provide the software tools 'to meet demand.' The tools are being given to companies that make unbranded PCs, he said."

"To meet demand." Those are the words that spell Microsoft's problem. One nasty side effect of raping and pillaging the competition and mistreating your customers as you build your monopoly is, nobody likes or trusts you. How can Microsoft ever get that back? And while they are offering a junior version of Windows in Asia and have lowered prices, why would anyone prefer that to a complete, fully equipped operating system from folks you don't dislike or distrust? 'Tis a puzzlement. Note we are talking *desktop* here, not servers. Intel is talking about Linux on the desktop:

"The chipmaker warmed up to desktop PC makers when partners in the Asian countries started requesting more help with desktop Linux, company spokesman Scott McLaughlin said. . . .

"The kit includes driver software, which enables use of specific hardware features; scripts to quickly install software that has been validated to work with various versions of Linux; and a program called the Application Version Compliance Tool that checks to make sure programs are compatible with those Linux versions and Intel electronics.

"The kit supports three versions of Linux--Red Hat Desktop, Novell Linux Desktop 9 and Red Flag Desktop 4.1--and will support Linux from the China Standard Software later, Intel said."

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