IBM Cloud Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Microsoft Cloud, IBM Cloud

Microsoft Cloud: Article

The EC & Microsoft Contemplate Beating Their Swords into Plowshares

The EC said Wednesday that a final settlement of the browser issue could be all of a month or two away

After 10 years of trench warfare and a body count of close to $1.8 billion in fines, the European Commission is getting ready to pass Microsoft the roach of concord and close the book on the case.

The EC said Wednesday that a final settlement of the browser issue, Europe's updated version of the old Netscape case that saw Microsoft branded a monopoly in the first place, could be all of a month or two away.

All it will take is group think and none of Microsoft's browser rivals finding too big a hole in the terms of the pact during the next month while the EC conducts what it calls a "formal market test" of the proposed remedy.

Browser makers, hardware OEMs, trade associations and consumer watchdogs will have until November 7 to comment.

The EC, which realizes it's going to hear grousing, says it's prepared to listen to substantive complaints but figures "Microsoft's commitments would indeed address our competition concerns."

The European Committee for Interoperable Systems, the trade group that includes Sun, Oracle, IBM and Opera, which initiated the browser complaint to the EC, issued a statement to Reuters saying, "the settlement does not appear to deal with the inadequacies of Microsoft's standards compliance, unfair pricing practices or other concerns related to patent abuse or standards manipulation."

The remark is off point since the EC's statement of objections never touched on those things. Of course it would serve the purposes of Microsoft's enemies if the EC was hung permanently around its neck like an albatross.

Anyway, after a month of video conferences with the EC, Microsoft has agreed to make further concessions in the "ballot screen" proposal it came up with in July, basically adjusting it to the objections raised in August when the EC conducted what it calls an "informal market test."

The July proposal followed Microsoft's threat to remove Internet Explorer from any Windows operating system it shipped in Europe.

OEMs will continue to be able to pre-load any darn browser they please and the wrath of Microsoft will not descend upon them. They can chuck Internet Explorer completely if they like.

Existing and future Internet Explorer users in Europe are going to start to see the so-called ballot screen turn up on their PCs - whether they like it or not - explaining what a browser is and offering them a choice of 11 other browsers besides IE.

There'll be a "tell me more" button for each of the browsers so the companies can make their pitch and users will be able to turn off IE and tuck it in a separate cache on their hard disk if the sight of it so offends them. They don't have to but they can.

They'll be able to install as many browsers as they like and turn them on and off at will, using any of them for their default.

Of course it may be idle to remark that even people who have trouble mastering the light switch can do this already but they don't have a cute ballot screen where the icons representing the top 12 browsers by market share in Europe will be displayed in two rows: a row of the top five, including IE, laid out in alphabetical order so IE doesn't get any preference and a second row of the next seven by market share again in alphabetical order.

Since the settlement is good for five years, the identity of these browsers could change, which is one of the ostensible reasons why Microsoft has made the browser screen a simple web page rather than a Windows application like some of its critics wanted. It says it's easier to update. And Microsoft has agreed the EC can have lingering oversight of its behavior regarding the ballot screen.

It will be interesting to see if market shares change.

In a press conference called for four in the morning Microsoft time Wednesday, the company's general counsel Brad Smith remarked that distribution of the ballot screen via Windows Update will be limited to IE users. Microsoft's browser rivals don't want their own users to have any choices.

And to prevent still another antitrust investigation from raising its ugly head, Microsoft also kicked in another concession that it wasn't ever asked to make and that Smith characterized as "the single biggest legal commitment in the history of the software industry to promote interoperability."

The company has agreed to reveal more about its Windows, Window Server, Office, Exchange and SharePoint workings to third-party developers, including open source developers who were bound to complain about it to the EC anyway.

It says it'll provide technical documentation so third-party products interoperate better with the Microsoft widgetry. It's also committing to support certain standards like the OOXML rival ODF (OpenDocument Format) and to "fully" document how these standards are supported.

For a "nominal sum," Smith said, third parties will be able to get the specifications and legally binding warranties.

And just to make sure that Symantec and McAfee don't stir up more trouble with the EC for Microsoft, it said it would disclose certain programming interfaces in its security products.

The interoperability pledge is contingent on the EC accepting the browser settlement, which is now supposed to be more usable and evenhanded than the July draft proposal.

Smith used some run-on question about Yahoo at that four-in-the-morning press conference to reflect that every time the subject of competition and IT came up during the last 10 years everybody turned and looked at Microsoft. It's time somebody else had a turn, he said, and offered a few suggestions: Google and search; IBM and the mainframe; and Oracle and Sun.

His quip about IBM proved prophetic because a few hours later it was discovered that the Justice Department has opened a preliminary investigation of Big Blue's behavior in the mainframe market contrary to its undertakings to the DOJ years ago.

This time, people being subpoenaed say, the probe's not going to take 13 years like it did the last time, suggesting it could be a highly entertaining winter watching IBM squirm. The European Commission is also being lobbied to bring a statement of objections against the giant supra-national.

Oh, yeah, about Yahoo. It's still unclear, Smith said, whether the EC has jurisdiction or whether the German national authorities do the review.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
Whenever a new technology hits the high points of hype, everyone starts talking about it like it will solve all their business problems. Blockchain is one of those technologies. According to Gartner's latest report on the hype cycle of emerging technologies, blockchain has just passed the peak of their hype cycle curve. If you read the news articles about it, one would think it has taken over the technology world. No disruptive technology is without its challenges and potential impediments t...
Nicolas Fierro is CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions. He is a programmer, technologist, and operations dev who has worked with Ethereum and blockchain since 2014. His knowledge in blockchain dates to when he performed dev ops services to the Ethereum Foundation as one the privileged few developers to work with the original core team in Switzerland.
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
If a machine can invent, does this mean the end of the patent system as we know it? The patent system, both in the US and Europe, allows companies to protect their inventions and helps foster innovation. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be set to disrupt the patent system as we know it. This talk will examine how AI may change the patent landscape in the years to come. Furthermore, ways in which companies can best protect their AI related inventions will be examined from both a US and...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
Bill Schmarzo, Tech Chair of "Big Data | Analytics" of upcoming CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York (November 12-13, 2018, New York City) today announced the outline and schedule of the track. "The track has been designed in experience/degree order," said Schmarzo. "So, that folks who attend the entire track can leave the conference with some of the skills necessary to get their work done when they get back to their offices. It actually ties back to some work that I'm doing at the University of San...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...