Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday, 24 March 2004

EU fines Microsoft record amount

The long-awaited outcome of the EU investigation into Microsoft's commercial practices was announced today with a record fine of EUR497m (USD613m; GBP331m).

EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti, in announcing the fine said:

"Dominant companies have a special responsibility to ensure that the way they do business doesn't prevent competition...and does not harm consumers and innovation."
- and following last week's last-ditch talks between the software giant and the EU he announced:
"It is essential to have a precedent which will establish clear principles for the future conduct of a company with such a strong dominant position."

Microsoft has already announced its intention to appeal the fine, although its cash wealth is unlikely to be significantly impacted by it. However, the outlawing of its practice of bundling software and guarding the source code of its software jealously may have a more profound effect - assuming, that is, that the EU can make its policies stick. Microsoft has already, largely successfully, weathered efforts in the USA to inhibit its quasi-monopoly status and it will require the EU to maintain its tough stance for a prolonged period, in my view, for this to have any long-term bottom-line impact at all. Microsoft products remain popular, not becasue they are the best or because they are the most stable in operation, but because they do generally work (after a fashion) and people are familiar with them - it took me many years before I finally started using Windows 95, for example, and I hated it, but its very ubiquitousness (and that of the later flawed Windows 98) made it the easier option. Even the constant 'hacker' attacks on Windows XP seem not to be affecting its dominant position, although for the record I do not use 'Media Player' - I have not found it very difficult to circumvent the software's inbuilt desire to make me do so.

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