european commission

It was just two days ago the U.S. Department of Justice gave the green light for the Microsoft-Nokia deal. As you recall, Microsoft is currently in the process of acquiring Nokia’s handset division for 7.2 billion dollars. As part of the deal, they’ll also license Nokia patents. One of the remaining hurdles was whether or not the European Commission would allow the sale. The European Commission has now cleared the deal in a press release that just went out. Details below.

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The European Commission announced plans today to open an investigation to determine whether or not Microsoft has failed to comply with its browser choice commitment, which was applied in 2009. The commitment saw the software giant presenting customers of its Windows operating system with a screen listing available alternatives to Internet Explorer (see above). This was put in place due to Microsoft being found guilty of abusing its dominant position with IE in the browser market.

Joaquín Almunia, Vice President of the Commission in charge of competition policy, had the following to comment.

"We take compliance with our decisions very seriously. And I trusted the company's reports were accurate. But it seems that was not the case, so we have immediately taken action. If following our investigation, the infringement is confirmed, Microsoft should expect sanctions"

Competing browsers have previously spoken publicly about the potential antitrust violations Microsoft is dancing around by preventing third party browsers access to the same APIs IE uses in Windows 8. With the down-spiral of IE and the massive increase in users for both Firefox and Chrome, is it worth penalising Microsoft heavily for a ballot box screen, which arguably adds little value to the user experience? 

According to the announcement, the EC believes that Microsoft may have failed to implement the browser choice screen from February 2011 onwards with the release of Windows 7 SP1. It'll be interesting to see the outcome of this investigation, especially from a financial standpoint, with a possible fine of up to 10% of Microsoft's total annual turnover, should it be found guilty of breaching the commitment.

How do you feel about the bundling of software in Windows 8? Do you believe Microsoft still has a duty to provide such choice to customers regarding web browsers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Source: European Commission, via: The Verge

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We all know how...unimpressive...the "native" YouTube app is on Windows Phone 7--it's basically just a browser for the site and pales in comparison to Android and even the iPhone. Why that is has always bothered users, but it looks like we may have an answer, or at least one-side of it.

In a blog post by Brad Smith, Senior Vice President & General Counsel at Microsoft, he blames Google directly for the Windows Phone situation. There's no if's and's or but's about it, according to Smith ergo Microsoft:

...in 2010 and again more recently, Google blocked Microsoft’s new Windows Phones from operating properly with YouTube. Google has enabled its own Android phones to access YouTube so that users can search for video categories, find favorites, see ratings, and so forth in the rich user interfaces offered by those phones. It’s done the same thing for the iPhones offered by Apple, which doesn’t offer a competing search service.

Unfortunately, Google has refused to allow Microsoft’s new Windows Phones to access this YouTube metadata in the same way that Android phones and iPhones do. As a result, Microsoft’s YouTube “app” on Windows Phones is basically just a browser displaying YouTube’s mobile Web site, without the rich functionality offered on competing phones. Microsoft is ready to release a high quality YouTube app for Windows Phone. We just need permission to access YouTube in the way that other phones already do, permission Google has refused to provide.

Microsoft, in response, is ready to fight against Google, ironically in Europe:

Microsoft is filing a formal complaint with the European Commission as part of the Commission’s ongoing investigation into whether Google has violated European competition law. We thought it important to be transparent and provide some information on what we’re doing and why.

This raises all sorts of questions for us, non-legal types who don't understand everything going on behind the scenes, for instance why can HTC and 3rd-parties create superior apps but Microsoft cannot? For example, SuperTube is quite impressive and adds all sorts of advanced features, including streaming in HD and saving files. Then again, in a personal note from developer Atta Elayyan, involved with LazyTube (which just hit 2.0), SuperTube evidently violates several of YouTube's Terms of Service, but Microsoft seems to have looked the other way during the app's Marketplace approval (get out tinfoil hats...now).

Whatever the exact details, gauntlet meet ground, as Microsoft has just thrown down some serious charges against Google. This could get interesting...

Source: Microsoft on the Issues; via I Love Windows Phone!

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