497 milion euro’s of stupidity

Politics on a European Union level never have been very popular in the Netherlands, one of the EU-members. Europe is important but the EU’s verdict on MS does not help convincing me. It’s so stupid, any geek can explain in a couple of lines that it is the content which counts, not the software rendering the contents. The history of the case does demonstrate that very well. Nobody ever cared about Windows Media Player until new WMP formats, with a competitive quality, appeared. Besides that the Realplayer is a stinking spammer. I would gladly uninstall it, but on some sites real still has a monoploy. Quicktime is OK, it’s there and just works when it has to work.
I hope the EU will do something usefull with the cash, but I fear the worst.


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  • Shaun Newman

    It would appear that there is a common theme here amongst the USERS of the software in question, and I am happy to say that I agree.

    Microsoft may provide this software free as part of the OS but I don’t see any MS employee standing behind me forcing me to use it!

    If I find a better, well priced product to replace software and utilities that come with my OS then I’ll buy them, I already have a damn good replacement for Windows Explorer, I use Mozilla for Email and browsing, I have a choice. So what if it comes bundled you have to be pretty gullible to believe the cries of these damn annoying people suing Microsoft because they suddenly realise they are actually producing crap software after all.

    Sun already did a damn good job of Forcing me to use a differen’t Java engine when I was quite happy with the one I had, now I have bloated software taking up my hard drive space when I had everything I needed already.

    Build smarter, price wisely, and for God’s sake get a life. Microsoft are not Angels but they got where they are by building damn good software that broke down a lot of barriers in computing. I can now take a document and share it with anyone, try doing that 10+ years ago!

  • Peter van Ooijen

    It is a tiring thing but the amount of (technical) nonsense published in even things considered "quality newspapapers" (read the Volkrant today ?) just keeps me jumping up.

    What should be part of the OS is clearly a matter of taste. My OS (XP) has a media player which came along with the OS and realpalyer and quicktime installed. Some time it even had a 4th one which came with notebook, but I uninstalled that one. Installation and removal of the other players was click and go. When I push a CD into the drive a dialog pops up with loads of software competing for the resource. There’s Nero which wants to copy the disk, there’s the explorer which wants to browse it, there’s wmp which wants to play it and there’s real which also wants to play it. So what’s the point ?

    My real point was that the case might seriously hinder the futher evolution of software. We can dream about huge multimedia experiences in Longhorn, but what good will that be if it can’t play a CD by itself ?

    When it comes to the EU, I think this will only further allieniate people and business from this political body.

  • Peter’s Gekko

    Microsoft ? Which Microsoft ?

  • Ryan Gregg

    Interesting comments from everyone here so far. I have to say that I’m really quite annoyed with the whole "part of the OS vs comes with the OS" discussion. It’s hard to say for sure these days. Parts of Windows Media Player appear all throughout the OS. Click on a video and you get a WMP preview window to the left. Ditto for an audio file. Bring up the properties for a media file, and you can see all sorts of summary information. It seems like the technology of WMP is pretty nicely integrated throughout the shell. This is a "Good Thing" because it certainly makes Windows more media friendly.

    I don’t by Frans’ argument about how difficult it is to install another media player. I don’t have Real Player installed, but anytime I visit a website that uses Real Content, it sure tries to install itself automatically. Ditto for QuickTime. That’s supposed to be difficult on the user? Likewise I now use iTunes for my music library. Must have been one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. Download, install, done. Installing a player isn’t hard if I have a reason to do so.

    The OS really should include these features. Think about Linux, it comes bundled with a ton of software packages in almost every distribution. Web browser, media player, word processor, spreadsheet, etc etc. Are you telling me Windows can’t do the same because their a "monopoly" — that being popular somehow means you can’t provide the same level of service that everyone else can? That’s total BS.

    I agree with a lot of what Peter said too. It’s really important to have the APIs and libraries to support a rich environment as part of the OS. Integrated support for video, audio, and other rich features is clearly helpful in allowing other developers to write better software faster. However, it would also be nice if Microsoft would ensure that they let us developers know about all the available features, so that we can make applications that are able to take advantage of all the features that are available.

    I know MS has done some things wrong in the past.. they’ve been a little hard on OEM customers about what they can and can’t do with the OS platform, but I see that all as a way to ensure a consistent user experience. Apple does the exact same thing, only they’re even worse, they won’t even let OEMs exist. Of course, since they only control 5% of the market, it’s acceptable. Certainly it’s not worth the largest fine in EU anti-trust history, especially considering the specific laws which they are accused of breaking have not been well defined through any sort of Judaical review. This could set a dangerous precedent for other companies doing business in the EU.

  • Kevin Daly

    I am frankly tired of companies (such as marginally-less-odious-than-spammers Real and their like) trying to compete through litigation rather than through producing better products.

    I personally like Windows Media Player, but I know many people who play music all the time on their PCs who never look at it (probably barely know it’s there – it doesn’t exactly shout at you). So how is the opposition being crushed?

    This is just the old IE/Netscape row dragged up again: it was bollocks then and it’s bollocks now.

  • Peter van Ooijen

    As a developer I want API’s. There’s a COM wrapper around the media API but that’s not the same as MP using these components (or does it ??). I prefer a FCL API.

    Taking it to the "app"-level : yesterday’s app is part of tomorrow’s OS. Remember stacker ? And I like it that way. Install all in one go and have a rich API.

    On one hand it sounds reasonable that a tight integration of the API’s with the OS provide me a better API.

    On the other hand the whole case is not about technical matters at all. The moment Real no longer could compete on a technical level they tried it legally. There is absolutely a point that the monopoly of ms deserves attention. But this doesn’t do anybody any good. You want to split ms (as had been often suggested) ? Cut along an other line.

    I’ll take the Sony TV. If it runs XP-Media Edition :>

  • Frans Bouma

    "Which side of the line mp falls can be an endless discussion. To me as a developer I want it on my (read api) side of the line. In the early days you had to hack a file byte by byte to interoperate. For years I’ve been struggling with COM and with .net I am ever so happy to find more and more inside the class lib of my tools. And I do want a piece of software which can handle media-content in there. "

    But I wasn’t talking about API’s, I was talking about ready to use applications. WMP makes use of own COM components, which you can also install on your system using the Media SDK. So That’s not the big deal. It’s the non-removal constraint around the app.

    Playing a file through a codec is easy, as the Media SDK shows (video is a bit harder ;)).

    "I’m sorry, but the analogy with a TV doesn’t hold. It would if mp would only show content supplied by ms. "

    Of course it holds. I didn’t say you can’t watch other TV channels. WMP tunes into MSN music channels by default. WMP is the default media player. The same thing is true for my analogy with the TV: it tunes into sony channel automatically, and because it’s the tv you have, it’s the tv you’re going to use.

    In fact, the Sony TV is less rude than mediaplayer: you don’t have to buy a sony TV to watch TV and initially you don’t have a TV so you are totally free to buy one. However on windows, you have to use mediaplayer or jump through hoops to install a new one (i.e.: buy a new tv).

  • Peter van Ooijen

    Which side of the line mp falls can be an endless discussion. To me as a developer I want it on my (read api) side of the line. In the early days you had to hack a file byte by byte to interoperate. For years I’ve been struggling with COM and with .net I am ever so happy to find more and more inside the class lib of my tools. And I do want a piece of software which can handle media-content in there.

    I’m sorry, but the analogy with a TV doesn’t hold. It would if mp would only show content supplied by ms.

  • Frans Bouma

    Since when is a media player part of the OS? It’s part of the applications that are coming with the OS, not as part OF the OS.

    Now, OEM’s are not free what to pack with windows, MS decides that. That’s the base of the ruling.

    There is a thin line between what is part of the OS and what is a separate program. Most people who use windows will argue that ms office can be part of the OS, because they use these applications anyway.

    The same tactics are used by MS to push Objectspaces, with that yukon and MBF. They haven’t design a general framework, they have designed a specific framework, only usable with their own software. Still it is part of the general framework ‘.NET’.

    There are clear laws against this in the EU.

    Again, it is not about real player or any other retarted player (mediaplayer is after realplayer the most utterly piece of crap I’ve ever seen. It takes 20% CPU usage just to play an MP3 on a p3-933 without any visuals), it’s about packing stuff in the OS which are not removable from the OS and thus are shipped with every OS instance.

    It’s like buying a TV from Sony which always switches to a commercial Sony channel every time you turn it on. You as a consumer deside what to do with it, not the manufacturer. The funny thing is: the OEM of the computer is the customer of windows, not the buyer of the computer. The OEM can’t do what it wants with what it licenses: it can’t uninstall mediaplayer nor pack every shipment with realplayer.

    The same discussions went on and on about the browser being part of the OS or not. After years of using IE and fighting its integration into everything, I’m totally convinced (after being convinced that a browser is part of the OS) that the browser is not part of the OS and never should be part of it. It’s an add-on program, nothing more, nothing less, like notepad and format.com.

  • Peter van Ooijen

    Yes, there is a marketing side to the story. But that’s beyond my interest. As a consequence I shouldn’t have mentioned the amount of money… :>

    I agree with you that it’s all about codecs.

    I disagree with you that a media player should be a separate program. An OS should be able to present the user with all kind of content. Text, graphics, moving graphics or anything else. In the pre-window days all a PC could do was present some text and beep. To add graphics you needed graphics hardware and custom software. To add sound you needed a sound-card with custom software to play the sound. Today all these things are part of an out-of-the-box system. The hardware on the mainboard and the software in Windows.

    What makes a media player deserve a special status to exclude it from this line of technological progress ?

  • Frans Bouma

    It’s not about realplayer. It’s about strong arm tactics to push own technology ABC through the already widely used channel of technology XYZ.

    Look at it this way:

    – Windows has a nice codec system. Any media format vendor can construct a codec and it can then be installed in windows. Real Soft nor Apple have done so, which makes you wonder what’s important: not the codec but the player.

    – Windows Media player could be just a player which uses the codecs in windows to play media.

    Now, that last bit isn’t true. It’s integrated in the shell.

    MS could have solved this by simply shipping realmedia and quicktime codecs with windows and make windows media player ‘just a program’.

    There is a difference between ‘a program shipped with windows’ and ‘a program that is part of windows’.

    The same will likely happen with other technologies MS is now pushing, like the virusscanner included in XP SP2. The news of this announcement made the stock price of symmantec drop significantly.

    This ruling is not about ‘don’t include mediaplayer’, but about ‘don’t embed separate programs into a core OS’. Make the programs a separate kit, like it is with f.e. linux distro’s. The OEM can then decide to opt for another program kit to ship with new PC’s. It will also create a precedent so next time class action suits against MS (or other software vendor) will be shortened significantly.