Microsoft back in hot water with the EU after browser ballot screen goes missing

If you have hung around the Internet for the past few years, there is a good chance that you remembered Microsoft's battle with the EU over its Internet Explorer browser. The result of this fight was that Microsoft would have to offer a browser ballot screen starting in February of 2010. 

While Microsoft did comply with this condition, and Internet Explorer has seen stiff competition since then, Microsoft has found itself in hot water again with the EU after a 'technical glitch' caused the screen to not appear for some users since February of 2011. The screen stopped appearing for some users after Microsoft issued Service Pack 1 for Windows 7.

Microsoft had previously committed to making the screen available until 2014 but seeing as this glitch prevented the ballot screen from not showing for some individuals, the EU has decided to go back after Microsoft. 

If Microsoft is found to not be in-compliance, the EU could impose a fine that is representative of 10 percent of its global annual turnover, which could amount to as much as $7 billion dollars. For the EU, the investigation is a matter of priority, according to ZDnet, so expect to hear more about this in the near future.

Microsoft admitted that it had a technical glitch that caused the screen to not appear:

"Due to a technical error, we missed delivering the BCS (browser choice screen) software to PCs that came with the service pack 1 update to Windows 7," Microsoft said in a statement.

Seeing how IE has been losing market share at a rapid pace, it would appear that the browser ballot screen did have as significant impact on the platform. The issue is a serious concern for Microsoft because if they are found to have circumvented the EU's ruling, they could be coughing up a serious amount of cash. 

Source: ZDnet | Reuters | Image Credit: Jennifer Morrow

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brent3000 said,
When does Apple and Google get a Ballot Screen?

EU seems to play very 1 sided to this browser war sometimes -_-

When their OS gets a monopoly.

This frustrates me to no end. I see no harm in an operating system having their own browser pre-installed. Every other operating system in the world comes pre-installed with a specific browser and I don't see the EU going after them. This is a double standard. If MS has the monopoly in the OS market, it doesn't mean its necessary to go after them because they provide the necessary features for end users. The same goes for the stupid media player case. If they are going to do this then they should require all operating systems provide the same ballot setup to ensure equality for all.

Nichod said,
This frustrates me to no end. I see no harm in an operating system having their own browser pre-installed. Every other operating system in the world comes pre-installed with a specific browser and I don't see the EU going after them. This is a double standard. If MS has the monopoly in the OS market, it doesn't mean its necessary to go after them because they provide the necessary features for end users. The same goes for the stupid media player case. If they are going to do this then they should require all operating systems provide the same ballot setup to ensure equality for all.

Most Linux distributions give that choice. You have a valid point regarding other vendors and components though. Re WMP - Microsoft WERE in fact fined for bundling it with Windows too - don't know why they let them get away with it afterwards.

Note that not all commercial entities are in the cross-hairs as Microsoft has been fined due to abuse given their dominant position per EU law:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A...oning_of_the_European_Union

Edited by Breach, Jul 17 2012, 6:57pm :

eu is just chock full of uptight men. honestly, do they think they their population is seriously that stupid just to google their browser of choice and download it?? is this handicap seriously necessary? after all, windows is microsoft's product. why not force apple to do the same ballot screen as well with their iphone or ipad devices??

aviator189 said,
eu is just chock full of uptight men. honestly, do they think they their population is seriously that stupid just to google their browser of choice and download it?? is this handicap seriously necessary? after all, windows is microsoft's product. why not force apple to do the same ballot screen as well with their iphone or ipad devices??

It's really quite simple. It might come as a shock to you but most users are unaware of other browsers. By bundling IE with Windows Microsoft are depriving them from the right of an informed decision (does such a thing exist in the US?). The EU left Microsoft with a simple choice - either remove IE completely from Windows or give users a choice at installation time. Quite fair I'd say. It might seem like a completely silly thing to you but this translates to market share gained on the basis of a monopoly which is pretty important I'd think.

Its BS like this that makes Microsoft's software so damn expensive!!!!!! Don't fine them just let them push out a update to fix it or SP2 - BIG FN DEAL!!!!

Without this ballot how will people know there are ****ty browser options available??? I guess maybe google has to start plastering chrome ads all over youtube and including it in the flash installer. Maybe mozilla has to start plastering ads all over too. Oh wait thats right.

browser ballot screen I find it to be one of the most annoying things ever especially when it stops working correctly

in europe, dont you have to buy a license if you want to own a tv? they even go around in vans and have these scanners that can detect if youre watching tv without a license, then they can get a warrant and bust into your home. some backward ass place.

vcfan said,
in europe, dont you have to buy a license if you want to own a tv? they even go around in vans and have these scanners that can detect if youre watching tv without a license, then they can get a warrant and bust into your home. some backward ass place.

Not actually true. TV licensing enforcement officers do not have the power to enter property without permission and those vans don't actually exist, they're a myth to scare people into paying.

vcfan said,
in europe, dont you have to buy a license if you want to own a tv? they even go around in vans and have these scanners that can detect if youre watching tv without a license, then they can get a warrant and bust into your home. some backward ass place.

Not sure what part or Europe you are talking about, but that's certainly not true here. I don't have nor need any kind of TV license.

ichi said,

Not sure what part or Europe you are talking about, but that's certainly not true here. I don't have nor need any kind of TV license.

He's obviously talking about the UK.

rfirth said,

He's obviously talking about the UK.

Yup, you have to pay a TV license if you want to watch any live TV whatsoever. The fee goes to the BBC, a previously state-run (now governed by the BBC trust) broadcaster who provide Ad-free TV and radio. People complain about paying the fee, because they might not even want to watch any live BBC stuff, but have no choice about paying. However, you don't have to pay if you use on-demand services such as BBC iPlayer or 4oD, as long as you don't use their live streaming.
To be honest, I like the lack of loud irritating adverts on BBC channels.

smooth_criminal1990 said,

To be honest, I like the lack of loud irritating adverts on BBC channels.

Damn right, i whole heartedly agree.
People always moan about the TV licence and having to pay it (which amounts to about £2 a week) but then these same people spend £50 a month on Sky and STILL get the adverts!

torrentthief said,
they also removed the ability to uninstall IE10 from win8 Hope the E.U goes after them for that.

Microsoft should be forced to completely decouple IE from Windows. Then we can really remove it.

simplezz said,

Microsoft should be forced to completely decouple IE from Windows. Then we can really remove it.

So does every OS should be shipped without browser, Why MS? why not Apple? oh wait because its cool to hate "M$".

simrat said,

So does every OS should be shipped without browser, Why MS? why not Apple? oh wait because its cool to hate "M$".

Microsoft were convicted of abusing their dominant market position to push their own browser and stifle the adoption of other browsers. The browser ballot screen was their punishment for that, and removing that was a violation of the terms of that conviction, hence, they're being fined again.

It's got nothing to do with "being cool to hate M$".

Figure 8 Dash said,
Why is the EU losing their **** over a browser?

well EU really needs the 7 Billion...
i see political interest in the money...

Fayker said,

well EU really needs the 7 Billion...
i see political interest in the money...

with a total EU debt of more than 10 trillions, I'm not sure how 7 billions will help anyhow

Fayker said,

well EU really needs the 7 Billion...
i see political interest in the money...

Two things:

-7 billion is pocket change.
-All MS has to do is not removing the ballot screen. Pretty simple and hardly a deadlock to squeeze money.

Figure 8 Dash said,
Why is the EU losing their **** over a browser?

Well it all started when Opera got sad that nobody cared about their browser, and they reckoned it was Microsoft's fault, ignoring the fact that Firefox had risen from Netscape's ashes and was thriving at the time.

... I think this is pretty useless from EU.

The annoying Ballot Screen...

The user is free to choose a browser ... search for it in Google...
maybe MS should remove the IE and install a Download Manager with browsers download link...

Windows users aren't told that there are other Browsers to use ? and thats MS fault ?
users known how to have an illegal copy of Windows and they don't know to use other browsers....
It's just EU trolling with MS ...
baah....

Yet I'm not a MS fan.. just MS user.

Fayker said,
... I think this is pretty useless from EU.

The annoying Ballot Screen...

The user is free to choose a browser ... search for it in Google...
maybe MS should remove the IE and install a Download Manager with browsers download link...

Windows users aren't told that there are other Browsers to use ? and thats MS fault ?
users known how to have an illegal copy of Windows and they don't know to use other browsers....
It's just EU trolling with MS ...
baah....

Yet I'm not a MS fan.. just MS user.


Only due to monopolization, dont forget that war dates from early 90s when MS and Netscape (former Mozilla) where in a full battle over the Browser market. Which was clearly won by MS be it due to 2 major reasons, 1: IE was allot better, faster and more stable, 2: IE started becomming default with every PC after MS dropped the idea that others would create browsers, MS started only by deploying a HTML engine for Windows with a simple 'explorer' build around it. Few did (MSN explorer, AOL/compuserve browser)

But due to the weight MS can throw with Windows behind it, having a monopoly.
Within the EU, a monopoly falls under a different set of laws/rules then normal companies These rules/laws are allot stricter and make it easier for other 'parties' to gain on marketshare.
This is the reason of the ballot screen (which only came a couple of years late tho). And at the time, IE wasnt a monopoly anymore..
Ah well, we can thank Sun, Mozilla and more companies for this

Also, don't forget they didn't update IE6 for 5 years... effects of monopoly...
Look at them now!!! working their ass off... EU is doing good, believe it or not but MS fans won't be able to take it

Fayker said,
.
Windows users aren't told that there are other Browsers to use ? and thats MS fault ?

Actually yes. In a real competitive market the maker of a product like an OS will do everything he can to promote the softwares avalaible on his platform.

This is what MS is doing in the console market. The market is competitive. MS promotes exclusive games and big titles coming to the xbox 360. Specially exclusive games.

If the market share of Windows would be at 50% you can be sure MS would not act the same way. The Windows Store would probably already be online and MS would promote popular third party softwares avalaible for Windows more aggressively.

I'm really surprised that in 2012 there still no repository and/or store made by MS where users can search for popular third party applications.

The European versions of Windows don't have a browser installed So the ballot screen offers this directly, when it's missing how do you download a browser?

Neobond said,
The European versions of Windows don't have a browser installed So the ballot screen offers this directly, when it's missing how do you download a browser?

It would have to have IE installed as all windows updates are applied through it.

Cyborg_X said,

It would have to have IE installed as all windows updates are applied through it.


I thought Windows Update left behind its dependency on IE after WinXP.
However, IE is a part of Windows. No matter what you do, you cant fully uninstall IE from a windows machine (mostly wont come further then disabling functionality, which is also not recommended at all.

Neobond said,
The European versions of Windows don't have a browser installed

They do. IE is still installed and the default browser in european versions. In fact IE can't even be really uninstalled, which in and of itself is a security risk.

Neobond said,

So the ballot screen offers this directly, when it's missing how do you download a browser?

See above.

simplezz said,

They do. IE is still installed and the default browser in european versions. In fact IE can't even be really uninstalled, which in and of itself is a security risk.

See above.

So we just circle back to most people in Europe are beyond computer illiterate? Because even my grandma can figure out how to install a different browser.

Seems like those 'intellectuals' who always thought they were superior to us 'yanks' are starting to steal our idea of spoon feeding society.

KCRic said,
So we just circle back to most people in Europe are beyond computer illiterate? Because even my grandma can figure out how to install a different browser.

Seems like those 'intellectuals' who always thought they were superior to us 'yanks' are starting to steal our idea of spoon feeding society.

It's nothing to do with users, it's about ensuring that they don't gain an advantage by bundling IE. It's about protecting the companies from each other. Troll.

KCRic said,

Seems like those 'intellectuals' who always thought they were superior to us 'yanks' are starting to steal our idea of spoon feeding society.

The generalizations in this thread sicken me.

There's a big difference between bureaucrats and stupid people in society making racist claims against other groups.

That kind of people exist in every group, so please just learn to ignore them instead of stimulating the downward spiral.

Neobond said,
The European versions of Windows don't have a browser installed So the ballot screen offers this directly, when it's missing how do you download a browser?

Go to Start > Run > “cmd” and hit OK. This will load the command prompt.
type “ftp” and hit enter.
type “open releases.mozilla.org” and hit enter.
It will ask for a username, type “anonymous” and hit enter.
It will then ask for a password, type “anonymous” and hit enter.
Open the folder with the latest Windows release of Firefox by typing in:
“cd pub/mozilla.org/firefox/releases/latest/win32/en-US” and then enter.
View the contents of the current directory by typing in “ls” and then enter.
Switch to binary file mode by typing in “type image” and then hit enter.
Choose the directory to download firefox to by typing “lcd C:\” (Typing this will save it right to the root directory of the C: Drive.
When you typed in “ls” from step 7, it should have listed a .exe file for you. As of writing the latest version is Firefox Setup 3.0.11.exe. In this case, we will type in: get “Firefox Setup 3.0.11.exe” (type in the quotes)
Now go check in your c:/ drive, and you should see the .exe file downloaded.
Type “bye” to exit the FTP mode, and then type “exit” to close out of the Command Prompt.

Neobond said,
The European versions of Windows don't have a browser installed So the ballot screen offers this directly, when it's missing how do you download a browser?

In wich country ? I live in EU and all windows versions have IE and WMP - it's the same version sold in US. Never see in the shops the so called Windows for EU - without those.

Zeet said,
Considering Apple is a monopoly now. How long until the EU makes them do this?

Apple doesn't hold a monopoly in any of the markets they participate in.

The EU, what a joke. I'd personally enjoy seeing Microsoft removing themselves and their products outside of Europe and leave them hanging. They most likely wouldn't but it would be a big F-U from Microsoft and no doubt would their be mass chaos with EU bureaucrats left red faced.

Billus said,
I'd personally enjoy seeing Microsoft removing themselves and their products outside of Europe and leave them hanging.

No thanks.

Billus said,
The EU, what a joke. I'd personally enjoy seeing Microsoft removing themselves and their products outside of Europe and leave them hanging.

Will never happen, the EU market is too important for MS.

Billus said,
The EU, what a joke. I'd personally enjoy seeing Microsoft removing themselves and their products outside of Europe and leave them hanging. They most likely wouldn't but it would be a big F-U from Microsoft and no doubt would their be mass chaos with EU bureaucrats left red faced.

Hell yes, because getting the EU to standarize on non MS products is exactly what Microsoft needs.

If Microsoft pulled all their products from the EU the company would become irrelevant pretty soon (not that it would happen anyway since whoever takes that decision would be kicked out by the shareholders in no time).

Billus said,
The EU, what a joke. I'd personally enjoy seeing Microsoft removing themselves and their products outside of Europe and leave them hanging. They most likely wouldn't but it would be a big F-U from Microsoft and no doubt would their be mass chaos with EU bureaucrats left red faced.

Pulling out of the biggest economy in the world? Yeah, right...

M2Ys4U said,

Pulling out of the biggest economy in the world? Yeah, right...

That is debatable. They are very close to the same size. Some reports put the US on top, while others put EU. Depends where you look and what year.

EU=17.5 trillion, US 15 trillion, source Wikipedia 2011. I guess you are right now, but not by much. (even though 2.5 trillion is a lot, ahah)

jamieakers said,
Guessing the fines for Intel and Microsoft last time around weren't quite enough to bail out both Greece and Spain ...

Okay I'll bite. You do realise that the bailouts were on the order of hundreds of billions right? Microsoft only got fined a few hundred million - a drop in the ocean. In fact the EU bailout fund contains a trillion euros now. Microsoft and intel's combined total global profit is like a grain of sand on a desert world compared to that.

simplezz said,

Okay I'll bite. You do realise that the bailouts were on the order of hundreds of billions right? Microsoft only got fined a few hundred million - a drop in the ocean. In fact the EU bailout fund contains a trillion euros now. Microsoft and intel's combined total global profit is like a grain of sand on a desert world compared to that.

I'll bite too. I think he was being sarcastic.

jamieakers said,
Guessing the fines for Intel and Microsoft last time around weren't quite enough to bail out both Greece and Spain ...

Looks like it only took 4 posts this time...

simplezz said,

Okay I'll bite. You do realise that the bailouts were on the order of hundreds of billions right? Microsoft only got fined a few hundred million - a drop in the ocean. In fact the EU bailout fund contains a trillion euros now. Microsoft and intel's combined total global profit is like a grain of sand on a desert world compared to that.

Not true. Those are just guarantees and they represent the will to lend, not give. And 7 bil. EUR is not that far from a deficit of a small country in Europe (think Czech Republic), that is a huge amount of money. Plus it is easier for governments to generate additional revenue compared to a private enterprise.

simplezz said,

Okay I'll bite. You do realise that the bailouts were on the order of hundreds of billions right? Microsoft only got fined a few hundred million - a drop in the ocean. In fact the EU bailout fund contains a trillion euros now. Microsoft and intel's combined total global profit is like a grain of sand on a desert world compared to that.

That was a 'few' hundred million euros, yes? I believe in US dollars it was well over a billion dollars. Which from my understanding is more than just a 'few' hundred million euros. So let's see, MS was fined 1.1 billion US, the current exchange rate makes that ~895.77 million euros.

A 'few' hundred million huh?. A few means three...

KCRic said,
That was a 'few' hundred million euros, yes? I believe in US dollars it was well over a billion dollars. Which from my understanding is more than just a 'few' hundred million euros. So let's see, MS was fined 1.1 billion US, the current exchange rate makes that ~895.77 million euros.

A 'few' hundred million huh?. A few means three...

"Few" doesn't mean any particular number.

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/few

Notice the second usage note.

simplezz said,

Okay I'll bite. You do realise that the bailouts were on the order of hundreds of billions right? Microsoft only got fined a few hundred million - a drop in the ocean. In fact the EU bailout fund contains a trillion euros now. Microsoft and intel's combined total global profit is like a grain of sand on a desert world compared to that.

LOL I think you missed the 'joke'


Seeing how IE has been losing market share at a rapid pace, it would appear that the browser ballot screen did have as significant impact on the platform.

I don't know if it did. If you dismiss the ballot screen you're still defaulted and stuck with IE. And besides, IE has been losing marketshare at a constant rate for years now.

simplezz said,

I don't know if it did. If you dismiss the ballot screen you're still defaulted and stuck with IE. And besides, IE has been losing marketshare at a constant rate for years now.


i remember that when it was introduced IE lost less then 1% in the months after.

Ooopsiemadaisy!!! (said in the voice of arnold schwarzenegger)

On the other hand, the EU bureaucrats are a bunch of nannying, ignorant, robbing poopsters.

WP7 said,
Ooopsiemadaisy!!! (said in the voice of arnold schwarzenegger)

On the other hand, the EU bureaucrats are a bunch of nannying, ignorant, robbing poopsters.

Saying this repeatedly out loud has been the highlight of my morning so far. Thank you, sir.