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Windows RT Browser Restrictions Draw Antitrust Attention 375

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-like-deja-vu-but-different dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Last week we heard complaints from Mozilla that Windows RT would restrict users' choice in web browsers, unfairly favoring Internet Explorer over alternatives like Firefox and Chrome. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the situation is now on the Senate Judiciary Committee's radar, and they will look into claims that Microsoft is engaging in anti-competitive behavior. That said, it could be a difficult case to make, since Windows RT is destined for ARM-based tablets, and Apple currently dominates that market. 'When it comes to proving abuse of monopoly power, an important question is determining the market in which a monopolist has power — the relevant market, in antitrust legal terms. In the [late '90s] DOJ case, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's findings of fact concluded Microsoft had a monopoly in the market for "Intel-compatible PC operating systems." Windows on ARM doesn't run on x86 chips, so by Jackson's standards, Windows RT hasn't been judged to be part of Microsoft's monopoly.' Microsoft addressed some of these issues in a blog post in February."
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Windows RT Browser Restrictions Draw Antitrust Attention

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  • by recoiledsnake (879048) on Monday May 14, 2012 @01:44PM (#39997657)

    "There' is no tablet market. There is only an iPad market" say the fans and Apple gets away with not only bundling Safari but banning all other browser engines. Yet Microsoft with it's 0.1% share of tablets in the "Post-PC world" gets flogged for this.

    • by mystikkman (1487801) on Monday May 14, 2012 @01:49PM (#39997725)

      "There' is no tablet market. There is only an iPad market" say the fans and Apple gets away with not only bundling Safari but banning all other browser engines. Yet Microsoft with it's 0.1% share of tablets in the "Post-PC world" gets flogged for this.

      Dude, haven't you gotten the memo?

      "It's OK for Apple to block Firefox, but wrong when Microsoft does it".
      http://tinyurl.com/d2m8qs3 [tinyurl.com]
      (Sorry for tinyurl, it's legit I promise, Slashdot filters the link because it's too long).

      Not to mention Apple's worse actions like forcing their in-app payments and their 30% cut of even in-app purchases(driving many apps, esp. ebook related ones out of the market) and even forcing developers not to charge Android users less for the same services from the money they save from not paying the 30% tithe to Apple.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cpu6502 (1960974)

        >>>Microsoft with it's 0.1% share of tablets in the "Post-PC world" gets flogged for this.

        You jumped the gun.
        MS has not been flogged (punished) yet.
        If you mean they are being investigated, well of course, since they are a convicted monopolist both here (had to pay a fine) and in the EU (required to provide a browser choice window to users). It's only natural they would be investigated given their past.

        And do I think Apple needs to be investigated for Sherman Antitrust violations? Yeah absolutely.

      • Because Firefox can be on iOS if it wants to convert firefox to use webkit. Secondly Apple doesn't have a monopoly to abuse. Where as Microsoft is a convicted monopolist who can still use its huge desktop market share to help gain and edge where it's failing elsewhere.
        • by Bacon Bits (926911) on Monday May 14, 2012 @05:17PM (#40000101)

          Secondly Apple doesn't have a monopoly to abuse.

          Most estimates I've seen put Apple in as 60-70% of the tablet market share. They alone control the hardware channel, the OS channel, and the third party application store for their product. You can't buy an iPad without iOS, you can't buy iOS without an iPad, and you can't install an application without Apple allowing it on their store.

          Who's not a monopoly now?

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Sorry for tinyurl, it's legit I promise, Slashdot filters the link because it's too long

        No it doesn't. [computerworld.com] The only time you might need a shortened URL here is in your sig. When I'm moderating, I almost always mark a post with a shortened URL as "troll" without even looking, because it's a way to sneak goatse past. I only followed your short link because your comment had been modded +5. The link I posted is the full link to where your shortened one goes.

        Hope I helped.

    • by Microlith (54737)

      There have been complaints leveled at Apple for years but the legions rush to their defense.

    • by Moses48 (1849872)

      The first time I heard about people being upset that winRT only supported IE as its default browser I thought that Microsoft must of thought of this (think anti-trust with IE in europe).

      The only reason to do this is either they think they can change it once it becomes a dominant player, or they want to force the issue so Apple must change. I can't think of any benefit to M$ for making Apple open up it's browser integration in iOS. But someone let me know if there is a benefit?

      My guess is they thought thro

    • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday May 14, 2012 @02:00PM (#39997907) Homepage

      The point of antitrust laws is not to block monopolies. The point is to block anticompetitive behavior (which often, but not always, follows monopolies). Microsoft has a long history of aggressively anticompetitive tactics, where Apple has comparatively little.

      Apple has also publicly stated the reason for the ban on other engines (coherent UI bahavior), which is perfectly in line with (and necessary for) their business model of producing devices that look and feel the same. Microsoft, on the other hand, has provided no reason (to my knowledge), and does not have any history of using such restrictions to actually improve the end product.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        So, I don't follow your logic. Lets say I buy a car. But the dealership decides to put a lock on my engine hood, so I can't open it. Then a few thousand miles later, I go to put oil in my car. But I can't, because its locked. So I take it to the dealer and say, hey, unlock my car so I can put oil in it. And they say, sorry sir, only we are allowed to put the oil in, and it will cost X amount. And we are the only ones that can do it. We won't unlock it for you, or any other mechanic shop.

        That's not a

        • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday May 14, 2012 @02:53PM (#39998445) Homepage

          The devil's in the details... If your car was sold to you under a big banner that says "every part is certified by $BRAND to be right for the car" and the $BRAND reputation is built on parts all working together perfectly, that's not anti-competitive. That's just plain old lock-in. Still bad in my opinion, but not illegal, and certainly not running afoul of antitrust laws. Anyone buying a $BRAND-brand car likely knows that they're locked down, and is paying a premium for that near-perfect operation. The lock is a part of the car's quality-control design.

          On the other hand, if your car's reputation is based on being a generic vehicle and the brand has been built on support for aftermarket parts, a sudden addition of a locked hood, while requiring the expensive oil and limited service locations, would be seen as anti-competitive.

          Law is not a computer program. It's based on human judges interpreting guidelines to maintain a society. They can look at history and reputation in their decisions, to judge the likelyhood of an entity, corporate or individual, breaking the spirit of the law. Apple's just not that likely to screw over other mobile device makers like Microsoft is.

          • Going along with that analogy, MS can claim that Windows RT is a new brand and that Windows 8 is the old generic brand.

            >Apple's just not that likely to screw over other mobile device makers like Microsoft is.

            HAHAHAHAHAHA what? We are talking about browser makers here, not mobile device makers. They already got screwed by Apple.

          • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Monday May 14, 2012 @04:59PM (#39999887) Homepage Journal

            Still bad in my opinion, but not illegal

            Warren Magnuson and John Moss [wikipedia.org] would like a word with you:

            Warrantors cannot require that only branded parts be used with the product in order to retain the warranty. This is commonly referred to as the "tie-in sales" provisions, and is frequently mentioned in the context of third-party computer parts, such as memory and hard drives.

            So yes, your hypothetical scenario is specifically illegal. That law is why you can buy Fram air filters (instead of AC Delco), Pennzoil 10W-30 (instead of Ford Lubr-o-matic), and Shell gas (instead of Huile d'Fiat) without voiding your car's warranty.

            On the other hand, if your car's reputation is based on being a generic vehicle and the brand has been built on support for aftermarket parts, a sudden addition of a locked hood, while requiring the expensive oil and limited service locations, would be seen as anti-competitive.

            And illegal. There are times when car analogies are appropriate and reasonable. This isn't one of them.

    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      The question I suppose is then whether the iPad exists at all because there is no MS slate. If Microsoft made a half arsed effort to get slates out there would they completely destroy the iPad and Android sales by virtue of using their monopoly in x86 to crush the non MS ARM business.

      I would think this is a tricky dance for MS. Ideally Windows 8 slates should play nice with Windows 8 desktops and there should be some compelling reason to have windows 8 on both. But making that 'compelling reason' versus

    • THIS

      What Microsoft is doing is nothing compared to what Apple has been doing pretty much since the launch of iOS - and they have a far greater mobile market share than MS ever did - and yet not only do we not see this elephant in the room, but when an anteater steps in we call it an elephant and shoo it out.

    • First part of the definition of monopoly power is market share large enough to control the market. Within monopoly power, the consumer must not have suitable alternatives and the barrier to entry must be sufficiently high to preclude competition. This is not the tablet situation. You can get all sorts of different tablets today including Windows ones. The fact is that Apple has dominated the market despite other tablets being offered. Second, it's no illegal per se to have a monopoly. It's illegal to
    • Apple doesn't have 100% of the tablet market. They don't even have 70%. I believe in fact they only have around 50%. You can have other browsers on iOS devices and they exist. The caveat is it has to use webkit which would be ok for chrome but obviously not Firefox.
    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      Don't be ridiculous; there's certainly a "tablet market". Of course, it's utterly dominated by Apple's iPad, but there are other vendors selling tables, such as the Kindle Fire. The alternatives may be selling in much, much lower quantities than the iPad, but they are out there; I think I even saw some Samsung tablet in CostCo recently.

      You're right of course about Apple getting away with things that MS can't, but that's what MS gets for being a convicted monopolist; everything they do now is subject to ex

  • iPad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 14, 2012 @01:44PM (#39997665)

    So why isn't Apple under the same type of scrutiny?

    • Re:iPad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by camperdave (969942) on Monday May 14, 2012 @02:11PM (#39998017) Journal
      Because Apple doesn't sell operating systems for generic computers. Apple only makes OSs for Apple products. If Microsoft only made OSs for Microsoft computers, they wouldn't get this kind of scrutiny either.
      • by bws111 (1216812)

        Oh, bullshit. The question is not does Apple make OS's for other products, it is can anyone else make stuff for Apple's product. Microsoft did not get in trouble because it made browsers that ran on other OS's, it got in trouble because they made it difficult for someone else to make (and sell) a browser for THEIR OS. IBM did not get in trouble because they made software that ran on other systems, they got in trouble because they made it difficult for others to make software that ran on IBMs systems.

        • Microsoft got in trouble because the leveraged a monopoly in one market (desktop operating systems) to get an unfair advantage in another (web browsers).

          Apple does not have a monopoly.

          • by bws111 (1216812)

            That is true, but it still has absolutely nothing nothing to do with what the GP said and was somehow modded insightful.

    • Because they are making closed-and-locked toys, so it's a waste of time to even consider them, whereas with the generic tablet HW a user who's not content with The Manufacturer's One and Only OS still has some modest chance of running the SW he wants to run on it?
  • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday May 14, 2012 @01:52PM (#39997775) Homepage

    I don't think the fact Apple doesn't allow this kind of thing matters. Apple has a very clear differentiation of products. The desktops/laptops run a different OS from the iPads. I'm going to ignore the "Apple shouldn't be able to do this" argument, which I don't really disagree with. The fact is that's status quo.

    With Windows 8, all tablets get the same interface and run the same software. The difference is that, based on something esoteric to the population at large (the architecture of the CPU), you lose the ability to load some kinds of software. Not because that software wasn't ported, but because it can't be ported without being severely crippled. What this means is that when someone buys a tablet from BestBuy, they may or may not be able to run the software they expect. Some Windows 8 software runs on everything, some Windows 8 software doesn't. What's the lesson? That FireFox thing doesn't always work. Just use the built in stuff or you'll have problems.

    If MS was clearly positioning the ARM tablets as something different from the non-ARM tablets, that would be different. They may call it "Windows RT", but when two tablets are in the store next to each other, looking identical, running identical interfaces, I think it's fair to say they're the same. Duck typing for tablets. Since I'd expect ARM tablets to really take off due to cost and efficiency, this certainly seems like a round about way to force people to use IE.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Nope.

      Win RT only allows for Metro apps (aside from Office and IE). It's NOT the same as x86 Windows.

      The power of x86 tablets is that they will run REAL Windows and can all Metro AND classic apps. Win RT is a subset of Windows.

      • So, the Grand Unification of Windows that MS is promissing for ages will create... 2 versions of Windows? One for desktops, another one for portables?

      • by MBCook (132727)

        Right, but MS is clearly pushing Metro style apps as the "correct" future direction. If you don't use the older desktop style apps, you could easily have the same experience with both Windows 8 and Windows RT.

        What do most users spend their time on their computers doing? Web browsing, email, IM, and maybe iTunes/WMP for music, games. All those will be available in Metro.

        I think for the average user, it will be quite easy to stay in Metro all the time, leading to the possible confusion.

    • If MS was clearly positioning the ARM tablets as something different from the non-ARM tablets, that would be different.

      Shouldn't that be "If MS will be"? Or is the U.S. already being flooded with marketing material in which there's little to no differentiation being made, for devices that do not yet publicly exist running operating systems that are not as of yet finalized?

      Because it's either that, or we're making assumptions here for the sake of bolstering arguments.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The desktops/laptops run a different OS from the iPads.

      Not really.

  • Monopoly chain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday May 14, 2012 @02:01PM (#39997911) Homepage

    The chain's going to go more like this:

    1. Your business network runs on Windows. MS has a monopoly here.
    2. If you want a phone/tablet that integrates with your business network, you need to have one that runs Windows RT. Others won't be given access to what they need to integrate smoothly.
    3. And if you want a browser on your Windows RT phone/tablet, it must be Internet Explorer. Others won't be allowed.

    Whether Microsoft has a monopoly in ARM-based tablets or not is irrelevant. It has a monopoly in the desktop and business-network market, and it's using that monopoly to gain advantages in the ARM-based phone/tablet OS and browser markets.

    • Concering point 2, With Windows 8, Microsoft is adding VDI licensing [crn.com] which boils down to: tablet access requires a CDL license (which costs extra). Unless you're using Windows R/T, of course.
  • Apple... (Score:5, Informative)

    by ericloewe (2129490) on Monday May 14, 2012 @02:09PM (#39998001)

    Please remind me what Apple's stance on browsers for their iDevices is.

    Right...

    What's Apple's share again? At least 90%, you say?

    Right...

    What's Microsoft's share? 0% in ARM tablets?

    Right...

    But Apple hasn't done this before! What? They kept certain OS functions reserved for Safari?

    And Microsoft gets flak for disallowing other browsers in desktop mode? How often is an ARM tablet user going to use desktop IE? Other browsers are still allowed on the store, so it's not a case of locking other browsers out.

    • So if you want a tablet, your only choice is Apple right? Unlike when you want an OS for your Dell computer, you can pick anything you want. That's the first difference. The fact that Apple has 90% despite competition. Second remember how MS threatened Intel not to make a Java VM for Intel, Apple totally did that with ARM and Android. Wait, no that didn't happen. Besides any investigation will be in how MS will use this in furtherance of Windows not ARM.
  • by Erbo (384) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .obreerbo.> on Monday May 14, 2012 @02:21PM (#39998125) Homepage Journal
    It's obvious that Windows RT is going to be extremely different from Windows as we know it, in terms of UI, operating paradigm, openness to outside software (you have to go through Microsoft's app store and give them their cut, plus these new tablets will be locked down to only running WinRT), and so forth.

    So why is Microsoft still calling it "Windows"?

    Apple doesn't call its OS for iPad/iPhone/etc. "OSX" anything, even though that's what it's derived from. It calls it "iOS."

    So can't Microsoft pick another name for this thing, just to eliminate confusion? Like, say, call it "Metro OS," after the visual style it uses?

    • by Moses48 (1849872)

      Apple doesn't call its OS for iPad/iPhone/etc. "OSX" anything, even though that's what it's derived from. It calls it "iOS."

      you forgot your /sarcasm

    • Because MS always called their portable OS Windows. What is interesting is that they were just anouncing that Windows 8 would be the same on portables or desktops. That'll teach people to trust MS' PR... oh wait, it won't, people don't learn.

      Other intersting detail is that they are differentiating it based on the processor architecture. It is as if MS wants us to think that ARM is only good for toys, and real computers must be x86. (I bet Intel likes that.) Well, that may be true fow Windows, for now, but p

    • by ratboy666 (104074)

      "...WOA builds on the foundation of Windows, has a very high degree of commonality and very significant shared code with Windows 8, and will be developed for, sold, and supported as part of the largest computing ecosystem in the world."
      Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft

      And THAT'S why -- Microsoft wants to have a single ecosystem.

      Further

      "Metro style apps in the Windows Store can support both WOA and Windows 8 on x86/64." Steven Sinofsky

      (note that WOA is "Windows On ARM")

  • by WD (96061)

    Am I the only one who thought of Windows RG upon seeing the headline?
    http://www.deanliou.com/WinRG/WinRG2.htm [deanliou.com]

    • by Tarlus (1000874)

      I had thought the same thing. "RT" could stand for a lot of fun things. Like Windows "Rectal Thermometer" edition.

  • app store censorship is an issue and with the lock in is a even bigger one.

    and censorship can be API locks and saying you can't compete with a build in app.

    no emulations is censorship as well.

    Also adult games / apps should be in the store even if they a hidden in away where you have to go to the adult room.

    Now the 30% cut along with the 30% cut of in app purchase may be antitrust as well.

  • by Targon (17348) on Monday May 14, 2012 @03:38PM (#39998941)

    I am not being anti-Microsoft here, but more to the point, if Microsoft is investigated for this issue, then Microsoft will easily also point the finger at Apple already doing this. Once that happens, both Microsoft AND Apple will get yelled at for it, but since Windows 8 is not released yet, Microsoft can get away with only a warning, while Apple may get a huge fine.

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Monday May 14, 2012 @03:56PM (#39999167) Homepage

    The market where Microsoft has monopoly is not just "desktop operating systems" but also "operating systems for general-purpose interactive computer devices". Even counting existing tablets as "general-purpose", what is a stretch for things like iPad, Microsoft is still a monopoly due to overwhelming numbers of PCs. Windows 8 for ARM is firmly in that category. It's marketed as the same Windows, just for smaller devices (just like Windows CE was, except then it was a lie, and now it mostly is not).

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