EU let Microsoft police itself on browser ballot promises

Legal critic wonders why regulators put 'a three-time offender' on the honor system

By , Computerworld |  IT Management

Today, Microsoft reiterated what it has said since mid-2012. "We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologized for it," the company said in a statement. "We provided the Commission with a complete and candid assessment of the situation, and we have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake -- or anything similar -- in the future."

Microsoft's quick admission of the omission, multiple apologies, and cooperation with the EU authorities, were factors Almunia took into consideration when deciding on a fine, he said today.

According to Microsoft, the browser ballot was left out of Windows 7 SP1 when an engineering team forgot to update code that distributed the choice screen.

Microsoft did not report the oversight to the Commission: As late as December 2011, months after the ballot stopped being shown, Microsoft reported that everything was fine. Instead, an unnamed complainant alerted the EU. Almunia has declined to identify the complaint's origin, but one possible suspect is Mozilla, which has been the most vocal of all of Microsoft's browser rivals about its practices.

Lande thought the explanation incredulous. "You can't say it's accidental for 15 months," he argued today. "Microsoft says it was a technical glitch, okay, one month, I understand, you left it out of a batch. But not for 15 months. That doesn't look like an accident to me."

It's unlikely that Microsoft will appeal the fine, what with its public apologies and admission of guilt. Today, however, the company declined to comment on its plans.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Read more about gov't legislation/regulation in Computerworld's Gov't Legislation/Regulation Topic Center.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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