EU Versus Microsoft

6/1/2005 2:47:49 PM

EU Versus Microsoft

I am not very fond of Microsoft’s actions towards competitors in the past, but I am even less appreciative of the current EU position on Microsoft regarding the Windows Media issue.

Microsoft submitted a proposal last night to meet a deadline and avoid paying another half-billion dollars in fines. I discovered sometime ago that the EU required Microsoft not only to remove the Windows Media, but also all associated libraries and controls that third-parties could use. Shortly afterwards, there were reported problems with existing applications.

I think the EU has a static view of technology and views video more as an application rather than an essential operating system feature.  I see video controls as being a important royalty-free inclusion to the platform as text and other controls, especially in the future as it becomes easier to create and distribute video content. Video currently is not pervasive, because of current bandwidth and size issues in distributing them and the effort and time in creatng them, but, in the future with Moore's Law and easier and better integrated software and peripherals, we could expect this to change.

I wonder what implications this would have for Avalon, which does includes video elements tightly integrated and optimized in its framework, with rich compositing and transformation support. Must it be stripped out per EU order.

Because of this decision, consumers or OEMs or publisher may have to pay an additional cost for video functionality, which was previously free. I don't think it would have much impact in the marketplace adoption of Windows Media, since none of the major OEMs see a compelling business proposition in abandoning Windows Media. On the other hand, ISVs now have to worry about redistributing operating system components with their applications. These components are likely to be larger than the application themselves and may also introduce instability due to versioning issues; application, particular online-distributed software, which won't tolerate a hefty bump in package distribution size, may forgo support for video altogether.

Real Networks benefits most from this, but their integration story with Windows is poor. For example, Real offers fewer display options and doesn't work with multiple monitors. Real's business model is based on a sensible, but self-serving, model capturing value from the larger group of customers and not on thorough implementation across the platform. The best bet for Real is in providing a single multi-platform solution.

I also have a similar view of Internet Explorer. While we do complain about the lack of innovation in IE 6, it did help through the Windows Internet libraries and controls to standardized protocols and web practices on the web and make it extremely easy for applications to integrate both Internet access and HTML rendering into their user interfaces. IE serves as a base level of functionality. If every Windows application were writing its own code for web access, we would have a complicated testing scenario.

The counterargument is that innovation is being slowed. Real Networks is dedicated to video, and more likely to pursue advances in that arena. Is this an argument that one could make about other controls in the API set, such as text control?

I think that having technology freely available at the API level for all applications is generally superior to technology encased in a single application with a fee attached. As for innovation being blocked, I think it is still possible for other parties to provide more advanced alternative controls or to build on top of the base level work that Microsoft provider.

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Net Undocumented is a blog about the internals of .NET including Xamarin implementations. Other topics include managed and web languages (C#, C++, Javascript), computer science theory, software engineering and software entrepreneurship.

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