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March 29, 2006

EU warns Microsoft on Vista antitrust

Posted by David Hunter at 9:52 AM ET.

Aoife White at the AP:

Microsoft Corp.’s new Vista operating system is still months away from hitting the market, but the European Union already has concerns the software could break antitrust rules.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has written to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to outline concerns that Vista’s new functions will mean customers will not be offered a real choice on software packages, EU spokesman Jonathan Todd said Wednesday.

“We’re concerned about the possibility that the next Vista operating system will include various elements which are currently available separately either from Microsoft or other companies,” he told reporters.

He highlighted Vista’s integrated Internet search, digital rights management used to protect copyrights and software that would create fixed-document formats comparable to Adobe’s pdf.

He said Kroes’ letter to Ballmer came after Microsoft asked regulators to set out any possible antitrust problems with Vista, stressing that it was not the start of any formal probe into the new operating system.

An interesting list, but I don’t think that if I were playing antitrust watchdog, I would have picked any of them except perhaps the Adobe pdf item. How about parental controls, application transfer, or antispyware? Speaking of the latter, the current antispyware vendors are putting on a brave face:

Vista will hit the market primarily as a desktop operating system upgrade, an area where Microsoft’s market position has remained dominant over the last decade.

However, the software also represents Microsoft’s most aggressive effort to date at spiriting away some of the money its customers spend on security applications meant to protect earlier versions of Windows.

Based on that strategy, which involves the inclusion in Vista of tools for fighting worms, viruses, rootkits and spyware, some experts are predicting that life will be much harder for the security software vendors who have turned fighting vulnerabilities in Microsoft products into a lucrative business.

Think of it as European Commission bait.

Filed under Antitrust, General Business, Governmental Relations, Legal, Microsoft, OS - Client, Windows Vista

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