Yesterday’s confirmation that Windows Vista would be released on schedule this year highlighted the fact that Microsoft made some last minute changes in Vista in to placate the antitrust regulators in the EU and Korea, but was short on details. Those details came later in an press conference held by Brad Smith, Microsoft Senior VP and General Counsel.
Skipping all the European Commission interactions and some earlier changes made, Microsoft agreed to take the following additional actions worldwide with respect to all versions of Vista and Internet Explorer 7 and irrespective of any future legal settlements:
Internet Explorer 7 install offers choice of default search provider:
The Commission advised us to make changes in the upgrade process for users moving from Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 to Internet Explorer 7. We agreed to make these changes. These changes ensure that Windows Vista puts all Internet search services on the same level playing field, so that even when users upgrade from an earlier version of Windows, they will select the search service of their choice.
XML Paper Specification (XPS) submitted to standards body:
The second issue relates to the new file format that we have created for Windows Vista and in Microsoft Office for fixed document formats. This is the XML Paper Specification (XPS) file format, as those of you who have followed this are aware. This is a new format that competes with Adobe’s PDF format. The Commission gave us guidance on this issue. It advised us that it wanted us to submit this new specification to a standards organization. We have agreed to do so. We will move forward to submit the XPS format to an international standards association, and we will be doing that shortly. The Commission also advised that we should make certain changes to the licensing terms on which we make this specification available for other software developers to use in their products. We agreed to make these changes as well.
New Vista security APIs added:
The Commission raised two issues regarding security. The first relates to Windows Security Center and the sending of alerts to computer users by Windows Security Center when there is an alternative or competing security centre also installed on a PC. Following some very constructive conversations, we developed a new engineering approach and have created a new Application Programming Interface (API). With this new API, Windows Security Center will not send an alert to a computer user when there is an alternative security console installed on a PC, and when that security console is sending that same alert itself.
The other security issue that the Commission raised with us related to a feature called PatchGuard, which is in the 64-bit version and only this version of Windows Vista. This is a new technology that Microsoft has created to ensure that the kernel in the operating system remains secure and the code in the kernel is not changed.
Some security vendors expressed some concerns to the Commission, and to us, that they had previously used access to the kernel to facilitate features in their own product and that they would no longer be able to do so. We were concerned that it would be a mistake for the future of computers if PatchGuard were to be removed or eliminated. We devised a new engineering approach that will create and extend new kernel level APIs so that PatchGuard will be retained, the security of the kernel will be protected, and yet security vendors will have an opportunity to meet their needs through these kernel level API extensions.
Just the other day, Microsoft was “standing firm” on PatchGuard, but everything is mutable, I guess. Frankly, none of these actions are a big deal for Microsoft and don’t really seem all that useful for competitors except for the security changes. The key point, though, is that while they aren’t a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, Microsoft has clearly managed to placate the EU bureaucrats at minimal cost which is just what they should be doing. “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
As for Korea, the details weren’t crisp other than that Microsoft will apparently provide special Korean Vista versions without a bundled media player or instant messaging client just as they had done for Windows XP. Same story as the EU on the implications.