October 13, 2006 8:59 AM PDT

Microsoft changes Vista over antitrust concerns

Microsoft said it has made changes to its Windows Vista operating system in response to concerns raised by antitrust officials in Europe and Korea.

Despite the changes, Vista remains on schedule for worldwide release to corporate customers in November and to consumers in January, Microsoft said on Friday.

Microsoft officials said they now feel comfortable that they have addressed the three main concerns European Commission regulators raised last month.

Inside Vista

Last month, the Commission expressed concerns over the search, file-formatting and security features that Microsoft was planning to put into its next-generation operating system. Those matters emerged out of concerns the Commission voiced in March.

"Constructive dialogue followed...and Microsoft has made changes in each of the three areas," said Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel. He noted that the Commission provided the clarity the software giant was seeking in order to make the changes. "It's a lot easier to abide by the speed limit when you know what the speed limit is."

As part of the changes, users will be able to select which search service they want to use when upgrading to Internet Explorer 7 from IE 6, Smith said.

The software giant aims to address the controversy surrounding Microsoft's XPS file-formatting capabilities and Adobe Systems' rival PDF by submitting its XPS specifications to a standards body, as well as changing the licensing terms for developers who wish to use the technology, Smith said.

Microsoft also said it would make changes to the way it license the XPS format. The company had already said it would be licensed royalty-free. However, in an effort to make it compatible with open source licenses, such as the General Public License, Microsoft said Thursday that it is also adding an agreement not to sue for intellectual property infringement over the use of XPS.

In another change, Microsoft had planned to lock down its Vista kernel in 64-bit systems, but will now allow other security developers to have access to the kernel via an API extension, Smith said. Additionally, Microsoft will make it possible for security companies to disable certain parts of the Windows Security Center when a third-party security console is installed, the company said.

Security companies had complained that a kernel protection feature called PatchGuard in 64-bit versions of Vista not only locked out hackers but also prevented some security software from running.

Microsoft had maintained that a complete lock on the kernel, a core part of Windows, would provide the best operating-system security and stability. Now Microsoft has committed to providing programming techniques that will enable third-party security products to access the Windows kernel in a secure manner.

Windows Security Center is a key piece of Windows Vista real estate. It tells people the status of security on their Vista PC, such as whether antivirus software or a firewall is installed and running.

The security companies had asked for the ability to replace the operating system's security console with their products. Microsoft had resisted the call but is now giving in, at least in part.

Microsoft will provide a way to ensure that Windows Security Center will not send an alert to a computer user when a competing security console is installed on the PC and is sending the same alert, the company said.

"The commissioner was firm and emphatic that we make these changes," Smith said.

Smith noted, however, that despite these changes, there is no guarantee that the European Commission will ultimately be satisfied with Vista and forgo any antitrust penalties.

Neelie Kroes, the commissioner at the European Union's top antitrust authority, told reporters on Friday that she had spoken to Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer on Thursday evening.

"He announced that they have intention to ship (Vista) globally," she told reporters on the sidelines of a competition conference in Italy.

After a years-long antitrust case against Microsoft, Kroes warned Microsoft last March that she had concerns about Vista. And in early September, the software company raised the possibility of delaying the launch of Vista in Europe alone on the concerns of the Commission, saying it was unsure what the regulator required of its new product.

The Commission has long said it is up to a company to ensure that its products comply with European Union laws.

"(Ballmer) was aware that he shouldn't ask me if I could give a green light to (Vista), and rightly so," Kroes said of her conversation with the Microsoft executive.

"Microsoft has to be aware that they have a responsibility to take into account the European regulations and European rules, and I am expecting that they are doing that," she said.

The standoff between the software giant and the Commission is the latest in a lengthy spat between the two.

In 2004, the Commission found that Microsoft had abused its market dominance in media players and office servers. It forced the U.S. company to strip out Windows Media Player from its operating system.

The Commission levied a record $624 million (497 million euro) fine at the time. In July, EU regulators fined the company a further $352 million for defying the ruling, which required it to share information on its servers with rivals.

Microsoft faces a further fine of up to $3.8 million a day if found still not in compliance with the ruling.

CNET News.com's Joris Evers and Reuters contributed to this report.

See more CNET content tagged:
Brad Smith, antitrust, security company, commission, kernel

26 comments

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WORLD "CUP" CRICKET 2007!
As this article states - "Neelie Kroes, the commissioner at the European Union's top antitrust authority, told reporters on Friday she had spoken to Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer on Thursday evening.

"He announced that they have intention to ship it (Vista) globally," she told reporters on the sidelines of a competition conference in Italy."; Well, just like World "Cup" Soccer... Microsoft must get its acts together in offering VISTA globally (remember Windows Media Player - not the EU Version though) if it does not wish upset those millions and millions of "cricket" fans around the world who may wish to upgrade from their "low cost" WINDOWS insted of travelling by (Oops, I almost wrote the EU's CONCORDE) to see the International "Cricket" Matches. I can do with VISTA on Christmas Day 2006!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
GEEZ.....
.... talking about the getting a flight on the CONCORDE... but; if even I could have afforded a cheaper flight on the EU's AIRBUS 380 (if it was ready in time (oops... some successful US software company's money needed here) to the CARIBBEAN to see WORLD "CUP" CRICKET 2007... just where will it "land" and yet some wish to restrict design changes in such a "simple" and "small" item like my "STAY-AT-HOME-AND-WATCH-VISTA". GEEZ! The way to go Europe - it is better to disrupt the operations of a successful US software company than loosing an International Cricket Match!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Link Flag
What?! M$ caught up in antitrust?!
GET OUT! Big bad M$ caught up in antitrust issues?
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.teckmagazine.com/content/view/690/43/" target="_newWindow">http://www.teckmagazine.com/content/view/690/43/</a>
That seems so hard to believe. &lt;end sarcasm&gt;
Posted by cnutsucks (25 comments )
Link Flag
Probably a good development for IT industry
This, hopefully, is a good development for the IT industry. Certainly, the process could have been smoother. Yet, I think it's better that some regulatory clarity can be achieved before products go to market - it helps the IT channel deliver with more certainty, and consumers get products that are innovative with a minimum of government interaction. Importantly, this goes for market leaders and those who wish to be.
Posted by mwendy (64 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"The software giant aims to address.."
z z z z z....

Propaganda puts me to sleep..
Posted by imacpwr (456 comments )
Reply Link Flag
security changes
you gotta be friggan kidding right?

Are they bending now and letting symantec and mcafee and the rest of the crapware disable the security center, this is probably the worst change MS could do

The orginal way (Microsoft Security Center)
Green: good
Yellow: please check
Red: in trouble

Thats all that is needed, most users don't want to be bother they just want to be safe, and since Microsoft designed the vista os, that puts them at the very best person to do this.

Now lets look at the new model for crapware to disable the security center and run there software

green: no green its been disabled
yellow: no yellow its been disabled
red: no red its been disabled

Instead this is what we have

ALERT YOU ARE USING YOU COMPUTER
ALERT THIS SITE MAY BE A PHISHING SITE
ALERT A FIREWALL RULL NEEDS TO BE ALLOWED
PRESS YES TO ALLOW PRESS YES TO ALLOW FOR THE FURTURE PRESS NO TO ALLOW
ALERT YOUR PRESSED YOUR KEBOARD
ALERT WE FOUND A SUSPICIOS FILE, DO YOU WANT TO QAURENTINE FHFHFH.DLL
ALERT YOU NEED A CRAPWARE UPDATE
ALERT YOU NEED TO PAY FOR THIS
ALERT FIREWALL CHANGE ALLOWED
ALERT YOU LOGGED INTO WINDOWS
DO YOU WANT TO SETUP A FIREWALL TO ALLOW THIS?
DO YOU WANT TO SETUP A FIREWALL TO DISSALLLOW THIS?
ALERT YOU NEED TO PAY FOR THIS
ALERT WE ARE SUCKING ALL THE PROCESSES OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM
ALERT WE HAVE DETECTED SPYWARE
ALERT WE HAVE DETECTED SPYWARE
ALERT THERE IS A VIRUS WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?
ALERT YOU NEED TO PAY FOR THIS
ALERT THERE HAS BEEN A FIREWALL CHANGE.

Its gonna be great, the vista os is a nice clean os and safe through windows protection but all a new pc buyer will see is the same crapware clogging up there system, I hope that MS bends on Patchguard also so hackers can get in there too.

Can't wait to tell people that buy vista to uninstall this crap, get a refund and run windows security.

also isn't it a monopoly to disable all windows security and load crapware on a new system without even asking the person if he wants it? How about this include a cd when the person buys it and for some reason they want to load it they can, don't make them spend a half an hour uninstalling all the crapware???

Vista just dropped down a knotch
Posted by mcepat (118 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Give 'em the finger
One of these days I wish MS would take itself private (they have the cash to do it) and tell the European Union of Socialist Republics to take a hike. Don't like the software? Fine, no more MS products for sale in Europe. Let Neelie Kroes write some code.
Posted by solrosenberg (124 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Give him education
Dear solrosenberg,
Anti-monopoly laws are here to ensure free competition.
If you have studied a bit after your childish childhood, you will know that a vendor wants to sell his products and not restrict his market because some '**** write down his piteous litany made of a huge amount of ignorance and a certain mental or emotional disorders...

Keywords to educate yourself: monopoly, trust, anti-trust law, european politics, Europe, socialism (AFAIK a majority of governments in Europe are conservatives).
Posted by Sensi23 (1 comment )
Link Flag
No doubt
Lets see how well they do having to migrate their infrastructure to Linux. This is a shameless shakedown. Does Apple get sued for bundling Quicktime and iChat? Soon car manufacturers are going to be in violation of anti-trust laws because they bundle their cars with factory steering wheels and windshield wipers(or more aptly, car stereos and cellphones...even OnStar). Get a clue Europe, and stop trying to shakedown the company that keeps the world going and connected.
Posted by NerdPatrolAJ (7 comments )
Link Flag
Safety and Security Issues!
Isn't it rather funny that this article states that "Last month, the Commission expressed concerns over the search, file-formatting and security features that Microsoft was planning to put into its next-generation operating system. Those matters emerged out of concerns the Commission voiced in March...". Why on Earth does the European Commission wishes to influence what security products must be integrated in computer products that will be sold in Russia, China, India , Brazil or for that matter - any other country outside of the European Union when the European Commission does not have jurisdiction over these countries and does not have the "manufacturing capabilities" and "skills set" of all these countries combined. Small wonder that a less that the stringent and prudent application of requirements resulted in the poor performances in certain sectors of the European aviation and information technology industries.

As the International Standards Organization (ISO) is to certain industries around the world; why not let the international market place set the standards to which software companies like the Microsoft Corporation and all else that wish to compete must perform.
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Software giant says: Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum! I smell the blood...
Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!
I smell the blood of an EU citizen.
Be he 'live, or be he dead,
I'll grind his bones to make my bread.


(I like giants, they're so... big.)
Posted by dotmike (154 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Especially if the giant cannot fight back
It is easy to take a bite at such a big jucy giant, since it will not bite back. Don't say anything bad about Moslims or gansters because you may get killed. But with Microsoft, you can kick, bite, spit to, throw stones at, and it will never bite back and hurt you in anyways. So, it is perfect for breakfast, or lunch, or dinner. In fact it is good 24x7, and you don't even need to keep it refrigerated.

Don't you love Microsoft?
Posted by fc11 (48 comments )
Link Flag
We KNOW what MS says. They are full of it.
Microsoft can't even admit it's a monopoly! Even after being told so
by the US court!

Talk about denial.
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You don't know what monopoly is.
Google -&gt; define monopoly: (economics) a market in which there are many buyers but only one seller.

Market: OS.
Buyers: many.
Sellers: Microsoft, Apple, Unix and more.

Conclusion: they are right, they are not a monopoly.
Talk about ignorance.
Posted by Ryo Hazuki (378 comments )
Link Flag
Regarding The Security Companies
If security companies can get into the kernel thru patchguard, then so can the hackers. End of story. If Microsoft decides to fix their system security, these security companies are out of luck, and they know it. They only exist because Microsoft is being forced by the The Peoples Republic Of Europe, a.k.a. The European Union to make their security systems insecure, so that these idiots can keep their jobs.

Thousands of jobs are outsourced or removed every year in other fields due to new technology, and new jobs are created which are a higher quality, thats how the world progresses. The sooner that Microsoft is allowed to secure their systems, the sooner they can save the world billions of dollars worth of unnecessary tech support, security "bloatware", like the crap labelled by the McAfee and Norton security product lines.

There was a day when you had to buy a TCP/IP stack for your OS if you wanted to do networking, now any OS worth a damn has it built in for free. Security shouldnt be an add-on product, it should be a feature. When i turn on my computer, i want it to work, i dont want to have to PAY MORE to make sure that it doesnt stop working on me, i already paid for the system folks. This is just a natural progression of reality, so live with it.

If Microsoft says tomorrow that they are no longer selling to european countries due to inabilities to comply with the communist european union, what will happen to europe? After about 10 years, nobody will be developing software for Windows XP, and so european companies will either have to switch systems on a massive scale, or be set back by having an antiquated system platform, and be unable to compete with companies from other countries. Then what will the EU do, charge a fee to all non european companies who operate in europe, due to the fact that the european companies cannot compete?

EU: If you want to control the world, get it over with and declare war on the USA already, oh wait, thats right, you dont want to die, you just like ******** and complaining.
Posted by TheMikeness (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How is that Microsoft's Fault?
The EU should be trying to force american computer OEM companies to sell systems with Mac and linux/bsd variants on them, rather than trying to tell the biggest software company in the world what to do an how to do it.

The way business works is you do what will make you the most money, to give value to the stock holders. If computer stores would bother to sell windows alternatives, windows would not be such a "monopoly", and the developers would be forced to develop on may systems. As it is today, most companies develop their products to work on multiple Operating Systems, its just that small-time developers find it alot easier to develop a useful utility for the operating system most people, or themselves use.

Look online and try to find free server software such as mail servers for windows. Can you find any? probably not, if you do, its a reduced version. Now try finding a mail server for linux. You might find 20 or 30 if you know how to use a search engine. Some linux versions have them included. This is because the linux developers use linux, and develop for linux. Most of them release their software for all to use free.

It is entirely possible to go without Windows and do almost anything you can do on Windows on linux, and some stuff you cant do on Windows, plus its alot cheaper. Doom 3 is able to work on linux.

Windows is not a monopoly because they force companies out of the market, by that statement you are denying the existence of the open source movement, which you'd have to have been living in a cave for 10 years to never hear about.

Not everything is available for both linux and windows, but most of the stuff you get for windows is either already included in linux, isnt needed because it works differently from windows, or comparable software packages already exist for linux (some have been in linux for decades before windows users ever saw the need for them) and are free.

Whats the big crime here, Microsoft should have the right to secure their own operating system, and i should have the right to buy a computer that i dont have to pay security companies to ensure that it continues to runs (although slowly, thanks to bloatware security packages like Norton Internet Security) as it was intended to.

Norton has not made a single innovation in the past ten years in their software, they just make the interface prettier and make it cost more, plug up more RAM, and it still doesnt always work. The last 3 McAfee products ive used ive uninstalled because they suck, if you ask me, these jerks deserve to be bankrupt, and be forced to accept that its due to their poor effort, not due to some other company "pushing them out of the market", but due to their own ignorance, greed, and laziness.
Posted by TheMikeness (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No need to buy windows until price drop.
The very first day Windows 2000 was on sale in retail outlets it was going for sale at $700.

I'll wait until Vista is $400 for the premium enhanced version.
Posted by inachu (963 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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