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1/31/2007
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Microsoft Altered Windows Vista To Quell EU Watchdogs

Based on advice from the European Commissioner for Competition, Microsoft made changes to several parts of Windows Vista to resolve concerns that competitors would be disadvantaged.

Faced with renewed claims that its Windows Vista operating system violates European antitrust rules, a Microsoft official on Wednesday reiterated previous statements by the company that changes were made to the software during its development that were specifically designed to quell such concerns.

"We've already dealt with those issues," said a Microsoft official, who asked not to be identified.

On Monday, European Union officials said they were examining a complaint brought by a group of Microsoft competitors -- including IBM, Adobe, RealNetworks and Red Hat -- alleging that a number of features in Vista are designed to lock out competition.

The Microsoft official said the company consulted with European regulators during Vista's development and created certain features to ensure that the OS would not violate EU competition rules. The official pointed to public statements made by Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith in October detailing those features.

In those statements, Smith said European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes "provided initial guidance to Microsoft in March, identifying five areas of concern about Windows Vista. We took steps in the spring and the summer to address those areas, by agreeing to make changes to Windows Vista."

Smith, at the time, said that the commission advised Microsoft in September that it should make changes to "three additional areas of the product." Those changes, said Smith, related to Vista's search features, its use of the XML Paper Specification Format (XPS), and its security features.

Smith said the commission advised Microsoft to make changes in the upgrade process for users moving from Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 to IE 7. "We agreed to make these changes. These changes ensure that Windows Vista puts all Internet search services on the same level playing field," he said.

Smith also said Microsoft agreed to the commission's request that it submit XPS to an international standards body for certification. The company has since submitted it to international standards agency ECMA.

Microsoft also made substantial changes to some of Vista's built-in security features in order to comply with EU regulations, Smith said. The company created a new application programming interface so that Windows Security Center will not send an alert to a user when there is an alternate security console running on the PC and that console is generating the same alert.

"What we did not want to see happen is the scenario where there may be a problem with the computer, but the user gets no alert at all," said Smith.

Finally, Smith said Microsoft created a kernel level API for 64-bit versions of Vista so that third-party security vendors could continue to work with the Windows kernel despite a new feature called PatchGuard that Microsoft created to ensure the kernel is not changed.

Microsoft has also created a version of Windows Vista for sale in Europe that is not bundled with Windows Media Player, a feature that EU regulators nixed in their initial antitrust case against Microsoft's Windows XP operating system.

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