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Microsoft on Friday said it was on track to release the Vista operating system next month, after making significant changes to its new flagship product in an effort to meet concerns expressed by the European Commission and the Korean antitrust authority.
Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, said the most recent changes to Vista would ensure that the new system would not undermine competition in the crucial markets for internet search, security software and fixed-document readers.
Mr Smith added that the changes were based on guidance given by the Commission, and that the group was now “confident that we are in compliance with European Union law”.
The latest move by Microsoft is designed to avoid a new stand-off with the Brussels-based regulator, which two years ago imposed a record €497m ($623m, £336m) fine on the group for abusing a dominant market position. The US software group had previously warned that the uncertainty over the Commission’s response to Vista could delay the launch of its new product.
The Commission has repeatedly warned that it might have to take action over Vista because it integrates a wealth of new programmes and functions into the operating system.
Groups such as Google, the leader in internet search technology, Symantec and McAfee, which provide security software, and Adobe, the maker of the PDF document reader, are concerned that their business will be harmed if Microsoft “bundles” rival versions of their products into Vista.
But Mr Smith insisted on Friday that Microsoft’s rivals would now be able to compete on a level-playing field. Security software companies would, for example, be given sufficient information to make their products interoperable with Vista, including the system’s controversial high-security “kernel” that is designed to protect Vista’s core against viruses and other security breaches.
In an effort to meet Korean antitrust concerns, Microsoft will in that market launch versions of Vista that include links to competing media and instant messaging software, and versions of Vista without Microsoft’s Media Player.
The Brussels regulator responded to the group’s announcement with a tersely-worded statement, insisting that it “will closely monitor the effects of Vista in the market and, in particular, examine any complaints concerning Vista on their own merits”.
Both the Commission and Microsoft stressed that the regulator had not given a “green light” to the Vista launch. “Microsoft must shoulder its own responsibilities to ensure that Vista is fully compliant with [EU] competition rules,” the Commission said.
Vista will be made available to Microsoft’s business customers next month, and go on sale to the general public in January.
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