EU warns Microsoft: forthcoming Vista risks antitrust breach

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The European Commission has warned Microsoft that features the company intends to include in its next version of Windows known as Windows Vista may breach the European Union’s antitrust laws.

The EU’s commissioner in charge of competition, Neelie Kroes, wrote to Steve Ballmer CEO of Microsoft last week informally warning him that Microsoft’s plans to include security features, search tools, copyright protection services and an application to create documents similar to Adobe’s PDF files into Vista would violate European antitrust laws, according to her spokesman Jonathan Todd.

Mr. Todd said that the commission was worried that features Microsoft plans to include in Vista may prevent customers from choosing their own software combinations. He emphasised that the letter was not a signal of a formal antitrust inquiry into Windows Vista.

The commission wrote the letter following a letter from Microsoft asking them to indicate if there were any possible competition issues with the new system. Mr. Todd said: “We assume that Microsoft has its own interests at heart. It wants to launch another product without having to worry about the Commission instituting various actions under antitrust law.”

Microsoft’s top lawyer in Europe, Horacio Guttierez, said Wednesday that adding such functions into the operating system was essential if Microsoft was to meet customer demand. “I know consumers want more secure computer systems,” he said.

Windows Vista includes software called Windows Defender, which seeks out and removes spyware and adware. Guttierez claims that forcing Microsoft to sell Windows without Defender “is a bit like forcing BMW to sell cars without airbags”.

“We have a responsibility to make our products better and more secure for our customers,” he said.

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