Microsoft Shares Vista Data to Comply With EU Requirements

Microsoft (MSFT) said on Monday it had provided some essential data to dozens of security software firms on Monday so their products can work smoothly with the new Vista operating system.

Microsoft, previously punished by Brussels over competition issues, has promised the data to comply with European Union requirements which stem from a landmark 2004 decision that the U.S. company used its dominant Windows system to hurt rivals.

The codes are important for the software companies as they will allow them to suppress Microsoft's own security "pop-ups" if a PC user decides to buy alternative security software, thus keeping brands distinct from that of Microsoft.

Separately, Microsoft has yet to develop promised software essential to the companies so they can block "spyware" and other malicious software.

It will give Symantec, McAfee and other security firms access to the core, or "kernel," of the 64-bit version of Vista, the new Windows operating system due for release in January.

A spokesman for Symantec said technical talks had not started yet to resolve the issue. "The companies are in discussions to lay out a timeline for the technical discussions," said Symantec spokesman Cris Paden.

Software firms had access to the kernel in the past until Microsoft redesigned its software to block them.

Asked when Microsoft would deliver the data, chief executive Steve Ballmer told Reuters in Rome: "Today, Seattle time, not Rome time."

The codes were delivered a short time later, before the opening of business on the west coast, a spokesman for the company in Brussels said later.

Ballmer said it was up to the software companies to say if they were satisfied.

"We have our plan and we are executing it," he said.

The codes are part of changes Microsoft said last week it would make after the European Commission, the EU's top antitrust authority, said it had concerns that Microsoft's design of Vista could push some software makers out of the market.

The data in question are Application Program Interfaces, or APIs, which are in essence levers or buttons that other companies call upon so their software will run on Windows.

The APIs are expected to be made available on a Web site to which security software providers have exclusive access, a Brussels-based spokesman for Microsoft said.


Other software makers, such as Adobe, maker of the fixed document format (pdf) software, and Google, the search engine, were also worried about Vista because of the way Microsoft had tied in its own software with similar functions.

On Monday, the Commission said it was up to those companies to judge whether they were happy with the Vista changes.

"The Commission will keep a close eye on how Vista develops in the marketplace, and if necessary, if we receive complaints, we will look into those complaints," Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd told a regular briefing.

Microsoft's Ballmer said he believed the announced changes would satisfy the EU executive.