Microsoft Rivals: Windows Vista Still Breaking EU Laws

Published January 29, 2007

| Associated Press

A coalition of rivals charged on Friday that Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) new Vista operating system coming out next week will perpetuate practices found illegal in the European Union nearly three years ago.

The group, which includes IBM (IBM), Nokia (NOK), Sun Microsystems (SUNW), Adobe (ADBE), Oracle (ORCL) and Red Hat (RHAT), said its complaints made last year are yet to be addressed just days before Vista is due for release.

The European Commission found in 2004 that Microsoft used its dominance to muscle out RealNetworks (RNWK) and other makers of audio and video streaming software and that it made its desktop Windows deliberately incompatible with rivals' server software.

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"Microsoft has clearly chosen to ignore the fundamental principles of the Commission's March 2004 decision," said Simon Awde, chairman of the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS).

Microsoft said it had no comment. The Commission was not ready to act.

"We are in the process of examining this complaint," a Commission spokesman said. ECIS disclosed on Friday that the latest additions to its complaint were made only last month, after it studied Vista.

Microsoft's new Vista operating system is due for formal release on Tuesday, including a major rollout in Brussels, complete with a news conference and party.

"Vista is the first step of Microsoft's strategy to extend its market dominance to the Internet," the ECIS statement said.

It said Microsoft's XAML markup language was "positioned to replace HTML," the industry standard for publishing documents on the Internet. XAML would be dependent on Windows, and discriminatory against systems such as Linux, the group said.

It said a so-called "open XML" platform file format, known as OOXML, is designed to run seamlessly only on the Microsoft Office platform. It governs the way a document is formatted and stored.

"The end result will be the continued absence of any real consumer choice, years of waiting for Microsoft to improve — or even debug — its monopoly products and of course high prices," said Thomas Vinje, lawyer for ECIS, in the statement.

Other complainants in the group include Corel (CREL), RealNetworks, Linspire and Opera.

SOME ISSUES RESOLVED

On some fronts, however, complaints were resolved. Microsoft announced earlier this month concerns raised by security companies such as Symantec (SYMC) and McAfee (MFE) had been dealt with.

Those companies had said Vista would deny them access to the heart of the operating system, which they needed to protect it from certain kinds of malicious software. After negotiations, Microsoft said it would provide information the firms needed.

"The information was indeed what we expected and what we were looking for," said Cris Paden, manager of corporate public relations for Symantec, who earlier had raised concerns.

Microsoft has challenged the Commission's 2004 decision, which included a record fine of nearly 500 million euros ($649.4 million) and orders to change its business practices. It awaits a decision by the EU's Court of First Instance.

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