Commission silent on details of Vista probe

The EC is keeping quiet about its ongoing discussions with Microsoft, amid claims that some of Vista's features are anti-competitive
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

The European Commission confirmed on Tuesday that it still has a range of concerns over Microsoft's upcoming Vista operating system, but declined to reveal full details.

On Monday, the Financial Times reported that the European Commission had expanded an anti-competition probe into Vista, as it is concerned about the encryption and handwriting recognition software that is slated to be included in the operating system. This follows from the Commission's initial 2004 European anti-trust ruling against Microsoft regarding Windows XP.

The European Commission told ZDNet UK that although it does have concerns about Microsoft Vista, it cannot give full details of those concerns because of the "delicate legal situation" surrounding the Vista anti-competition debate.

"We have nothing further to add following the Financial Times story. We are not giving details of our concerns," said an European Commission competition spokeswoman.

The European Commission first warned Microsoft in March this year that it was concerned Vista could violate competition law. Commissioner Neelie Kroes discussed this with Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer in August, when she warned that the Commission could not give Vista a "green light" before it was launched.

Security vendor McAfee told ZDNet UK that the Commission is right to be concerned, and claimed that Vista would ship with a pre-installed icon that would guide users to purchase OneCare, Microsoft's consumer security product.

"The EC is absolutely right to have concerns," said Mike Dalton, European president of McAfee. "In the consumer market there is anti-competitive [Microsoft] practice. Vista is shipping with a desktop icon to hook up to OneCare."

Microsoft declined to comment specifically on the European Commission probe or Dalton's claim, but said it wanted to conform to European anti-competition law.

"Our goal is to deliver a fully innovative, secure version of Windows Vista that is compliant with EU law," said a Microsoft spokesman. "We have an ongoing dialogue with the Commission on these issues."

However, McAfee insisted that Vista would not provide a level playing field, as McAfee would have to rely on its relationships with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to get security software pre-installed on new PCs.

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