RealTime IT News

Vista on Track: Microsoft Bends For E.U., Korea

Microsoft thinks it has changed Vista sufficiently to satisfy European and Korean regulators.

The company said that it would be releasing the Vista operating system in Europe and Korea on schedule, following what it called "constructive dialogue" with the European Commission and the Korea Fair Trade Commission.

The changes to Vista made to assuage the Europeans will be integrated into the worldwide release.

Microsoft also made changes to the operating system that are specific to the Korean release.

Microsoft said it will ship Vista to its volume license business customers in November of this year and will make it generally available in January.

This is a sudden turn-about for Microsoft, which only last month said it might not be able to ship Vista to Europe unless it got further guidance from European regulators.

For its part, the commission stuck to its public stance: It cannot green-light a product before it hits the market.

But after waging a high-stakes public relations battle over the past several months, cooler heads on both sides prevailed.

According to Microsoft spokesman Guy Esnouf, back-channel discussions seem to have reassured the Redmond, Wash., software vendor that the changes it intends to make will pass muster with the European watchdog.

"We've had a constructive dialog with the commission for the last two weeks," he told internetnews.com.

According to Tom Brookes, a Microsoft spokesman based in Europe, Steve Ballmer called Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes last night to inform her of the company's decision to ship Vista.

In particular, Microsoft has addressed concerns about how it would work with third-party vendors of security software.

It will also provide a drop-down menu from which users can select a search engine, rather than making Internet Explorer the default search engine.

A dispute about how Microsoft handles the XML paper format (XPF) will be submitted to an international standards organization for arbitration.

Microsoft has also agreed to make some changes to the licensing terms of XPF.

The commission reiterated its position not to give a priori approval to Vista.

"Microsoft must shoulder its own responsibilities to ensure that Vista is fully compliant with EC Treaty competition rules" and principles laid down in its March 2004 antitrust decision concerning Microsoft, it said in a statement provided to internetnews.com.

"We are excited to bring the security enhancements and innovative new features of Windows Vista to our customers and partners around the world, and we are committed to adhering to local law in every region of the world," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in a statement.

Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith confirmed that the company has also incorporated changes to Windows Vista in Korea to comply with its legal obligations there.

Microsoft will ship two versions of Vista to Korea: the K version will include a media player and instant messaging feature, as well as links to competing media players and IM vendors.

The KN version will have no media player or IM feature at all.

This is similar to an arrangement Microsoft made with Korean regulators with regards to Microsoft XP this summer.

Brookes said that Microsoft hopes this process will serve as a model for future dialogue between Microsoft and regulators around the world.

"It's a very positive step forward for Microsoft and a step forward for the process -- for dealing with issues raised by regulators and competitors," he said.