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.

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