Sun, Oct 15, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Microsoft changes Vista for regulators

COMPLIANCE The software titan said it has given in to pressure from antitrust officials in South Korea and Europe, adding that further delays could cost thousands of jobs

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

Microsoft Corp announced on Friday that Windows Vista, the next version of its computer operating system, had been altered to satisfy regulatory concerns and would be introduced simultaneously worldwide.

Less than a month ago, the company had warned that antitrust problems could delay the introduction in Europe and South Korea.

A delay in one country or region would have serious consequences for software developers, computer manufacturers and retailers there. It would also create complications for Microsoft, which has always rolled out previous versions of Windows simultaneously around the world.

Steven Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive, confirmed the global introduction of Vista in a phone conversation with the European competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, late on Thursday.

The new operating system will go on sale to large computer manufacturers next month and to the public in January.

In the statement issued on Friday, Microsoft said it had altered Vista to address the concerns the commission has expressed about the new operating system over the last eight months.

Similarly, the concerns of South Korea's Fair Trade Commission have also been addressed, Microsoft said.

"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," Ballmer said in the statement.

Until now, Microsoft has resisted pressure to change Vista. Last month it accused the European commission of not giving it clear enough guidance on whether Vista would pass muster under European antitrust law.

It also highlighted research that showed that hundreds of thousands of jobs in the European technology industry were at stake if Vista's introduction were delayed. Also last month, members of the European Parliament wrote to Kroes warning her of the harm she would be causing to European companies if she forced a delay.

The commission stood its ground, insisting that it was not up to regulators to approve Vista before its introduction. It repeated this message on Friday.

"The commission has not given a green light to Microsoft to deliver Vista," it said in a statement. "Microsoft must shoulder its own responsibilities to ensure that Vista is fully compliant with competition rules and in particular with the principles laid down in the March 2004 commission antitrust decision concerning Microsoft."

In 2004, the commission found that Microsoft had violated antitrust rules by bundling its music and video player, Media Player, into Windows XP and ordered that the company release a second version of Windows with Media Player stripped out.

"We understand that the European commission doesn't give a green light to a product before it is launched, and that it is a company's obligation to be in compliance with antitrust law," Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, said on Friday.

"Having made the changes we were advised to make, we are confident Vista is in compliance," he added.

The commission said in a statement that it would "closely monitor the effects of Vista in the market" and would examine any complaints the new operating system might provoke "on their own merits."

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