Microsoft Corp has backed down on suggestions that the European Commission might cause a delay in the release of Windows Vista, maintaining that the operating system will be released on schedule despite antitrust motivated changes.
Last month Microsoft spokesperson Guy Esnouf claimed in an email that the company was waiting for a response from the European Commission on potential Vista changes, warning that further changes might cause a delay in the delivery of Microsoft’s next operating system.
The company has now stated that it is on schedule to release Vista to volume business customers in November, with general availability in January, following changes made to overcome antitrust concerns in Europe and Korea.
We recognize that the European Commission dose not give ‘green lights’ for new products, and we have not asked for one, maintained Microsoft’s general counsel, Brad Smith.
We appreciate the constructive dialogue we have had with the Commission and the guidance the Commission has provided, Smith added. Based on this guidance, we have made changes to ensure that we’re in compliance with our competition law obligations.
In July Smith revealed that Microsoft had offered to make changes to Vista and had, in fact, asked the Commission to tell it which potential changes would meet its requirements. We told the Commission that we would be prepared to do any one of… four things and they could simply tell us which of those things they wanted us to do, said Smith at the time.
The company was responding to a letter from European competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes that expressed concerns over the possible bundling into Vista of certain products, such as internet search and certain security features that are currently available on a standalone basis from Microsoft and other vendors, according to a Commission statement.
Smith said Microsoft had responded on April 11 to address issues related to Metro, a proposed challenger to Adobe Systems Inc’s PDF. The company laid out four alternative approaches to addressing this issue in Vista, including removing the technology from the European version of Windows.
Last month the Commission hit back at suggestions that its failure to respond might be to blame for potential Vista delays, maintaining that it was up to Microsoft to decide how best to comply with competition laws. It is misleading to imply that the commission could be the cause of delays, said an EC spokesperson.
Later in September Commissioner Kroes was moved to write a letter to the Financial Times denying that the Commission had a vendetta against Microsoft and claiming that there is a coordinated campaign to portray the EC in a negative light over Vista delays.
Neil Holloway, Microsoft president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said in March that the company would build a separate version of its forthcoming Windows Vista operating system without media player capabilities, in keeping with the Commission’s 2004 antitrust requirements.
Meanwhile Microsoft released two Korean versions of Windows XP in August to meet a similar ruling by the Korea Fair Trade Commission. The company had threatened in an October 2003 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it might withdraw from Korea after it was fined $34.5m and ordered to unbundle Messenger and Media Player from Windows.
The company later decided to stay and fight its corner, but suffered a set back in July when a Korean court rejected an injunction seeking the suspension of the previous decision. Microsoft duly released a version of Windows XP without Messenger and Media Player in August, as well as a version with the software, as well as links to potential alternatives.
Microsoft new operating systems has been hit by numerous delays since it was first slated for release in late 2003 as key technologies such as WinFS, once claimed by Bill Gates to be the Holy Grail of Vista, were removed.
The latest delay, announced in March, caused consternation among resellers and partners after it became clear that the retail version would not be ready in time for the Christmas spending boom.