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by Mike Zazaian October 13, 2006 - 3:09pm, 5 Comments

Vista Shipment on Schedule for Europe

Microsoft has announced that it’s made changes for European versions of its upcoming Windows OS that will allow for a simultaneous worldwide shipment in November.

Microsoft and the European Commission have been in discussions for several months now over Vista’s release. The main dilemma seems to be that Microsoft is hesitant to release Vista in Europe without some guidance as to how it can avoid antitrust liabilities. The European Commission, however, refuses to dictate those guidelines. They’ve suggested that Microsoft will have to adhere to existing EU laws as they produce vista, then subject the OS to judgment by the European Commission after Vista is released.

Following the talks, which Microsoft referred to as constructive dialogue, the company has finally announced that it will release Vista in Europe concurrent the worldwide release. Despite potential antitrust barriers, Microsoft has made what they believe to be the necessary changes for the EU version of Vista to be acceptable under European law. According to an article from ars technica, Microsoft altered features in the EU Vista include updated integrated search settings, file association handling, and some security settings. The news comes as a big relief to European businesses, who feared they would be at a disadvantage for receiving Vista possibly several months later than global competitors. Said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer:

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.

In response to Microsoft’s announcement of a timely EU Vista release, the European Commission released the following statement to ensure that consumers don’t believe that Microsoft has the EU’s full blessings. According to the press release, The Commission has not given a green light to Microsoft to deliver Vista because, as the Commission has consistently stated, Microsoft must shoulder its own responsibilities to ensure that Vista is fully compliant with EC Treaty competition rules and in particular with the principles laid down in the March 2004 Commission anti-trust decision concerning Microsoft.

Microsoft and the European Commission haven’t exactly been the best friends in the past. Earlier this year the European Commission fined Microsoft €280.5 million (about $357.3 million US) after a judgment in 2004 that Windows XP violated a number of European anti-trust laws. Understandably Microsoft would like to work more closely with the EU to ensure that they can avoid such fines in the future, but the European Commission refuses to offer special treatment for Windows Vista. Said Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith:

We recognize that the European Commission does not give ‘green lights’ for new products, and we have not asked for one. We appreciate the constructive dialogue we have had with the commission and the guidance the commission has provided. Based on this guidance, we have made changes to ensure that we’re in compliance with our competition law obligations, and we are moving forward to make Windows Vista available on a worldwide basis.

According to the EU all other products sold are given judgment after they’re released to the market, not before. But with the enormous amount of money, business, and jobs that Vista will represent for the EU, the European Commission’s actions toward Microsoft seem unappreciative and downright petulant. Microsoft has no obligation to ship Vista to Europe, besides that which they have to their shareholders. Microsoft sells its products in Europe, however, because both Europe and Microsoft benefit from such an arrangement. As such the European Commission should recognize the mutual gains to be had rather than pretending like Microsoft is the only entity that stands to gain from the exchange. If nothing else, the European Commission could try to accommodate the enormous boost that Microsoft brings to the EU economy by explicitly indicating what can be done to avoid multi-million dollar fines in the future.

Microsoft will release Windows Vista to businesses worldwide beginning in November of 2006, followed by a launch for consumers in January of 2007.

[via ars technica,
European Commission Press Release,
Microsoft Press Release]