Did Microsoft get lucky in Europe?

Some European Parliament members are grateful the Vista release apparently isn't blocked completely.

The European Commission has refused to sanction Microsoft's release of Vista in Europe, but several members of the European Parliament are relieved that the product apparently wasn't blocked completely.

On Friday, Microsoft said it will allow security software makers to access the kernel of 64-bit versions of Vista for security-monitoring purposes. The company will also make it possible for security companies to disable certain parts of the Windows Security Center in Vista when a third-party security console is installed. Microsoft said it had decided to take these actions to try to allay Commission antitrust concerns, and also vowed to ship Vista in Europe at the same time as the rest of the world.

In response, the Commission issued a statement Friday warning that Microsoft's actions didn't mean Vista would not infringe European laws.

"The Commission has not given a 'green light' to Microsoft to deliver Vista because," the Commission said, "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 antitrust decision concerning Microsoft (XP)."

Still, several members of the European Parliament welcomed the EC's apparent restraint. In a joint statement, Chris Heaton-Harris, Peter Skinner and Sharon Bowles--U.K. members in the European Parliament--said that EC concerns could have delayed the release of Vista in Europe, to the detriment of small businesses.

"It was our understanding from what contact we've had with them that the EC were going to stop the launch of Vista," a representative for Bowles said. "The statement by the EC (on Friday) wasn't prohibitive."

Small and midsize businesses in Europe have expressed concerns that their businesses could be hurt if Vista were further delayed, the representative added.

Heaton-Harris met with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the company's campus in Seattle in August, after which he criticized the Commission's decision to fine Microsoft for antitrust violations in 2004. "I really can't understand the Commission's position. It is as if they objected to Ford supplying cars with tires since this reduces the market for retrofitted tires," Heaton-Harris said.

In 2004, the Commission found that Microsoft had breached anticompetition laws and ordered the company to disclose server interoperability details and cease bundling Windows Media Player with XP.

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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