Security rivals shut out of Microsoft meeting

An online meeting to discuss Windows Vista changes crashed shortly after it started, leaving Symantec and McAfee in the dark.

An online Microsoft meeting to discuss Windows Vista changes crashed shortly after it started Thursday, and Symantec and McAfee were unable to reconnect.

Microsoft had scheduled the meeting with security companies to discuss part of the changes it has promised to make to Windows Vista in response to competitive concerns. But the conference, which used Microsoft's Live Meeting technology, crashed about 15 minutes after it started, and both Symantec and McAfee were unable to log back in.

"Microsoft hosted an online meeting this morning, but it never really got started," said Siobhan MacDermott, a McAfee spokeswoman. "Despite numerous attempts to reconnect, we were never able to get back into the meeting. However, we were notified that the meeting had ended."

Symantec had a similar experience, said Cris Paden, a company spokesman. "Our team was shut out, and only one person was able to get back in," he said.

There were some "technical difficulties" with Live Meeting, a Microsoft representative said. Those issues were resolved and the meeting resumed, the representative said.

"More than 20 partners successfully signed on and participated in the meeting," the Microsoft representative said. "To ensure that all partners are able to listen, this is the first of many meetings to come."

The meeting problems were "no big deal," Alex Eckelberry, president of anti-spyware toolmaker Sunbelt Software, wrote on his company's blog.

Microsoft accidentally sent out the wrong meeting invites, and as a result, participants signed on as presenters. "Which, if you've ever used Live Meeting, is an invitation to chaos," Eckelberry wrote.

After recognizing the error, Microsoft rescheduled the meeting for half-an-hour later. However, that didn't go well either because the meeting had been set up to end an hour after its original start. "So we were promptly all kicked off," Eckelberry wrote. "Finally, at 12:45 EDT, the meeting went as planned."

"It was a case of a few honest mistakes made by well-intentioned people, probably working under a tremendous amount of stress," Eckelberry wrote. "While I have my serious disagreements with Microsoft on the PatchGuard issue, I must defend them in this instance."

Other meetings are scheduled for later today, including one at 5 p.m. PDT, which Symantec and McAfee say they will try to join.

"But if the link didn't work to the Live Meeting this morning, who is going to say it is going to work this afternoon?" Paden asked. "It begs the question how sincere this outreach is, if they are not even able to put this together."

The meeting was to discuss how third-party protective software can interact with the innards of 64-bit versions of Windows Vista. Security companies had requested that capability, but Microsoft denied it until last week, when it made concessions in response to European antitrust concerns.

Access to the Vista kernel is one of two concessions Microsoft made. The Redmond, Wash., software giant also is providing security companies with a way to disable alerts sent out by the Windows Security Center, if their third-party protective software is installed.

Symantec, McAfee and others had charged that Microsoft was hurting competition and creating an unfair advantage for its own products through the kernel protection and Windows Security Center features.

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