Microsoft Announces Vista Compliance Plans

Announcing its plans this week to ensure that Windows Vista complies with various antitrust laws around the globe, Microsoft made it sound like it was willfully doing the right thing. But the truth is, Microsoft is being forced to make these changes by regulators in the US, Europe, and other locales. Still, it's interesting to see which concessions the software giant is willing to make to ensure that Windows Vista isn't delayed further.

"Our goal is to be principled and transparent as we develop new versions of Windows," said Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith. "These voluntary principles are intended to provide the industry and consumers with the benefits of ongoing innovation, while creating and preserving robust opportunities for competition. The principles incorporate and go beyond the provisions of the U.S. antitrust ruling."

Microsoft is calling these changes "Twelve Tenets to Promote Competition." Yes, seriously. Rather than step through the entire list, let's highlight the most important concessions:

- Computer makers are free to add any software to PCs that run Windows, and promote non-Windows operating systems, and applications.

- Computer makers and users can easily change default applications like Web browsers and media players to non-Microsoft choices. Likewise, computer makers can remove access to default Microsoft choices all together if they wish.

- Microsoft will not retaliate against computer makers that support non-Microsoft software. To ensure this is the case, Microsoft will price Windows according to a volume-based price list that will be made available to PC makers.

- Windows Live and other Microsoft Internet services will be made available separately from Windows.

That last one might be the biggest news, since the previous tenets, and most others not listed here are both obvious and were previously known. In the past, there is little doubt that Windows Vista would have shipped with a slew of Windows Live-based products and services. It's notable that this bundling is not happening now.

Microsoft compliance announcement comes less than a week after the European Union (EU) slapped Microsoft with a massive $357 million for failing to comply with a 2004 antitrust ruling. Given recent warnings from EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes regarding Windows Vista, it's perhaps not surprising that Microsoft made this week's compliance announcement.

Regarding Windows Vista, Smith did say during the "12 Tenets" announcement that computer makers would be allowed to substitute the Google search engine for Windows Live Search inside the version of Internet Explorer (IE) that ships with Vista. Google had previously complained to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) about this feature.

Microsoft's 12 Tenets to Promote Competition are available on the Microsoft Web site.

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