Vista Illegal in EU, Charge Microsoft Rivals

Despite losing an antitrust case in the European Union (EU) nearly three years ago, Microsoft is releasing its new Vista operating system in Europe with features similar to those found illegal by the European Commission (EC) in 2004, charged a coalition of Microsoft rivals.

Microsoft, of course, is still appealing the ruling by the EC, which imposed a fine of more than US$600 million on the company and ordered it to change its business practices.

The latest charges come from theEuropean Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS), a group of companies including IBM, Sun Microsystems, Red Hat, RealNetworks, Oracle, Adobe Systems, Corel, Linspire, Nokia and Opera.

The ECIS Charges

“With Vista, Microsoft has clearly chosen to ignore the fundamental principles of the Commission’s March 2004 decision,” said ECIS Chairman Simon Awde in a statement released Friday.

“Vista is the first step in Microsoft’s strategy to extend its market dominance to the Internet,” he added.

More specifically, ECIS charges that Microsoft’s XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) is positioned to replace HTML and is “designed from the ground up to be dependent on Windows, and thus is not cross-platform by nature.”

In addition, Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 will also employ the Office Open XML file format (OOXML), which is designed to displace ODF (Open Document Format), the existing ISO (International Organization for Standardization)-approved, truly open document file format.

Unlike the ISO ODF file format, which operates on multiple vendor platforms, Microsoft’s Office Open XML file format only runs seamlessly on the Microsoft Office platform, according to ECIS.

“With XAML and OOXML, Microsoft seeks to impose its own Windows-dependent standards and displace existing open cross-platform standards which have wide industry acceptance, permit open competition, and promote competition-driven innovation,” said Thomas Vinje, counsel to ECIS. “The end result will be the continued absence of any real consumer choice, years of waiting for Microsoft to improve — or even debug — its monopoly products, and, of course, high prices.”

More of the Same

From Microsoft’s perspective, the ECIS complaint is simply more of the same maneuvering it has encountered from the organization in the past. The basic ECIS complaint was filed almost a year ago, Microsoft spokesperson Guy Esnouf told the E-Commerce Times, and there’s really nothing new about it.

“We have come to expect that as we introduce new products that benefit consumers, particularly with the kind of breakthrough technologies in Office 12 and Windows Vista, a few competitors will complain,” Microsoft recently stated.

“ECIS is a front for IBM and a few other competitors who constantly seek to use the regulatory process to their business advantage,” the company argued. “When faced with innovation, they choose litigation.”

Baseless Claims?

Microsoft acknowledged on Friday that it has received the complaint from the EC and will respond “in due course,” Esnouf said.

Some of the ECIS allegations appear to be factually incorrect, noted Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst for the Enderle Group.

“They refer to Longhorn and Vista as if they were different — they aren’t. ‘Longhorn’ was the code name for Vista,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“XAML is for Windows only, but it’s primarily to reduce the amount of code you have to create for Windows .NET applications, and I can’t see a situation where it ever could replace HTML — they have different purposes,” Enderle explained.

“Even Corel doesn’t like ODF and will be using the new Office document format,” he added. “The document appears to be an attempt to stop Vista, but it isn’t very well done, and it’s hard to imagine anyone in the business taking it seriously. … Chances are, this is just noise — but the EU isn’t particularly happy with Microsoft, so you never know.”

In the meantime, Microsoft plans to make Vista generally available to consumers worldwide on Tuesday.

Previous Vista Complaints Addressed

Microsoft has already made changes to Windows Vista in response to guidance the company received from the EC, as well as changes to satisfy Korean law.

Most notable among them are better interoperability with independent software vendor security applications and a more open search function.

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