On the heals of its previous troubles with the European Commission (EC) Microsoft might again find itself facing difficulty with the release of Windows Vista, this time regarding security matters.
The latest issues center around the bundling of Microsoft security products into the Windows Vista package. In a press conference held by the Commission on September 12, a reporter asked about Microsoft's concern that the commission may require it to launch Windows Vista "in a way might increase security risk for European consumers."
In response to the question Jonathan Todd, a Commission spokesmen on EU competition, said that he'd already reminded reporters last week that the Commission is willing to give guidance to Microsoft concerning Vista as it has done in the past, but that it's not the Commission's place to tell Microsoft exactly what Vista should or should not contain before it's put on the market in Europe. Todd said, "It is up to Microsoft to accept its responsibilities as a near monopolist to ensure compliance with EU competition rules and in particular the prohibition on abuse of a dominent market position."
While Vista does work cooperatively with many other prominent security products the European Commission is concerned about software bundling and not interoperability issues. The Commission feels that such bundling might adversely affect competition for existing security software markets, which it says in turn would lessen overall computer security through a reduction of choice. Their position on a need for choice makes sense to many computer security professionals, who typically frown on single-vendor security solutions.
Some analysts argue that Microsoft is criticized for not improving the security of its products and then criticized again when it does take steps to improve security. However, the EC's concern is clearly not about what products Microsoft develops but how the company brings those products to market.
"The Commission does not intend to prevent Microsoft from improving the security of its products. The Commission understands Microsoft's desire to make Vista more secure than its predecessors. The Commission however believes that computer security depends on diversity and innovation in the field of security software. Such diversity and innovation could be at risk if Microsoft was allowed to foreclose the existing competition in security software markets where, as you know, there are several reputable security companies already existing. If Microsoft were to foreclose these markets by bundling its own security products into its dominent operating system \[then the lesser\] diversity would ultimately harm consumers through reduced choice and higher security risks," Todd concluded.