EU Expresses Concern Over Vista

The seemingly never-ending saga between Microsoft and the European Union took another turn on Wednesday as the EU Commission's antitrust division warned the software company not to return to its old ways with Windows Vista. The body is concerned about Vista's built-in Internet search functions and new document features.

While the Commission has not yet opened up an investigation into Windows Vista, it has asked Microsoft to respond to its concerns. If the EU finds evidence of anti-competitive behavior, a new case against the Redmond company could be made.

Still, the Commission is giving Microsoft the benefit of the doubt, spokesperson Jonathan Todd told reporters. "We assume Microsoft has its own interest at heart and it wants to launch another product without having to worry about the Commission instituting various actions under antitrust law because of this product," he said.

In a response, Microsoft assured European regulators it would open the door to third parties in Vista.

"Keeping the industry and regulators informed of our product development plans has been, and will remain, a priority," the company said in a statement. "We have worked hard to include partners and competitors in our planning so they can build products and services that work with Windows Vista."

Microsoft is set to meet the EU Commission in closed-door hearings scheduled for Thursday and Friday, where it will argue that it has fully complied with a March 2004 antitrust ruling against it. The decision ordered Microsoft to sell a version of Windows without its Media Player software, as well as divulge portions of Windows Server protocols.

A December Statement of Objections from the EU threatened Microsoft with fines of 2 million euros per day for not complying with the latter requirement.

If Microsoft is found not in compliance at that point, fines would be applied from December 15, 2005 and the date of the decision. The company could end up paying an additional 100 to 200 million euros in fines on top of the 497 million euros it was ordered to pay initially.

Microsoft's appeal of the original decision will be heard by the European Court of First Instance in April.

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