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EU to get different versions of Vista

Windows Vista tweaked to suit Europe

As Windows Vista appeared in computer stores worldwide, Microsoft said yesterday that part of the design of the new operating system is the work of the European Commission.

"Following discussions with European Commission, Microsoft committed to make a number of changes to the Windows Vista operating system prior to release," the software maker said in a statement, pointing to three functions of the operating system: security, search and fixed document formats.

Windows Security Center (WSC), which looks like a dashboard, gives the user an overview of what security software is running on the system and the status of checks and upgrades of firewalls and antispyware protection.

Rival security software firms and the Commission suspected this could give WSC an unfair advantage. Microsoft said it agreed to develop a new set of APIs (application programming interfaces) for release in the first service pack, scheduled for later this year, which can be invoked by third-party security programs to turn off the alerts presented by WSC.

Similarly, PatchGuard - software that protects against the modification of the kernel of the operating system - has been added to Vista. Some security vendors have in the past made modifications to the kernel as part of the implementation of their security software.

PatchGuard prevents such modifications in the 64-bit version. Microsoft is now working with vendors to develop new kernel-level APIs that will provide programmatic access to the kernel to address this issue, Microsoft said.

The APIs will be available in Windows Vista 64 with the first service pack, scheduled for later this year.

Regarding search, Microsoft has changed the way default settings are made for internet search within both Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7 (IE7).

"These changes now ensure for users that they are able - through a series of windows and options - to make a clear, conscious and open decision on their default search provider. Furthermore, users will retain at all times the ability to change this and all further defaults in the operating system at will," Microsoft said.

Microsoft's own fixed document format software is known as XPS. "In response to the Commission's concerns, the company has made fundamental changes to the licensing structure of the XPS fixed-format technology and has committed to submit the technology to an international standards body for adoption as an open industry standard," Microsoft said.

The XPS standard will be made available under licensing terms that do not exclude any industry or licensing model including the GPL (General Public License), it said.

"In response to Commissioner Kroes' letter of March 2006, Microsoft created a single application programming interface so that independent software developers can create applications to allow users to save documents in XPS or other formats, such as Adobe's PDF," Microsoft said.

Microsoft said it has also disclosed through a licensing program the relevant information to enable the implementation of XPS technology on competing client and server operating systems.

Microsoft has also responded to a further Commission demand to submit XPS (as well as future extensions) to a standards setting body. Microsoft will submit XPS to the Ecma International.

Microsoft said it will also enable the implementation of XPS under an open-source business model (GPL) through use of a covenant not to sue - a model that Microsoft has applied to web services and open XML (Extensible Markup Language) document formats and that has, it said, "been welcomed by the open-source community”.

European customers and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) will be able to buy a version of Vista that has Microsoft's Media Player stripped out. This unbundled version of the operating system complies with the 2004 European antitrust ruling, which ordered the company to offer two separate versions of both the home and professional versions of the operating system.

"In compliance with the European Commission's decision of March 2004, home and professional editions of Windows Vista without Media Player functionality will be released in Europe on the same schedule as the Windows Vista general availability launch," Microsoft said.

These are called the 'N' versions - denoting "no media player," the company said.


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