It is clear that the legal eagles at Microsoft have read every scrap of evidence in the IBM antitrust case from the 1970’s and 1980’s, and they have learned well. When you are in the wrong, say ‘oops sorry’, and just keep on trucking.

One of the major issues that Microsoft has had to contend with is that their flagship product Windows is susceptible to viruses. Companies such as Symantec and McAfee have become very successful with their antivirus products.

Of course Microsoft has a couple of issues with this current situation. Issue number one is that the inference is that Windows is not robust, and the average user should install a program (from a company other than Microsoft) to fix the problem. Issue number two is that customers recognizing this apparent problem are willing to pay money for these ‘third party’ programs, Microsoft is therefore losing a potential stream of revenue.

The first tactic that Microsoft attempted was to cut the antivirus companies out of the game by ‘locking down’ a vital core component of the new Windows Vista operating system. By refusing to share information about a piece of software called the Kernel, Microsoft hoped to see the demise of these third party companies.

Symantec and McAfee (in my opinion) did the right thing by calling ‘foul’ on this move. The EU sniffing yet another ‘monopolies’ situation leaned on Mr Bill and his company. Today Microsoft softened their approach, and have offered limited access to the important parts. The emphasis is on the word ‘limited’.

Microsoft’s proposal does not sit well with Symantec or McAfee, and I suspect that we are going to hear a lot more about this situation.

The long delayed Vista (unless there is a serious rethink within Microsoft) could become the antitrust time bomb that finally explodes in their face. 

Simon Barrett  

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