Legal Effects on a
Warier Microsoft"> Smith also held out the hope that competitors and potential partners would, in the future, approach Microsoft directly rather than complaining directly to the Commission. "They can always go to the Commission first if they wish, but they will make more progress if they come to us. We are open for business when it comes to licensing technology and intellectual property rights that are important for interoperability," he said.Click here to read more about the war of words between Microsoft and the EC over Vista. Microsofts relationship with the Department of Justice was less strained, and earlier in September the department said the consent decree had been successful, even though six states pushed back and have called for it to be extended another five years. In fact, Thomas Barnett, assistant attorney general for the departments Antitrust Division, even expressed concern with the European Court of First Instances ruling, saying that the standard applied to unilateral conduct by the Court "may have the unfortunate consequence of harming consumers by chilling innovation and discouraging competition." However, the Department remains committed to working with the European Commission to develop sound antitrust enforcement policies that benefit consumers on both sides of the Atlantic, he said. As to what impact the U.S. and EU antitrust rulings have had on Microsofts behavior, Matt Rosoff, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, said the software maker seemed slightly more hesitant about bundling previously separate features into Windows. He cited Microsofts Web search efforts, where the software maker has so far had very little success gaining market share against Google. "The Microsoft of old might have bundled Web search results into the Vista desktop search interface, but with these antitrust rulings in place, that would have been obvious grounds for complaint," he said. Even then, Google objected to the inclusion of desktop search in Vista, arguing that it had first been released as a separate product known as MSN Desktop Search, he said. "Nonetheless, Microsoft will voluntarily make some changes to Vistas desktop search feature in SP1 to make it more palatable to antitrust regulators in the United States," Rosoff told eWEEK. But Rob Enderle, an analyst at The Enderle Group, said he believes that the changes to Vistas security center were made to preclude a similar action with regard to that feature, while the Zune, which is delivered as a separate offering, may also have been affected by that concern, he said. Six states want Microsofts U.S. antitrust consent decree extended by five years. Click here to read more. While Rosoff told eWEEK he anticipated the European ruling to have little short-term effect, over the long-term it could be far more significant. "If any company objects to anything Microsoft is reportedly putting into Windows, it now has a venue in which to complain. The EC has clearly put Microsoft on notice that its willing to impose further fines or product restrictions," he said. With regards to Vista and any immediate changes, Rosoff said the ruling did not require any, as Microsoft was already shipping a version of Windows without its Media Player. But if third parties object to any particular Vista features in the future, Microsoft could eventually be forced to release new versions of the operating system without those features, he said. Asked if Microsofts product development was likely to change as a result of complaints from Google, IBM and others, Rosoff said those legal complaints had had less of an effect on Microsofts product development than the general changes in the market. Page 3: Microsoft Ponders Questions Unanswered by EU Court
While Microsoft did work closely with both the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Commission as it developed Windows Vista, its relationship with the Commission grew rocky just before Vista was set to be released.