As Windows Vista appeared in computer stores worldwide, Microsoft announced 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 Centre (WSC) looks like a dashboard, giving 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 says 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 says.
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 says.
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 says.
The XPS standard will be made available under licensing terms that do not exclude any industry or licensing model including the GPL (General Public Licence), it says.
“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 says.
Microsoft says it disclosed through a licensing programme the relevant information to enable the implementation of XPS technology on competing client and server operating systems.
Microsoft 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 says 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 says, “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 to comply with an EU antitrust ruling made in 2004.
These are called the ‘N’ versions — denoting “no media player”, the company says.