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Symantec to EU: Microsoft Trying To Shut Out Security Rivals

Symantec Corp. accused Microsoft Corp. of abusing its monopoly in deciding which security products can run on its upcoming operating system.

Security vendor Symantec Corp. accused Microsoft Corp. of abusing its monopoly in deciding which security products can run on its upcoming operating system.

Symantec said Microsoft, which started selling its own security products in May, is deliberately withholding information needed to develop products that work on Windows Vista.

"Microsoft is using their dominant position to regulate what security can be provided on their system and how that security is provided," said Rowan Trollope, Symantec's vice president for consumer engineering. "Microsoft has regulated what choices are there: 'You're going to have our stuff no matter what.'"

Although Symantec hasn't filed a formal complaint, the security company said it is going public with the concerns to pressure Microsoft to release software development kits that would allow rival products to communicate with Vista's new security features, including a dashboard designed to help customers easily see what protection programs are switched on.

European antitrust regulators have warned Microsoft not to shut out rivals in the security software market as it builds more security into Vista. The European Union and Microsoft are still involved in long battle over a 2004 EU ruling that found the software company guilty of abusing its monopoly to break into new markets.

Symantec said it may make a formal complaint to the European Commission if Microsoft does not respond. The EU has quizzed security firms about problems they might have with Vista and has said it will take action if it believes Microsoft is breaking antitrust law.

Microsoft is scheduled to ship Vista soon, beginning with business customers in November, and Symantec wants to have its products ready by then.

Specifically Symantec is looking for software interfaces for the security dashboard and for Microsoft's anti-spyware program, Defender. Microsoft said Friday it had uploaded the Defender to a Web site for partners, but Symantec said Microsoft ought to give it to rival vendors as well.

"What they've said is: 'We'll give it to you the day Vista ships,'" Trollope said.

Adrien Robinson, a director in Microsoft's security technology unit, said Wednesday that Microsoft did make changes late in the game allowing security software companies to turn off Defender and offer their own, similar application.

She said Microsoft has been working closely with companies including Symantec to provide them with the tools they need to address the changes before Vista ships.

Symantec said it had faced similar problems with Windows Firewall but Microsoft eventually backed down under pressure. It believes Microsoft has backed off from co-operating with vendors since it entered the security market with its anti-virus and firewall product OneCare, which Microsoft began testing in May 2005.

"The dialogue has been severely curtailed over the last year to a year and a half," Trollope said. "We've talked to them till they are blue in the face. They wouldn't move."

Symantec said the launch of OneCare had not affected its sales -- describing it as "a blip on the radar" -- but worries that customers may be influenced by a link to OneCare appearing on Vista's welcome screen.

More widely, Symantec accuses Microsoft of regulating what security products will succeed in the future, saying design choices it made for Vista select what security programs the customers sees. Customers rarely change default settings, the company said, and are unlikely to switch away from the presets that come with their PC.

Robinson, however, argued that Microsoft in recent years has given companies like Symantec even more access than before.

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