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Adobe and Symantec Complain to EC About Vista

With Windows Vista nearly ready for rollout, two of Microsoft's “frenemies” -- Adobe and Symantec -- are taking their complaints of bundling to the European Commission, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.

Microsoft has always had to skate a tenuous line between competing with and cooperating with other industry players – so-called “coopetition.” The company has a history, however, of biding its time until a market looks ripe for plucking and then jumping in as a major competitor – in this case, in the areas of document distribution formats and antivirus markets.

Adobe's PDF (short for Portable Document Format) has for years been the de facto standard for distributing read-only documents -- a valuable capability for corporations, law firms, and government, for instance. Adobe's business model has been to give away the reader, which does not allow readers to create PDF documents, and to sell Acrobat, which does.

For Vista and Office, Microsoft has come up with a competing scheme for creating read-only documents that it calls the XML Paper Specification and initially planned to have that as a native format in which to save documents in Office 2007 and in Vista. In a move the company described as providing equal access, Microsoft announced it would also include saving as PDF as a natively-supported format in Office.

Adobe sees providing XPS as an alternative to PDF, as well as saving as PDF natively, as doubly undercutting the reasons why especially corporate customers buy Acrobat. Microsoft pulled the native support for both from Office 2007 but is making those capabilities available as a free add-in.

Vista retains its XPS capabilities.

The Journal's story states that Adobe "has told regulators that Microsoft should be prohibited from building free competing software for reading and creating electronic documents into the operating system, according to people familiar with the situation."

Symantec spokesperson Cris Paden told the Journal that Symantec officials will travel to Brusells next week to express the company's concerns to journalists, including issues like Redmond using Vista to "direct consumers toward a Microsoft-designed security console" and locking other security vendors out of its new Patch Guard feature.

"Our goal is to deliver a fully innovative, secure version of Windows Vista that is compliant with EU law," Tom Brookes, a Microsoft spokesperson told the Journal. “However, Adobe and Symantec have told EU regulators that Vista has put them squarely in Microsoft's cross hairs.”

“EU antitrust chief Neelie Kroes has warned Microsoft not to design the new version of Windows, which runs more than percent of the world's personal computers, in ways that would put rival software companies at a competitive disadvantage,” the Journal story continues.

According to the paper, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wrote Ms. Kroes last spring to ask if she desired that Microsoft remove XPS from Vista. Kroes did not respond, the Microsoft spokesperson told the Journal.

All this comes on the heels of Microsoft's tête-à-tête with the EC over what the commission defines as anticompetitive behavior surrounding previous versions of Windows and Windows Server.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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