Gates: Vista Survived Antitrust Challenges
Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates said Thursday the company's upcoming Windows Vista operating system has survived antitrust complaints by rivals who aimed to "castrate" it.
Gates made the comments during a European tour to promote Vista ahead of its release to business clients on Nov. 30. The company finished work on the long-delayed software's code on Wednesday, allowing it to meet -- on Jan. 30 -- its promise of general availability that month.
The Microsoft co-founder said Vista was not fundamentally affected by a long debate with European Union antitrust officials worried that new functions offered by the software might elbow into existing markets for security and Internet search, ultimately limiting consumer choice.
"Competitors tried to get regulators to castrate the product," said Gates, adding they had largely failed. "I wouldn't say antitrust played any dramatic role."
He said Vista retained stepped-up security features and had discussed the program "every step of the way" with officials at EU headquarters.
U.S. security vendors Symantec Corp. and McAfee Inc. had complained that Microsoft had deliberately delayed handing over information that would help them make their software compatible with Vista. That data have now been made available to them.
Microsoft has said in the past it wanted more clarity from EU officials that the software would not cause antitrust problems. The European Commission insisted that it's not its job to give Microsoft a green light and the company was well aware that it should not break EU monopoly law.
Gates met with EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso early Thursday but talks did not touch on the company's long battle with EU regulators, instead concentrating on Gates' philanthropy, an EU spokesman said.
"The idea behind this was talks with the president on the various challenges confronting the Gates Foundation, fighting poverty, disease, AIDS," said spokesman Johannes Laitenberger.
Gates later spoke at an innovation conference where he painted a picture of a coming technological revolution as computing moved away from the keyboard, allowing people use devices by speaking, gesturing or scribbling down a few words.
That would be fueled by a surge of "smart people" from rapidly growing economies such as India and China who would add their ideas to global research efforts.
"The pace of innovation over these next 10 years will be much faster than what we've seen in the past," he said. "We all want to draw on great minds everywhere in the world."
Research was the secret to Microsoft's success and others should follow its lead, Gates said.
"We try to be an example, a real evangelist for companies who invest in research. We think that has been our very best investment," he said.
Intellectual property rights and education played a very important role in supporting innovation, and the United States has made more leaps forward in information technology and biology because of a strong patent regime that rewarded ideas, he said.
The 25-nation EU is currently urging governments to spend more on research and help offer more startup capital to innovative businesses. It is also trying to set up a higher-education network, a European Institute of Technology, to focus university research on cutting-edge technology that could spark business ideas.
However, efforts to streamline patents have been more controversial, with the collapse of an EU plan to set new software patent rules last year over a split on whether Europe should follow the U.S. in allowing people to own the rights to business methods or computer programs -- such as Amazon.com Inc.'s "one-click" shopping technique.
Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen told the conference that governments could find other ways to make the European patent system more cost-effective and reliable to help answer business worries.