ECIS Media Release: With Vista Microsoft continues its illegal practices

The very same practices the European Commission found to be illegal almost three years ago have now been implemented in Vista, Microsoft‘s new PC operating system. This will stifle competition on the PC and server markets, and extend its closed standards into the open standards based internet environment, the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) warned today in a statement.

Microsoft still has not fulfilled its interoperability disclosure obligations under the European Commission‘s March 2004 Decision, which applies not only to existing but also to forthcoming Microsoft products, such as Vista, Office 2007 and Longhorn.

“With Vista, Microsoft has clearly chosen to ignore the fundamental principles of the Commission‘s March 2004 decision,” said Simon Awde, ECIS Chairman. The 2004 Decision found that Microsoft had abused its Windows PC operating system monopoly by withholding the interface information necessary for competing workgroup server systems to fully interoperate with Windows, and by bundling in its own media player.

“Vista is the first step in Microsoft‘s strategy to extend its market dominance to the Internet,” Awde stressed. For example, Microsoft’s “XAML” markup language, positioned to replace HTML (the current industry standard for publishing language on the Internet), is designed from the ground up to be dependent on Windows, and thus is not cross-platform by nature. In addition, Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 will also introduce the Open XML file format (OOXML), by which Microsoft seeks to displace ODF, the existing ISO approved, truly open document file format. Unlike the ISO ODF file format which operates on multiple vendor platforms, Microsoft’s Open XML file format today only runs seamlessly on the Microsoft Office platform.

“With XAML and OOXML Microsoft seeks to impose its own Windows-dependent standards and displace existing open cross-platform standards which have wide industry acceptance, permit open competition and promote competition-driven innovation. The end result will be the continued absence of any real consumer choice, years of waiting for Microsoft to improve – or even debug – its monopoly products, and of course high prices,” said Thomas Vinje, counsel to ECIS and spokesman on the issue.

Faced with this new and wider threat to competition, ECIS continues to support the European Commission in its efforts to force Microsoft to comply with its March 2004 decision, and also urges the Commission to take a decision as fast as possible regarding ECIS‘ own 2006 complaint and supplements. That complaint asks Europe‘s antitrust authority to put an end to practices that preserve Microsoft‘s existing monopolies and threaten to extend its market dominance into a range of other areas, including Web-based computing and servers.