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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Changes in Vista for EU and rest of Europe

Microsoft is reinforcing its commitment to ship Windows Vista to volume License customers in November and to the general public in January, and it's doing so by throwing a fight with the security community and the EU Commission over some features of the operating system. In this context, the Redmond Company has got not only to finish up with Windows Vista by October 25, but also to implement the announced changes by the same self-imposed deadline. Vista will suffer modifications into three aspects: security, search and the XPS format.

The security community, with little exceptions, reacted abruptly when confronted with the sight of a locked down kernel. Accusations ranged from monopoly allegations to limitations of Microsoft's view on security. Microsoft was challenged on the Patch Guard feature in Windows Vista x64 versions (but not in the more mainstream 32-bit versions) will prevent hackers, security companies, and, yes, Microsoft itself, from changing the kernel at run-time. And also Windows Security Center came into focus, the security feature front-end in Windows Vista that alerts users when security features are not present, disabled, or out of date. Security vendors want to be able to turn off Security Center and replace it with their own dashboard.
In regard to both issues, Microsoft is set to deliver a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that would enable both access to Vista's kernel and third-party dashboards.

“We have agreed to create new APIs and are working on them now,” Mary Snapp, a lawyer in Microsoft's Department of Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA). “We've done a fair bit of consulting with vendors to enable them to interface with kernel in a very secure manner. As a result, their products will operate compatibly. These APIs will suppress Security Center alerts when there is comparable functionality from a third party security center. But only when there is another console doing comparable work and alerting the user.”

Another aspect of Windows Vista that will suffer alterations is Internet search. This is in a close relation with Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7 and the concern that
Microsoft will set Windows live Search to be the default search engine in IE7.

“In the end, Microsoft did something that makes sense for both users and the search providers. When a user upgrades from IE 6 to IE 7 (or from XP to Windows Vista), they will be presented with a screen that displays their current default search provider. They can choose to accept that choice or pick a new provider from a long list of choices that includes both major search services (like Google and Yahoo) and lesser-known options (such as Lycos or Ask.com). If the user skips over this screen, they will be presented with it every time they launch IE 7 until they've made a choice. No choice will be made for them if they choose to ignore it temporarily,” they added.

Furthermore, Microsoft will open up the XPS format as an international standard to respond to Adobe System's concerns over the advantage that XPS will get over PDF due to its integration in the operating system. “We've agreed to submit the fixed documentation layout format to a standards organization so that it can be broadly available and used,” explained Snapp. “It will not be included in Office 2007, however.”