Page last updated at 11:03 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Modular Windows plan 'welcomed'

By Daniel Emery
Technology reporter, BBC News

Windows 7 was unveiled at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in LA

Plans to introduce modular features in Windows 7 have been welcomed by the European Commission's former Microsoft monitoring trustee.

Windows Features allows users to turn off applications such as Media Centre, Media Player and Internet Explorer.

Professor Neil Barrett said this would help promote effective competition.

EU regulators have ended full-time monitoring of Microsoft, which was started to ensure the firm complied with an anti-trust ruling.

Speaking to the BBC, Professor Barrett said it was a welcome move on all fronts.

"Microsoft did this off their own bat. From their perspective, making the operating system modular is a good thing.

"For competitors, this will allow them to compete on all fronts.

"It also benefits European Commission monitoring, as this will give them a clear understanding of what would be needed in the future should other firms fall foul of anti-trust laws."

Microsoft is currently facing an anti-trust filing led by browser maker Opera, and supported by Mozilla, the makers of Firefox, and Google, who last year launched Chrome.

The companies have complained that Microsoft's bundling of Internet Explorer into Windows XP and Vista is anti-competitive.

Time line

In 2004, a legal ruling forced Microsoft to share information about the internal workings of its software with rivals. It was also hit with a 497m euro (441m) fine for abusing its dominant market position that stopped rivals prospering in the desktop and server software markets.

The ruling forced it to unbundle some of the products included in standard installations of Windows such as Media Player.

The 2004 decision also made Microsoft pass information about its operating systems to rivals so they could improve the way their programs worked with the software.

Microsoft appealed against and lost the court battle to overturn the fine and was then hit with another penalty of 899m euros (798m) in February 2008 for defying the initial ruling.

Professor Barrett said part of the problem was that the US and EU operate in very different ways.

"US firms follow the Harvard school of competition: find a market, dominate that market and then use that domination to beat the competition into submission.

"US firms come here, speak the same language (especially in Britain), and think they are working in an identical environment.

"They're not, because in Europe, that type business model isn't remotely fair."

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