MS security bundling plan causes waves

Symantec assists EU 'reconnaissance probe'

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European anti-trust regulators have begun investigating Microsoft's plans to market consumer security software. Symantec has been asked to provide information about Microsoft's plans for OneCare - an all-in-one PC health check service targeted at consumers - in order to help investigators decide whether Microsoft might have fallen foul of anti-trust rules.

Windows OneCare is a subscription service that will provide automatically updated anti-virus, anti-spyware and two-way firewall protection. The technology, due next year, pitches Microsoft squarely against former partners such as McAfee and Symantec.

Symantec spokeswoman Genevieve Haldeman denied that it had made a formal complaint to regulators and explained that it was simply helping regulators with their inquiries. "We have been asked to provide information to the EU, and we have complied with that request. The information was really helping them understand the complexity of the security industry and our role in it."

"We have always said, and continue to say, that we'll continue to compete with Microsoft in the market as long as there's a level playing field," she added, Dow Jones Newswire via Computerworld reports.

It's not the first time Microsoft's business practices have raised eyebrows at the EU. Last year, European regulators took exception with the bundling of Windows Media Player with the company’s operating systems, arguing that the practice inhibited competition. As part of the settlement agreed in March 2004, Microsoft agreed to pay a fine of €497m ($613m), to offer a version of Windows without a media player and to open up access to its server APIs. Microsoft has since launched a legal action aimed at allowing it to keep its server APIs a secret.

Earlier this month, the European Commission appointed an ombudsman to oversee MS's compliance with EC demands. Academic and long serving security consultant Dr Neil Barrett will be act as a watchdog providing "technical advice to the Commission on issues relating to Microsoft’s compliance with the Commission’s 2004 [Media Player] Decision." ®

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