The European Commission's investigation of alleged antitrust issues associated with Windows Vista could force Microsoft to delay global shipping of the next-generation operating system, Gartner has warned.
Microsoft disclosed on 8 September that it may delay the availability of Windows Vista in European Union countries owing to concerns about the product's ability to comply with EC antitrust regulations.
"The announcement shows how non-technical issues could delay a product launch," reported a Gartner briefing from analysts Michael Silver, Stephen Kleynhans and David Mitchell Smith.
"It comes just a week after Microsoft made Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 available to select users.
"Normally, RC1, which seems to be a strong advance over prior betas, would bode well for release to manufacture of Windows Vista before the end of 2006. But Microsoft wants to avoid further litigation."
Gartner noted that Symantec filed a lawsuit in May 2006 over the storage management function included in Windows from Veritas.
In addition, Adobe Systems has filed a complaint with the EC against Microsoft about the inclusion of XML Paper Specification support in Windows and Office, and Portable Document Format support in Office.
"Gartner believes that, while Microsoft would go far to settle corporate lawsuits that would delay Windows Vista, it is less likely to be able to resolve legal action by the EC as easily," the analyst firm stated.
"The EC says that it has provided clear guidance, but Microsoft maintains that it wants more specific direction to avoid having to withdraw or reissue products or pay fines because of product functions.
"In the past, the EC ordered Microsoft to pay nearly $1bn in fines and required it to release a version of Windows XP for European markets without its media player.
"Since this Windows XP 'N' version costs the same as the full product, sales have been weak."
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