updated 10/16/2006 9:33:20 AM ET 2006-10-16T13:33:20

Microsoft said it would make available on Monday parts of key data to security software firms such as Symantec and McAfee to enable their products to work smoothly with its new Vista operating system.

Microsoft has promised the additional information to comply with European Union requirements that stem from the EU executive's landmark 2004 decision that the U.S. company used its dominant Windows system to damage competitors.  (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

The codes are important for the companies as they will allow them to suppress Microsoft's own security "pop-ups" if a PC user decides to buy alternative security software, thus keeping brands such as Norton clearly separate from that of Microsoft.  But Microsoft is still developing software essential to the companies so they can block "spyware" and other malicious software.

It will give them access to the core, or "kernel" of the 64-bit version of Vista, something they have always had with past versions of Windows.

Asked when Microsoft would deliver the data, the company's chief executive, Steve Ballmer, told Reuters: "Today, Seattle time, not Rome time".

He was speaking on Monday on the sidelines of a meeting with a bank in the Italian capital.

The codes are part of changes Microsoft said last week it would make after the European Commission, the EU's top antitrust authority, said it had concerns that Vista and Microsoft's behavior could push software makers out of the market.

The data in question are Application Program Interfaces, or APIs, which are in essence "levers" or "buttons" that other companies call upon so their software will run on Windows.

The APIs are expected to be made available on a Web site to which security software providers have exclusive access, a Brussels-based spokesman for Microsoft said.

Keeping close eye
Other software makers such as Adobe, maker of the fixed document format software "pdf", and Google, the search engine, were also worried about Vista because of the way Microsoft had tied in its own software with similar functions.

On Monday, the Commission said it was up to those companies to judge whether they were happy with the Vista changes by talking to Microsoft.

"The Commission will keep a close eye on how Vista develops in the marketplace, and if necessary, if we receive complaints, we will look into those complaints," Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd told a regular briefing.

But Microsoft's Ballmer said he believed the announced changes would satisfy the EU executive.

"We had to digest the feedback (from the Commission) and take action and understand if we thought that would put us in compliance with European law, which we think we are," he said.

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