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Friday, November 10, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Gates says rivals tried to "castrate" new Vista

The Associated Press

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said Thursday the company's upcoming Windows Vista operating system has survived antitrust complaints by rivals who aimed to "castrate" it.

Gates made the comments during a European tour to promote Vista ahead of its release to business clients Nov. 30. Microsoft finished work on the long-delayed software's code Wednesday, allowing it to meet, on Jan. 30, its promise of general availability that month.

Gates said Vista was not fundamentally affected by a long debate with European Union officials worried that new functions of the software might elbow into existing markets for security and Internet search, limiting consumer choice.

"Competitors tried to get regulators to castrate the product," said Gates, adding they had largely failed. "I wouldn't say antitrust played any dramatic role."

He said Vista retained stepped-up security features and that the company had discussed the program "every step of the way" with officials at EU headquarters.

U.S. security vendors Symantec and McAfee had complained that Microsoft had deliberately delayed handing over information that would help them make their software compatible with Vista. The data have since been made available.

Microsoft had said it wanted more clarity from EU officials that the software would not cause antitrust problems.

The European Commission insisted it wasn't its job to give Microsoft a green light and that the company was well aware it should not break EU monopoly law.

Gates met with EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso Thursday, but talks did not touch on the company's long battle with regulators, instead concentrating on Gates' philanthropy, an EU spokesman said.

"The idea behind this was talks with the president on the various challenges confronting the Gates Foundation, fighting poverty, disease, AIDS," said spokesman Johannes Laitenberger.

Gates later spoke at an innovation conference where he painted a picture of a coming technological revolution as computing moves from the keyboard, allowing people to use devices by speaking, gesturing or scribbling down a few words.

That would be fueled by a surge of "smart people" from rapidly growing economies, such as India and China, who would add their ideas to global research efforts.

"The pace of innovation over these next 10 years will be much faster than what we've seen in the past," Gates said. "We all want to draw on great minds everywhere in the world."

Research was the secret to Microsoft's success, and others should follow its lead, Gates said.

"We try to be an example, a real evangelist for companies who invest in research. We think that has been our very best investment," he said.

Dow Jones correspondent Adam Cohen contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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