European rivals turn wary eye on Microsoft

European security software makers are closely, but quietly, watching as Microsoft enters their turf.

Companies such as F-Secure, Panda Software and Sophos are taking a low-key approach, unlike their U.S. counterparts. Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec, in particular, has been vocal in its opposition to Microsoft, even sending executives to Europe to talk to reporters about how it fears the software giant will undercut security rivals with Windows Vista.

That doesn't mean, however, that the Europeans don't share the concerns that have been voiced by Symantec, McAfee and others.

"We should regard Microsoft's entry into this space as a threat," said Josu Franco, director of corporate development at Panda Software in Bilbao, Spain. "Microsoft is trying to leverage its monopoly in the desktop to compete in the antivirus space, and we should call that abuse."

Europe is a key battleground for Microsoft as it gets ready to ship Vista, the successor to Windows XP that is slated to be broadly available in January. The European Commission has already warned Microsoft to stick to its competition rules--in particular, those that prohibit abuse of a dominant market position. Microsoft continues to seek out what's permissible in Vista.

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