When Windows Vista ships next year, customers might have a tougher time getting their security software to work properly, executives from Symantec said Wednesday.At issue are two new features being introduced with Vista: an enhanced Windows Security Center as well as a feature in the 64-bit version of Vista called PatchGuard. Microsoft says it is adding these features to lock down the operating system, but Symantec believes that they will be harmful to customers by making it harder for them to use third-party software."There\u2019s no question that they\u2019re leveraging a monopolistic position to limit customer choice," said Chris Paden a Symantec spokesman.While Symantec executives did accuse Microsoft of being more difficult to work with on Vista than with previous operating system introductions, they stopped short of accusing Microsoft of antitrust violations. "It\u2019s not anti-competitive behavior, because Vista hasn\u2019t even hit the market yet," Paden said.Security vendors like Symantec are in a state of heightened sensitivity these days as they\u2019ve begun to compete with Microsoft head-on, and the specter of further antitrust actions looms over Microsoft\u2019s every move in the security space. Last week the European Union\u2019s spokesman on competition, Jonathan Todd, warned that the market could be threatened if Microsoft doesn\u2019t allow security vendors a fair chance of competing.Symantec and other security vendors dislike PatchGuard because it prevents them from accessing the Windows kernel. They say it will stop them from delivering important features like Symantec\u2019s "anti-tampering" technology, which prevents malicious programs from modifying Symantec\u2019s own software.PatchGuard will also make it more difficult for security vendors to protect against malicious software that takes advantage of kernel-level bugs, said Eric Sites, vice president of research and development with Sunbelt Software."There are a lot of new exploits coming out that exploit kernel-level drivers, " he said. "If we\u2019re able to get into the kernel, we can watch for things like that, but with what Microsoft is doing we can\u2019t do that."Microsoft declined to be interviewed for this article, but in an interview with IDG News last week a Microsoft executive said that PatchGuard was simply an effort to prevent the kernel from being misused."We think that there\u2019s a significant amount of confusion around... certain security features in the product that we think raise the foundation," said Stephen Toulouse a senior product manager in the Security Technology Unit. "What we\u2019re doing is we\u2019re walling off the kernel from attackers, because the functionality that is currently there was never meant to be used by anybody -- by software vendors or attackers."But PatchGuard is enabled only in the 64-bit version of Windows. Because there are few 64-bit applications written for Vista, most of Vista\u2019s initial users are expected to run the operating system in 32-bit mode, and their security software will still be able to access the kernel.A more immediate issue for Symantec is many Vista users will find that both the Windows Security Center and Symantec warnings will pop up simultaneously. This doesn\u2019t happen with Windows XP because Symantec\u2019s software is able to automatically disable the Windows warnings, but with Vista users will have to turn off the Security Center themselves. This will make things unnecessarily complicated for many customers, said Rowan Trollope, Symantec\u2019s vice president of consumer engineering. "Most users can\u2019t figure out how to do that," he said.With two warnings popping up, each with different wording, users will be confused at best, and may simply begin ignoring security warnings altogether, said Sites.Some observers have speculated that Symantec may press the EU for action against Microsoft in this matter, but Trollope and Paden wouldn\u2019t say what Symantec planned to do to address these problems. "We\u2019re looking at all the possibilities now," said Trollope, "And none of them are good for customers."-Robert McMillan, IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)Related Links:\n\nMicrosoft Tries to Dazzle E.U. With Vista Benefits\n\nTesters: Microsoft Windows Vista RC1 Seems Stable\n\nMicrosoft Windows Vista for Sale on Amazon.com\n\nE.U. Regulator: No Microsoft \u2018Vendetta\u2019This article is posted on our Microsoft Informer page.\u00a0 For more news on the Redmond, Wash.-based powerhouse, keep checking in.Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.