If there's an anti-Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) out there, it's not Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), or Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), or dinosaur Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:SUNW), or even up-and-coming Linux-hawkers like Red Hat (NASDAQ:RHAT). Nope, the outfit that seems most anxious to crush Microsoft is the European Union.

Microsoft's antitrust woes with the EU are old news by now, as is the EU's pigheaded, danged-if-you-do, danged-if-you-don't stance on non-issues such as uncoupling Windows Media Player from the OS. (Turned out no one wanted that stripped-down version of the OS over there, but why let facts get in the way of protectionist zeal?)

If today's news is any indication, things aren't likely to get much easier for Microsoft when Vista finally hits the market. According to an AP story, the EU told Microsoft it is ready to offer "guidance" on how Windows' latest OS should incorporate -- or not incorporate -- new security features that might threaten the hegemony of Windows-security companies like Symantec (NASDAQ:SYMC) or McAfee (NYSE:MFE).

As for how it does that, it remains Redmond's responsibility "to accept and implement its responsibilities as a near monopolist to ensure full compliance."

Hey, now that sounds friendly, doesn't it?

The Catch-22 for Microsoft is that security is a huge deal to consumers. And, truth be told, the beta versions of its latest security tools for Vista -- such as Windows Defender -- are much better integrated than the patchwork of third-party stuff that used to muck up my machine. But by creating more robust tools to better serve consumers' demand for security, Microsoft may run afoul of European regulators.

Alas, it's not the only double standard under which Mr. Softy is forced to labor. A few days ago, I noticed a story about a certain widely used Internet browser that, according to the source, contained "611 defects and 71 potential security vulnerabilities."

Should have been front-page news, right? Well, it wasn't, and I'm guessing the reason the press didn't pick up on it was that the browser was Firefox. Had it been Internet Explorer, I'm sure the copy desks would have been working overtime.

Whether the bad vibes and hostile European business environment offer more opportunity than risk for investors will depend, to a great degree, on how the Vista rollout goes. In a crummy-case scenario, I think shares are worth about $30 each. Should Vista spur a robust upgrade cycle, things could be even better than that.

Both Microsoft and Symantec are kicked-around cash-flow machines, which is why both are recommendations of Motley Fool Inside Value. You can get a free look at the reasoning behind all the recommendations.

At the time of publication, Seth Jayson was long Microsoft common and calls, but he had no positions in any other company mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here . See what he's Digging these days. McAfee was a former Stock Advisor pick. Fool rules arehere