By Alan Sipress
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Microsoft has agreed to revise its Vista operating system under a compromise with federal and state officials monitoring the company's compliance with a five-year-old antitrust decree, according to a court filing last night.
Microsoft's concession came after Google filed a complaint alleging that it and other competitors were unfairly disadvantaged by how Microsoft designed the feature for conducting computer-desktop searches. In particular, Google said that it was difficult to turn off the Microsoft desktop search and that Google's desktop search ran too slowly when users chose it as an alternate.
Though Microsoft executives denied those accusations, the company said it would make several changes in its desktop search. The feature, which is separate from Internet search, allows users to scan information on computer hard drives.
Google raised its concerns with officials tracking Microsoft's compliance with the 2002 consent decree that ended the government's antitrust case against the software giant. The dispute between Google and Microsoft became public in recent weeks as the monitoring committee, composed of state attorneys general and Justice Department officials, was drafting its quarterly status report.
Microsoft was able to reach agreement even with its most outspoken critics, including officials from California and several other states.
"This agreement, while not perfect, is a positive step toward greater competition in the software industry," California Attorney General Jerry Brown said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press.
Microsoft also welcomed the deal in a short statement.
"We're pleased we were able to reach an agreement with all the States and the Justice Department that addresses their concerns so that everyone can move forward," said Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft's general counsel.
A company executive said Microsoft would allow users to select a default desktop search provider in the same way they choose a default Internet browser or media player. The executive spoke on condition of anonymity because the company had not authorized him to be quoted. The company is also adding links to make it easier for users to add other desktop searches, the executive said. Finally, Microsoft will provide technical information to other companies so they can make their desktop programs run more smoothly on Vista, the executive said.
These revisions are to be included in a forthcoming service pack provided to users so they can update their operating system. The service pack should be distributed for testing later this year, but Microsoft could not yet say when it would become available to the public.
Google executives could not be reached for comment.