Google wants more Vista changes

California's AG backed Google in dispute over desktop search

Google Inc. said today that it wants federal and state regulators to press Microsoft Corp. to make more changes to Windows Vista's desktop search and indexing tool.

Although Microsoft struck an agreement yesterday with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and 17 state attorneys general to modify some aspects of Vista's built-in search, Google said antitrust officials should do more.

"Microsoft's current approach to Vista desktop search clearly violates the consent decree and limits consumer choice," David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, said in an e-mail today. "We are pleased that as a result of Google's request that the consent decree be enforced, the Department of Justice and state attorneys general have required Microsoft to make changes to Vista.

"These remedies are a step in the right direction, but they should be improved further to give consumers greater access to alternate desktop search providers."

A Google spokesman declined to elaborate when asked what additional changes Microsoft should be forced to make.

According to reports last week, Google accused Microsoft of making it difficult for users to disable Vista's integrated indexing and search. If a second desktop search application was installed, the computer would slow down as two competing indexers churned through the hard drive, Google said. The Mountain View, Calif., search giant also complained that Microsoft's search was the only tool allowed to generate results in Vista's search bars, which appear in several places, including the Start menu, in the Windows Explorer file manager and in the Control Panels main display.

In the joint status settlement report (download PDF) issued Tuesday, the DOJ and state attorneys general said that Microsoft must modify Vista so users and resellers can select a default search tool for producing results in the Start menu. Other search bars, however, will continue to rely on Vista's own search and indexing program, and must only provide users with a link to the default search engine. Other provisions require Microsoft to offer documentation so that developers can optimize their Vista search software and minimize its impact on PC performance.

It's unclear what options Google has to press its case further. The DOJ and all 17 affected attorneys general signed off on the agreement, even though there was disagreement about the strength of Google's complaint. "Plaintiffs are collectively satisfied that this agreement will resolve any issues the complaint may raise under the Final Judgments, provided that Microsoft implements it as promised," the group said in the report.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown was the only one of the 17 to publicly express any disappointment with the arrangement. "While not perfect, [it] is a positive step toward greater competition in the software industry," Brown said in a statement. California had also backed its home state business in arguing that Vista's search tool was a new feature, and thus fell under the terms of the antitrust consent decree reached with Microsoft in 2002.

"The state contended that Vista's desktop search feature is functionality that did not exist in prior Windows operating systems and is therefore covered under the Final Judgment," Brown added.

California, however, signed the status report, indicating its ultimate support of the deal.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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