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DoJ Investigates Possible Microsoft Antitrust Agreement Violation

DoJ Investigates Possible Microsoft Antitrust Agreement Violation

by , 11:00 AM EDT, October 21st, 2003

If you thought that Microsoft's anticompetitive ways were halted after the company signed a controversial agreement with the DoJ, you may want to think again. Though TMO has often characterized the agreement as a "sweetheart deal" granted to Microsoft, Wired News is reporting that the DoJ and the 19 participating states' attorneys are looking into a possible violation of that agreement.

Brought to light by DoJ lawyers, the issue is now being investigated by the technical committee setup to insure Microsoft's compliance to the agreement. That committee includes execs from Network Associates and Cisco, as well as an ex-Microsoft employee. The source of the DoJ lawyer's concern is Windows XP, and the way it steers users to Microsoft application and products. From the Wired News article, Microsoft Lassos Music Customers:

Lawyers for the Justice Department and 19 state attorneys general have formally complained to a federal judge about a design feature of Windows that compels consumers who buy music online to use only Microsoft's Internet browser and steers them to a Web site operated by the company.

[...]

The dispute centers on a design feature in Windows XP called "Shop for Music Online," which lets consumers purchase compact discs from retailers over the Internet. When consumers click the link to buy music, Windows opens Microsoft's browser software even after consumers specify that they prefer using rival browser software.

The link -- prominent whenever a computer user opens a designated folder containing songs -- also steers Windows users to a Web site, windowsmedia.com , operated by Microsoft with links to online retailers, such as Buy.com or CDNow. On Monday, the page promoted CDs by Madonna, 50 Cent, Linkin Park and Celine Dion.

The Windows behavior does not affect consumers who use another Internet browser to directly visit other music sellers, such as Apple Computer's new iTunes site or the Rhapsody service from Listen.com.

For more detail about this dispute, stop by Wired News and review the full article.

The Mac Observer Spin:

Boy, are we itching to say, "We told you so!"

We will admit that we are heartened to see that the DoJ is at least ensuring that Big Redmond keeps to the letter of the agreement, even if that agreement is little more than a slap on the wrist. The problem is that had the DoJ pursued a proper "settlement," this wouldn't have been necessary. Microsoft has shown on more than one occasion that the agreement has changed not one thing. From complaints about licensing terms to see Windows code, to this latest accusation, it's business as usual in Redmond.

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