Window ME Bundles Digital Media Software Whether You Like It or Not

Even if the Justice Departmentis antitrust suit against Microsoft doesnit ultimately break the software giant into smaller business units, surely the Redmond geeks have learned their lesson, Right? Think again.

As Microsoftis prepares to release the last version of Windows called Windows Me, for Millennium Edition, the word is out that the new incremental update contains Microsoftis Windows Media Player 7 and Movie Maker, which install automatically, and -- get this -- can not be removed. Itis a feature! Itis also the equivalent of flipping the US Justice Department a giant, multi-billion dollar corporate birdie.

Windows Media Player 7 is Microsoftis answer to Real Networkis RealPlayer and Movie Maker is essentially a lame rip-off of iMovie (although Movie Maker can handle analog video input, a legacy feature Apple neglected to add to iMovie).

Microsoft claims it isnit trying to deny consumers the choice of an alternative MP3 player or video viewing and editing software. After all you can install anything you want on your computer, just donit try to uninstall Microsoftis media software.

Some Observers will note that this is exactly the sort of behavior that got Microsoft in hot water with the Justice Department in the first place. Microsoftis antitrust troubles began because the company decided to bundle a free Web browser with its operating system in an effort to unseat Netscape as the browser kings. The company was also worried that Netscape could become a major competitor of the Redmond giant by making their browser into a file management system, something that IE now does. Now theyire at it again. This time the goal is to put RealNetworks in the poor house, while squelching any media software upstarts from introducing disruptive innovation into Microsoftis placid market.

According to an article:

By bundling the new applications into the operating system, Microsoft is just providing better value for consumers, says Joe Clabby, analyst with the Aberdeen Group of Boston.

Consider this: Clabby recently bought Video Wave, a video editing product from MGI Software Corp., for $79. But Microsoft’s competing Movie Maker product is just as good, and you get that and the rest of the operating system for less money. The Windows Me upgrade will cost $59.95 for Windows 98 users until the end of the year.

Itis pretty difficult to compete with freeware, especially when distributed by Microsoft in an unremovable format that comes pre-installed on millions of new PCs just in time for the Christmas season.