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Google steps up Vista search battle

Windows Vista desktop search dispute continues

Google still hopes to influence changes that Microsoft plans to make in Vista's desktop search function, even after the parties involved in Microsoft's 2002 antitrust settlement agreed to alterations to the search system.

On Monday, in response to Microsoft's opposition to an earlier request, Google asked that the US District Court for the District of Columbia allow it to weigh in as an interested party regarding the way the search function should be changed. The filing comes two weeks after Microsoft and the plaintiffs in the antitrust suit said that they had worked together and agreed to changes.

The concerns about the desktop search function initially arose after Google complained to the plaintiffs and state attorney generals late last year that Microsoft's desktop search put third-party desktop search providers at a disadvantage. According to the terms of Microsoft's antitrust settlement, third parties such as Google must address their complaints about Microsoft's compliance with the settlement to the plaintiffs and the states.

In their quarterly report to the court on June 19, Microsoft and the plaintiffs told the judge that based on Google's complaint they had agreed on a way for Microsoft to change Vista desktop search to satisfy third party concerns. However, on June 25, the night before the judge was set to meet with the parties to discuss the quarterly report, Google made a filing to the court, asking to weigh in on the case. In addition to the request, Google included the comments that it wanted to file as a third party.

In a response filing, Microsoft called the move an attempt at an "end-run" around the terms of the settlement agreement, which require third parties to work with the plaintiffs, not directly with the court. Microsoft also argued that the matter is settled already and so there's no issue for Google to participate in resolving. It also argued that Google isn't qualified to participate because it isn't a party involved in the antitrust case.

During the discussion of the quarterly report last week, the judge appeared to agree with Microsoft. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly remarked then that the plaintiffs serve as representatives of the consumer and that Google isn't a party in the case.

Google's filing on Monday is in response to Microsoft's filing. Google argues that it can offer an important and useful perspective to the situation because it is a developer of a desktop search product and because it initially drew the attention of the plaintiffs to the Vista desktop search issue. Google is also asking for more information about the agreed changes so that it may determine whether they go far enough. If Google thinks the changes aren't enough, it wants to have the opportunity to offer its opinions to the court, according to the filing.

The next step is for the judge to decide whether to allow Google's participation.

See also:

Antitrust analysis: Google versus Microsoft

Windows Vista review


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