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DoJ plays down concerns over IE search box

Microsoft beats Google this time around

The US DoJ (Department of Justice) will not pursue complaints about Microsoft's decision to include search functionality in version 7.0 of its IE (Internet Explorer) browser, despite concerns raised by search competitor Google, the DoJ said in a court filing.

The DoJ, in a court document released late last week, said it and other plaintiffs in the US government's antitrust case against Microsoft have finished their look at the IE search feature, which can default to Microsoft's own MSN Search feature in some cases.

This month, Google said it complained to the EC (European Commission) about IE 7.0's search defaults, saying its search defaults benefit Microsoft and remove choices for users. The EC is currently examining Microsoft's plans for its Vista OS (operating system), expected to be released next year.

But the DoJ and other plaintiffs in the US antitrust case said IE 7.0, now in beta, makes it easy for users to change the default search engine within the browser. Computer makers can select the default search engine for IE, the DoJ said, although some machines with IE 6.0 installed may have not included a default search engine because IE 6.0 did not have a prominent search box.

"IE 7.0 includes a relatively straightforward method for the user to select a different search engine," said the DoJ in an antitrust compliance report filed with the US District Court for the District of Columbia. "As Microsoft's implementation of the search feature respects users' and OEMs' [original equipment manufacturers'] default choices and is easily changed, plaintiffs have concluded their work on this matter."

On Friday, the DoJ asked US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to extend parts of her antitrust order for at least two years because of Microsoft's delays in supplying technical documentation to licensees of its communications protocols. Microsoft agreed with the request to extend the order two years beyond its scheduled expiration in November 2007.

Kollar-Kotelly is scheduled to preside over an antitrust settlement compliance hearing Wednesday at 10 am local time. She approved a sweeping antitrust settlement between Microsoft and the DoJ and a group of state attorneys general in November 2002.

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