Microsoft has agreed under pressure to change its Windows software to
resolve complaints by the US Justice Department that it unfairly
influenced how customers buy their music online, the US government said.
Microsoft will offer updated software for its Windows XP operating
system in February or March to stop its disputed practice of compelling
consumers who buy music on the web to use only Microsoft's internet
browser. The company continues to maintain its design was legal.
Government antitrust lawyers concluded that the design violated the
landmark antitrust settlement approved by a federal court in October
They were expected to meet next week with US District Judge Colleen
Kollar-Kotelly and Microsoft lawyers to more broadly describe the
company's efforts to abide by terms of the settlement.
A Microsoft spokeswoman, Stacy Drake McCredy, said the company agreed to
the redesign for business reasons.
A statement from the Justice Department said the government was pleased
with the decision "regardless of the reason for the change".
The latest dispute centers on a design feature in Windows 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 even after consumers specify that they
prefer using rival browser software.
The link — prominent whenever a computer user opens a designated folder
containing songs — steers Windows users to a website, windowsmedia.com,
operated by Microsoft with links to online retailers, such as Buy.com or
The Windows behavior does not affect consumers who use a rival internet
browser to directly visit other music sellers, such as Apple Computer's
new iTunes site or the Rhapsody service from Listen.com.
The dispute affected one of the central tenets of the antitrust
settlement: improving the ability of rival software vendors to compete
against Microsoft's own programs running on Windows. One settlement
provision allows Microsoft's own programs to override competitors only
if rival software "fails to implement a reasonable technical