Microsoft changes middleware shortcuts

Microsoft has agreed to limit the number of shortcuts to its middleware applications in Windows when a computer user designates competing products as defaults, according to antitrust compliance documents.

Microsoft changed the way the Windows XP operating system treats Microsoft's middleware products, including Internet Explorer (IE), when those products are removed as defaults. The steps were in response to a review by the technical committee that is checking the company's compliance with an antitrust settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) that was approved in late 2002. The changes were described in a new joint status report released by the DOJ.

Before the changes, when a computer user replaced as default a Microsoft middleware program such as IE, Outlook Express or Windows Media Player, shortcuts to that replaced program would remain in a number of Windows locations. The shortcuts stayed on the Windows desktop, the area of the Start menu for most frequently used applications, and the Quick Launch area. Microsoft agreed to change Windows to remove the shortcuts in five Windows locations unless the shortcut was modified by the computer user.

Microsoft also agreed to remove the IE icon from areas in Windows where it would appear after the computer user designated a different default browser.

The company agreed to those changes when concerns were brought to the company that the shortcuts and icon could violate the antitrust settlement, company spokesperson, Stacy Drake, said.

"There was a tremendous effort by all parties to ensure that the agreement is working," she said.

Microsoft, the DOJ and 18 state governments that had sued the company for antitrust released the joint status report.

A status hearing before US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is scheduled for Monday in Washington, D.C.

The 15-page status report also mentions other continuing issues that the DOJ and states have brought up in past hearings. Responding to concerns that documentation of its proprietary communications protocols is lacking, the status report noted progress on efforts to improve the documentation.

Although the company was "confident that it has met its obligations" under the settlement, it would continue working on documentation improvements, Microsoft said.

In addition, the DOJ and suing states said they continued to talk with Microsoft about its plans for the Longhorn operating system that will follow Windows XP and about the next version of IE.

The plaintiffs were working to ensure both products hold to the agreement, they said.

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