Google Inc. is pressing for an extension to the U.S. Justice Department’s oversight of Microsoft Corp.’s business practices, most of which is set to expire in November, according to a court filing Monday.
“Microsoft’s hardwiring of its own desktop search product into Windows Vista violates the final judgment” in the U.S. government’s antitrust case against the software maker, Google said.
Over the last year, Google has complained to state and federal regulators that Microsoft’s “Instant Search” program, which helps Windows Vista users search their hard drives, slows down third-party desktop search programs. Google also has said Microsoft makes it hard for PC users to choose alternatives to the built-in search, including Google’s own free Google Desktop program.
The search company’s claims were meant to show that Microsoft is not complying with the antitrust settlement, reached in 2002 after the U.S. government concluded Microsoft used its near-ubiquitous Windows operating system to squash competition. Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft is now bound by a consent decree that requires it to help rivals build software that runs smoothly in Windows.
In a report published last week, the Justice Department and Microsoft detailed a compromise response to Google’s complaints. Windows Vista users will be able to set a non-Microsoft program as the default desktop search engine. Microsoft also will add a link to that alternate program in the Windows Start menu, but will not change the way Vista “Instant Search” works. The software maker said the changes would be available by the end of the year.
For Google, those changes didn’t go far enough. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company asked U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to extend beyond November parts of the consent decree that govern “middleware,” or software that links different computer programs.
“The remedies won by the Department of Justice and state attorneys general from Microsoft are a positive step, but consumers will likely need further measures to ensure meaningful choice,” David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, said in an e-mailed statement Monday.
Microsoft filed a legal response in the same Washington, D.C., District Court late Monday afternoon. The software maker argued that Google shouldn’t be allowed to challenge the desktop-search compromise struck with the Justice Department and state attorneys general by bringing its complaints directly to the court.
Google’s antitrust argument turns, in part, on its claim that Instant Search is a new feature in the Windows operating system — one of the conditions that must be met in order for the court to find Microsoft in violation of the consent decree.
Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, said in an interview earlier this month that Instant Search is not a new feature, but rather an update of the hard-drive search that has been a part of Windows since the beginning.
“The government has clearly stated that it is satisfied with the changes we’re making,” Smith said in an e-mailed statement Monday. “Google has provided no new information that should suggest otherwise in their filing.”
Google’s court filing comes one day before the next scheduled District Court hearing to review Microsoft’s compliance with the antitrust settlement.