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2/9/2006
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Federal And State Governments Look Into Microsoft Vista Antitrust Complaints

Several companies complain that the Vista "Welcome Center" presents commercial offers from partners and/or the hardware maker.

Several companies have raised concerns about Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista operating system with federal and state prosecutors responsible for overseeing the 2002 antitrust settlement with the Redmond, Wash.-based developer, the government said Wednesday.

In papers filed with U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, federal and state officials said that they'd received one complaint -- the source was unnamed -- about Vista's "Welcome Center," a new interface that appears when users start the PC for the first time. The Welcome Center not only presents setup options, but also commercial offers from partners and/or the hardware maker.

Government lawyers, said the report, haven't decided whether to demand changes to the Welcome Center -- a step that might toss the OS's tight schedule into disarray -- but "continue to gather information and monitor the situation."

Several other companies, said the report, have made additional complaints about various unspecified aspects of Windows Vista and/or Internet Explorer 7.

"Plaintiffs will report to Microsoft and the Court if they determine that these issues raise concerns under the Final Judgments," the report said.

Windows Vista is the first operating system that Microsoft has developed under the protocols of the antitrust settlement, and under the watchdog Technical Committee appointed by the court to make sure Microsoft complies with the rulings.

The filing used the phrase "first-boot experience," which garnered some attention earlier this week in reports claiming that Google was going to pay Dell as much as $1 billion over three years for the right to install some of the former's software on new PCs.

Microsoft's past practice of squeezing money from software makers and twisting hardware manufacturers' arms to say which programs would be pre-installed in Windows was one of those which led to the antitrust case.

The full text of the government report can be read here, or downloaded in PDF format from the Department of Justice Web site.

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