Vista search seems fair, regulators say

U.S. government gives OK to Microsoft's search box plans for Vista, which have been criticized by rival Google.

The U.S. government has given its thumbs-up to Microsoft's search box plans for Vista, shrugging off concerns raised recently by Google.

While criticizing Microsoft for its implementation of its existing antitrust accord, regulators appear satisfied with the software maker's plans for Windows Vista, including a new search box that is part of Internet Explorer 7.

As part of its status report on Microsoft's antitrust compliance, the Justice Department said that it had reviewed the and concluded that Microsoft's implementation "respects users' and (computer makers') default choices and is easily changed."

Google had recently cried foul over the box, which is set to conduct Web searches from a specified engine, while Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer this week defended Microsoft's approach.

How users gets their browser--whether on a new PC, as part of a Windows upgrade or downloaded from the Internet--helps determine which search engine is used in that program. The box also leaves unchanged any default search engine already chosen by the user and can be changed by the user. If no default has been set, Microsoft does slot in its own MSN Search.

Internet Explorer 7 will be bundled into Vista and also offered as a download for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 users. A public test version of the browser is already available from Microsoft's Web site.

In the same report, filed on Friday, the Justice Department said it is seeking to extend by two years the part of the accord that requires Microsoft to license Windows communications protocols to rivals.

The Justice Department had said it received a separate complaint over Vista, related to the ability of computer makers to customize the "first boot" experience within Vista, but said that it has closed its investigation into that issue.

"While plaintiffs were still investigating the matter, Microsoft reached an accommodation that gives all (computer makers) additional flexibility to customize the first-boot experience and to promote non-Microsoft middleware.

The government said this "addressed the complainant's concerns and resolved any issue" under Microsoft's antitrust settlement.

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