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Microsoft To Change Desktop Search After Google Complaint To Justice Department

SEATTLE (AP) _ Microsoft Corp. will make changes to the program that helps Windows Vista users search their hard drives, in response to antitrust complaints from Google Inc., according to a U.S. Justice Department report issued late Tuesday.

Google filed a 49-page document with the Justice Department in April claiming Vista's desktop search tool slowed down competing programs, including Google's own free offering, and that it's difficult for users to figure out how to turn off the Microsoft program.

Microsoft initially dismissed the allegations, saying regulators had reviewed the program before Vista launched. However, Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, said in an interview last week that the company was willing to make changes if necessary.

Tuesday's regularly scheduled status report on Microsoft's post-antitrust business practices detailed a compromise that would give computer users clearer options for picking a non-Microsoft desktop search program.

The report said Microsoft will let PC users and manufacturers like Dell Inc. set a non-Microsoft program such as Google Desktop as the default. Microsoft will also add a link to that alternate program in the Windows Start menu.

Currently, when Vista users browse through their documents, access the control panel, or do other system-related tasks, a Vista search box appears in the upper-right corner of the window. That box will remain, and it will continue to use the Microsoft search engine, but Microsoft will also add a link to the default desktop search program.

A Google spokesman said the company was preparing a statement about the changes.

In response to claims that Vista's ``Instant Search'' slows competing products, Microsoft agreed to give competitors technical information to help optimize performance.

Microsoft said it expects these changes to be available with its first service pack for Vista, putting to rest speculation among Microsoft watchers that the company would do away with its practice of catchall software upgrades. The software maker plans to release an early version of Service Pack 1 by the end of the year.

``We're pleased we were able to reach an agreement with all the states and the Justice Department that addresses their concerns so that everyone can move forward,'' Microsoft's Smith said in a statement.

Federal and state regulators worked together to nail down the details with Microsoft.

``This agreement, while not perfect, is a positive step toward greater competition in the software industry,'' California Attorney General Jerry Brown said in a statement.

A court hearing to review Microsoft's adherence with the consent decree is scheduled June 26.
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