By Peter Kaplan
U.S. antitrust authorities on Friday rejected concerns that a search
feature in the new version of Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer
browser would give the company an unfair advantage over Google Inc.
The Justice Department said it had investigated and found no basis for
concerns that a new search box included in the Internet Explorer 7
browser would give an unfair advantage to Microsoft's MSN search
The department said the new Internet search box in Microsoft's browser
"respects users' and (computer makers') default choices." It said
government officials had "concluded their work on this matter."
The comments by the Justice Department were part of a report filed
with U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the judge overseeing
Microsoft's compliance with its landmark 2002 antitrust settlement
with the government.
Google, the world's most popular Web search provider, had expressed
concerns about the new Microsoft browser, according to a May 1 article
in the New York Times.
The article quoted a Google vice president saying the search box was
unfairly set to default to MSN's search service. "We don't think it's
right for Microsoft to just set the default to MSN. We believe users
should choose," Google's Marissa Mayer said.
Internet Explorer is the dominant browser on the Internet. Google
likened the new search box to the conduct that provoked the
government's earlier antitrust suit against Microsoft, according to
the Times article.
In the antitrust case, Microsoft was accused of using its Windows
operating system monopoly to crush the rival Netscape Internet
Representatives of Google were not immediately available for comment
Similar concerns have been expressed by the European Commission, which
has questioned the way Microsoft's upcoming new operating system,
known as Vista, may package Internet search functions.
In its filing, the Justice Department said it concluded the new search
box in Internet Explorer was not anticompetitive, even though it would
default to MSN in some instances.
It based that conclusion on the fact that the default could be easily
changed by computer users. On new PCs, the department said, computer
manufacturers can set the default to other search engines, including
Google or Yahoo Inc.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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