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Windows 7 development overseen by Dept. of Justice

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Since about 2002, the Department of Justice has had a special “Technical Committee” overseeing the development of Microsoft’s Windows operating system. The committee’s main job was to monitor the implementation of the Microsoft-owned middleware products that get (or used to get) installed by default on new computers like Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, MSN Messenger, and Windows Media Player.

The monitoring process was supposed to end last November but, according to Microsoft Watch, “Google (and some other Microsoft competitors) requested an extension, and U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly gave it to them: two more years of government oversight.”

Which means that the Department of Justice has been closely monitoring the development of Windows 7, which is thought to ship by the end of next year (or early 2010 at the latest). With Windows Vista, however, Microsoft has already changed the way it handles middleware. Joe Wilcox of Microsoft Watch says

“Today, with the exception of Internet Explorer, Microsoft is pushing the same so-called middleware down from Windows Live to the operating system. The ties are ever so strong, but the products and services aren’t part of Windows by default. But I don’t doubt that Microsoft executives would like them to be.

The TC reviewed Windows Vista, but its middleware assessment didn’t satisfy Google, which complained about search defaults. Google’s complaints led Microsoft to proactively change Vista search, action that partly precipitated the two-year extension of government oversight.”

Another big area of contention, according to Wilcox, will be Internet Explorer 8. The DoJ is already examining the browser’s beta version and "Microsoft is making a godawful amount of Internet Explorer changes and taking risks with application and Web site compatibility,” which could raise some red flags for companies that make competing web browsers. I’d think that future versions of Internet Explorer would be more tied into installed programs, especially as more and more software and services move into the cloud. Seems like such features would have to be compatible with other browsers as well if Microsoft’s competitors get their way.

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