DOJ Rebuffs Complaints About IE 7 Search Box

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Department of Justice will not pursue complaints about Microsoft's decision to include search functionality in version 7 of its Internet Explorer browser, despite concerns raised by search competitor Google, the Justice Department said in a court filing.

(The beta version of IE 7 is available for download.)

The Justice Department, in a court document released late Friday, said it and other plaintiffs in the U.S. government's antitrust case against Microsoft have finished their look at the IE search feature, which can default to Microsoft's own MSN Search feature in some cases.

This month, Google said it complained to the European Commission about IE 7's search defaults, saying they benefit Microsoft and remove choices for users. The commission is currently examining Microsoft's plans for its Vista operating system, expected to be released next year.

But the Justice Department and other plaintiffs in the U.S. antitrust case said IE 7, now in beta, makes it easy for users to change the default search engine within the browser. Computer makers can select the default search engine for IE, the Justice Department said, although some machines with IE 6 installed may have not included a default search engine because IE 6 did not have a prominent search box.

"Internet Explorer 7 includes a relatively straightforward method for the user to select a different search engine," said the Justice Department in an antitrust compliance report filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. "As Microsoft's implementation of the search feature respects users' and OEM's [original equipment manufacturer's] default choices and is easily changed, plaintiffs have concluded their work on this matter."

On Friday, the Justice Department asked U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to extend parts of her antitrust order for at least two years because of Microsoft's delays in supplying technical documentation to licensees of its communications protocols. Microsoft agreed with the request to extend the order two years beyond its scheduled expiration in November 2007.

Kollar-Kotelly is scheduled to preside over an antitrust settlement compliance hearing Wednesday at 10 a.m. local time. She approved a sweeping antitrust settlement between Microsoft and the Justice Department and a group of state attorneys general in November 2002.

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