Google Mulls Microsoft Antitrust Fight

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Google Inc. may be seeking a reopening of state and federal government antitrust action against Microsoft Corp., but a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) official has recommended against it, newspaper reports indicated Sunday.

Google alleged that Microsoft's new Windows Vista operating system puts other search software companies at a disadvantage, making it difficult for users to employ non-Microsoft desktop-search software, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing lawyers familiar with the case. Microsoft's own desktop indexing system is almost impossible to turn off, Google claimed in a white paper sent to both the DOJ and states' attorneys general, thereby affecting a computer's performance when running non-Microsoft search index, the report said.

Microsoft denied the accusations, saying that its own search indexing could be turned off, although with some difficulty, and that its program did not interfere with the operation of other search indexing software and therefore did not influence performance, according to the report.

Despite Google's efforts to draw its rival into a protracted legal fight, the company's antitrust cries are falling on deaf ears, especially at the DOJ, which fought Microsoft over monopoly accusations in the late 1990s until a settlement in 2002, according to The New York Times, which also cited lawyers close to the case.

Thomas O. Barnett, now the DOJ's top-ranking antitrust official, recommended in May that the DOJ and state attorneys general reject Google's complaint, the report said. Formerly employed by a law firm that represented Microsoft during the DOJ antitrust suit, Barnett did not work on the case before joining the DOJ, and recused himself from involvement in the DOJ's ongoing monitoring of Microsoft that is part of the 2002 settlement, the report said.

However, some state prosecutors may take up the case with or without the DOJ, which is slated to be heard in Federal District Court in Washington later this month, it said.

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