UPDATED: Vista Desktop Search Fight Gets Uglier

The Microsoft-Google spitting match over desktop search is getting wetter every day, with Google now claiming that Microsoft's remedies don't go far enough, and Microsoft arguing that Google has a bad case of sour grapes.

In a seven-page "friend of the court" brief to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly Monday, Google said that while it "welcomes" the steps to which Microsoft has agreed in order to promote more choice in choosing a desktop search tool, "it appears that more may need to be done to provide a truly unbiased choice of desktop search products in Vista and achieve compliance with the Final Judgment." The Final Judgment is the finding in 2002 that Microsoft was a monopoly and has to submit to federal oversight to ensure competition for its Windows-related products.

Google also argues that Microsoft's proposed solutions to Vista desktop search are too vague. Microsoft agreed to give OEMs and end users the ability to set a new default desktop search product, which is currently Vista "Instant Search." Microsoft also said it would provide links to the default search engine in the Start button and Windows Explorer windows, and instruct third parties how to best integrate other desktop search tools so they work well with Vista.

Google thinks more detail is needed. "Until more is understood about the proposed remedies and how they might affect user choice, it is difficult to assess them fully," it wrote in the brief. "The Court and the public would benefit greatly from a description of the precise measures Microsoft is planning to implement and the practical effect they will have on users of desktop search."

Google also has concerns about the timing of the proposed changes. Microsoft said the new desktop search functionality will be included in Vista SP1, which is expected to be released early next year, after a beta release toward the end of 2007. Google notes that the federal consent decree governing Microsoft's actions is set to expire Nov. 12, and would like to see the decree extended to after the release of SP1 to make sure Microsoft's remedies meet the standards of allowing competition.

Now Microsoft has responded with its own seven-page memo, contending that Google has no standing in the case, and should, in essence, butt out: "Google should not be permitted to create an issue where none exists," Microsoft wrote in the memo, adding that "Google has nothing new to offer the Court, except for the veiled request that this Court go behind the enforcement decision of the plaintiffs and make Google the '20th Plaintiff'."

Google, Microsoft charges, is merely throwing a tantrum because it didn't get what it wanted. "Rather, Google simply disagrees with the conclusion of those designated by the Court to enforce the Final Judgments," Microsoft states.

Microsoft said Google won't play by the legal rules. "Dissatisfied with the Plaintiffs' enforcement of the Final Judgment, Google is seeking to make an 'end-run' around the prohibition on non-parties directly enforcing the decrees," Microsoft said in the memo. In other words, Microsoft and the state and federal governments agreed on the desktop search engine remedy, and that should close the matter.

The initial complaint about Vista's Instant Search was filed by Google last December. Google claimed that Instant Search was anti-competitive because it discouraged the use of other desktop search engines (like Google's Desktop search, which the company claims has been downloaded 640,000 times since its December 2004 release), and that Microsoft essentially rigged Vista to make competing desktop search tools run sluggishly compared to Instant Search.

Microsoft and the various government entities, including the attorneys general of all 50 states, agreed to the remedies on June 19.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.


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