October 20, 2005 4:11 PM PDT

Microsoft backs off music player squeeze

Microsoft has pulled back from a plan to exclude rival media players from portable music devices using its software.

Details of the plan--and the reversal--were contained in a quarterly status report that Microsoft and the Department of Justice filed on Thursday with the federal judge that oversees the company's landmark antitrust settlement.

Microsoft has been trying to find ways to make portable music players that run its software compete better in a market dominated by Apple Computer's iPod player and companion iTunes software. Under the program Microsoft had proposed, device makers that included a CD with Windows Media Player and other software would have had to agree not to include any other software, including rival media players.

"When Microsoft circulated a draft of the specification to a number of manufacturers, the draft specification said that if the company chose to include the CD with its music players, it had to do so on an exclusive basis; that is, the company could not also distribute those music players with additional software, including alternate media players," Microsoft and the Justice Department said in the filing.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said that the plan had not gotten a full legal review and that it would have been caught by the processes that the company has put in place.

"This was only a draft description that we sent to device manufacturers for the purpose of getting feedback," Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake said. Drake said that the company acted quickly after receiving an objection from one unnamed device maker. "Our legal team reviewed the description and promptly revised it."

In the filing, the Justice Department called Microsoft's move "unfortunate," but did not ask the judge to take any further action. Both parties are due before Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on Wednesday.

"While it is unfortunate that the draft specification contained the exclusivity provision, Microsoft took quick steps to correct this error and plaintiffs do not believe any further action is required," the Justice Department said.

Also in the filing, Microsoft noted that it is working on a plan for Windows Vista, the next version of the operating system, that would extend customization options beyond those in Windows XP.

In XP, people can change the default icons and programs, but the changes apply to all users of that computer. With Vista, Microsoft is looking into whether it can allow such choices to be made by each user sharing a computer.

"Plaintiffs are very encouraged by the direction of these discussions and believe there is an opportunity to substantially improve the methods for setting default middleware applications in Windows Vista, as compared to the current Set Program Access & Defaults ("SPA&D") mechanism used in Windows XP," the Justice Department said in the filing.

The regulators said they will continue to review the issue and expect to consider it at a previously scheduled meeting next month.

In June, Microsoft agreed to make a series of changes to Windows XP as a result of concerns brought up by a committee reviewing the software giant's compliance with the antitrust accord.

12 comments

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So what
Itunes comes with the Ipod...
Posted by wazzledoozle (288 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So what
And it's not like people can't just download whatever player they want. This isn't like Microsoft is building in a firewall that blocks usage of any other media player. I never understood why it was such a big deal about them bundling WMP or IE (aside from the needless OS-integration). They're not preventing people from choosing something else, they'r merely giving them something to start with.
Posted by DaClyde (96 comments )
Link Flag
Wow! Custom ICONS!
Hah, wow customizing Icons in Vista! How many people do you know that do that? Who the hell even cares about customizing Windows? Most people that do their work on computers don't have time for that rubbish. I suggest that they make it stable and reliable, and so it does not need to be patched up and updated often.
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<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.Remove-All-Spyware.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.Remove-All-Spyware.com/</a>
Posted by Roman12 (214 comments )
Reply Link Flag
flux
i can change themes for specific users easily using flux, GNOME, KDE or any other window manager or desktop environment with linux. hell, the WM/DE can vary between users. i use flux, whilst my brother uses KDE. i can't wait to see this MS "innovation" in vista.
Posted by Scott W (419 comments )
Link Flag
What about iTunes and the iPOD?
Since when has Apple given you a choice of software for your iPOD???

Peronally i'd rather use a local music store (iTunes might open in australia one day...waiting waiting.), and different software (too slow for large music collections).

As the iPOD has 80% of the market (not sure of exact %), why aren't they under investigation?

Hence this investigation is really only about a small percentage of potable music users isn't it?
Posted by andrew.badge (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You can...
Tons of shareware, freeware and commercial software works
with the iPod. Apple has no exclusivity clause preventing a
retailer selling both, say, XPlay at the same time as your iPod,
nor do you HAVE to use iTunes. And the iPod plays .mp3, .wav,
etc just fine if someone wants to sell you non-DRM encumbered
music.

If you think iTunes is slow at managing a 60GB music library
(I've maxed my 'pod out) you're smoking too much weed, so
have a coffee to sharpen up! :)

Rumour has it that the Australian iTunes Music Store will be
announced on October 25 and running by the end of the month.
Happy halloween!
Posted by (15 comments )
Link Flag
Bill aint got no iPod
This response would pertain to the discussion if Gates had his own audio player to decide which software to include. Unfortunately he does not have any such device. Apple makes their product and includes the software. It would be absurd to perform an investigation on Apple.
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
BUSTED!
Looks like another Antitrust lawsuit needs to be filed. Clearly they have NOT changed their ways.

Illegal anti-competitive licencing agreements blocking competition in forced bundling of products is EXACTLY why Microsoft was convicted by the US government. And now they're at it again.

They have not learned their lesson, and I think the US government needs to take that 40 billion cash pile and use it for something good in the U.S. other than lining the pockets of Gates and Balmer (like Hurricane relief)

Yes, Apple, eBay, Google, Yahoo can all have exclusivity contracts and bundle software/services, but MSFT can't. Why? Because only MSFT has been CONVICTED as a MONOPOLIST, and as such they cannot continue to do these illegal actions.

They haven't learned. Period. And need to be punnished SWIFTLY for this continued violation of the law. (And broken up besides)
Posted by Anon-Y-mous (124 comments )
Reply Link Flag
APPLE+ITUNES+IPOD? what does that spell?
M O N O P O L Y!

Why doesn't Apple get resticted? If I buy a Apple it comes with (not my choice)

ITUNES
IPHOTO
IDVD

Where are my choices? Why does Apple get to shove it down my throat but MS can't

Oh ya forgot, Apple is a blip on the radar when it comes to the amount of users
Posted by mcepat (118 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple + iTunes + iPod = proprietary software for a proprietary device
The problem with what M$ does is that they are installed as integral parts of the operating system. Ever try to uninstall IE or Windows Media Player? They're never really gone. With Apple, you can choose not to and easily uninstall anything installed with the operating system. Also, in the case of web browsers, Apple includes Safari, their own browser, and also Internet Explorer.
Posted by Belkorin (2 comments )
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