Microsoft to change start menu in Windows

Microsoft Corp. has agreed to reposition a program in the Windows XP start menu, allowing users to more easily set non-Microsoft software as their default choices, as part of the company's antitrust settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Microsoft has agreed to make the Set Program Access and Defaults icon more prominent in the Windows XP start menu, said Jim Desler, a Microsoft spokesman. The program allows users to change their default software, including browsers and media players not made by Microsoft.

Microsoft believed the old positioning of Set Program Access and Defaults in the start menu complied with an antitrust consent degree, approved by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in November, Desler said, but the company agreed to change the positioning in a "spirit of cooperation" with the DOJ.

Mike Pettit, president of the anti-Microsoft trade group ProComp, or the Project to Promote Competition and Innovation in the Digital Age, said Windows XP users could always move icons in the start menu, but now Microsoft "wants credit for that."

"It's a big charade," Pettit said of the change. "It's competitively meaningless."

With the change, Set Program Access and Defaults will appear in the main start menu, instead of one level down under the programs menu. Some original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) also included Set Program Access and Defaults in the start menu's "most frequently used" section, but it could disappear from there if it wasn't one of the user's most frequently used programs, Desler said.

Desler said he wasn't sure when the change would happen. The change "gives the user more efficiency in terms of choice," he added.

The Set Program Access program was included last year in the Windows XP Service Pack 1 released last year, but ProComp and other competitors complained that it wasn't prominent enough in the Windows XP start menu.

The DOJ wouldn't comment on this specific change, instead releasing a statement saying it "works constructively with Microsoft to address issues that arise in this process."

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