MS to change IE default in music feature

Microsoft will change its "Shop for Music Online" feature in Windows XP so that it does not automatically invoke the Internet Explorer (IE) Web browser, thus complying with a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) mandate.

The DOJ had complained that this use of IE violated the company's antitrust consent decree with the government.

Currently when an XP user selects Shop for Music Online, located by default in the My Music folder, Microsoft's IE browser pops up and directs the user to Microsoft's Windowsmedia.com site, even if the user has chosen a different default browser such as Netscape or Opera. Windowsmedia.com includes music for downloading and links to online music retailers.

Microsoft had already planned to change the feature as it revamped its Shop for Music Online offering for "business reasons," said Stacy Drake, a company spokeswoman. A Windows update released in February or March will remove IE as the music service's default browser, she said.

Further revamps of the music service Web site are in the works, Drake said. In November, Microsoft announced it was planning to launch its own music download service during 2004.

The Shop for Music Online feature had been a point of contention between Microsoft and the DOJ since late last year. Government lawyers had complained to a judge that the feature could be "inconsistent" with the antitrust settlement approved by a federal court in November 2002.

"While we differed in our interpretation of the consent decree, we are pleased the changes we'll be making also address government concerns," Drake said."It's an issue that's resolved to the satisfaction of both parties."

Asked if the decision to revamp the music service and change the default browser came after DOJ complaints, Drake said she wasn't sure if the decision was made after the complaint or simultaneously. The decision was "on a separate track" from the DOJ complaint, she added.

The DOJ issued a statement Thursday saying it was pleased with Microsoft's decision to remove IE as the default browser, even if Microsoft did not agree with the agency that the music feature violated the consent decree. "Regardless of the reason for the change, the Department is pleased with the removal of the override and firmly believes that it is the appropriate outcome," the DOJ statement said.

Microsoft's music site was built using ActiveX controls optimized for use with IE, Drake said. The revamped site will use a different programming technology, although she declined to name it.

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service

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