Report: AOL looks to grab PC desktop from Microsoft

In a move that takes advantage of Microsoft's ongoing legal troubles with the US government, America Online (AOL) is offering to pay PC manufacturers to prominently display marketing messages for its Internet service on the Windows operating system desktop, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

AOL wants PC manufacturers to include icons, pop-up notices and other consumer messages on the desktops of computers based on Microsoft's upcoming Windows XP operating system, the report said, adding AOL will pay manufacturers US$35 per customer that signs up for AOL's Internet service.

AOL hopes to conclude deals with PC manufacturers before the release of Windows XP, the report said. The launch of Windows XP is scheduled for October 25.

The move by AOL exploits a July 11 change in Microsoft's OEM (original equipment manufacturer) licensing conditions that allows PC manufacturers greater flexibility in configuring the appearance of the Windows desktop. The concession was made by Microsoft as a result of the ongoing antitrust lawsuit it faces in the U.S.

Under the revised licensing conditions, Microsoft will give PC makers the option to remove Internet Explorer entries and icons from the Windows start menu, placing the Web browser within the "Add/Remove Programs" feature in Windows XP. IE will also be able to be dropped from earlier versions of the operating system, including Windows 98 and Windows 2000.

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