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Google Complains About Microsoft For Feature They Copied

It’s no secret that the explosion three years ago of desktop search applications was due to Microsoft’s development and delay of WinFS, the file system designed for Longhorn that would enable, among other things, instant searching of the hard drive. Microsoft announced this revolutionary new file system, Apple announced Spotlight. Then, when Longhorn was massively delayed, everybody and his grandmother announced a desktop search program. Yahoo did it, Ask did it, Google Desktop did it, even Microsoft’s own MSN Search did it.

All of which makes it hypocritical that Google is now pushing the Justice Department with a complaint that Vista’s desktop search discourages the use of Google’s. The Bush administration asked the Justice Department to reject the complaint, which seems to have encouraged several states to consider legal action (great work, idiots).

Bradford L. Smith, the general counsel at Microsoft, said that the company was unaware of Mr. Barnett’s memo. He said that Microsoft had not violated the consent decree and that it had already made modifications to Vista in response to concerns raised by Google and other companies.

He said that the new operating system was carefully designed to work well with rival software products and that an independent technical committee that works for the Justice Department and the states had spent years examining Vista for possible anticompetitive problems before it went on sale.

He said that even though the consent decree did not oblige Microsoft to make changes to Vista in response to Google’s complaint, Microsoft lawyers and engineers had been working closely with both state and federal officials in recent days in search of an accommodation.

Google’s complaint is that Windows Vista’s indexing service cannot be turned off, and that running Google Desktop Search and Vista at the same time is prohibitive to users, which discourages people from using the software. Google wants Microsoft to make it possible to turn off Vista’s search feature. The problem is:

  • Vista’s search provides innovative operating system features that Google cannot replace, including instant search in folders and the start menu
  • Google pays well over a billion dollars (yeah, I know!) to make computer manufacturers pre-install Google Desktop. This means that on those computers (including all Dells), Windows Vista would come with features disabled. This is more than just choosing between Word or WordPerfect, this is like turning off the clock because your TV also has a clock, but not even realizing your clock also has a radio.
  • Google created its software to take advantage of a delay. They knew when they created it that Vista was coming. They knew this was going to happen. They also knowingly copied features Microsoft had already unveiled. If anything, Microsoft could sue them!
  • Google created their software to fix what was essentially a bug or limitation of Windows XP. Is Microsoft not allowed to fix their own bugs? Of course not.

The point is, Google doesn’t have much of a case, but Microsoft is pretty unpopular with the courts, so they could lose anyway. And the Bush Administration isn’t doing them any favors with their “support”.
(via Greg Linden)

June 14th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Vista, Google, Windows, Law, General | no comments

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