Though Microsoft's proposed antitrust settlement won't be decided on until early next year, the software giant had agreed to begin operating by the terms of the agreement this month. And Compaq, one of the company's biggest partners, wasted no time making Microsoft live up to one of the agreements in its proposed settlement, announcing this week that it will replace Media Player for Windows XP (MPXP) as the default media player in its systems and go with rival RealNetworks RealOne instead. Under terms of the deal, Compaq users will be driven to Real's paid subscription services for online music and video.

"This \[deal\] is not just about software," says Real CEO Larry Jacobson. "It's about letting people know that there's content out there." Compaq and Real will share revenues from subscriptions to Real's services, and the deal is nonexclusive, with Real already approaching partners such as Dell and Gateway.

Compaq will begin shipping XP-based Presario PCs with RealOne preloaded as the default media player in March, the company says. The systems will include an entertainment hot-key on their keyboards that opens the RealOne Web site. The company doesn't expect the decision to affect its close relationship with Microsoft. "Microsoft completely supports Compaq's strategy to offer choice for our customer," a Compaq spokesperson said.