Faced with the public revelation of a previous complaint it had made privately to the US Department of Justice (DOJ), Google on Monday began providing some details. Previously, the company had issued a 49-page written complaint to the DOJ, alleging that the instant search feature in Windows Vista made Google's desktop search product run poorly.
"The search boxes built throughout Vista are hard-wired to Microsoft's own desktop search product, with no way for users to choose an alternate provider," a Google spokesperson said Monday. This, and the fact that Microsoft makes it too difficult for users to turn off Vista's built-in search, Google says, is a violation of Microsoft's 2002 antitrust consent decree.
Remember, however, that Microsoft publicly detailed its plans for desktop search in Windows Vista before Google even shipped a desktop search product of its own. And while a variety of companies, including Apple, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and others shipped their own desktop search add-on products in the interim, Vista's integrated search was well established by 2003, and the shipping version is truly an integrated part of the OS and notably doesn't contain any hooks to Microsoft's online services. It is, in other words, just part of the OS. Google's desktop search product, meanwhile, works like its dominant online search service and provides numerous links to Google's online services.
"If we were creating a feature in Windows and somehow requiring people to jump from our feature to our Internet search, then I could at least understand an antitrust argument being raised," said Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith.
Microsoft complains that it has already made "dozens" of changes to Vista in order to appease competitors and antitrust regulators from around the world. "We don't believe there are any compliance concerns with desktop search," a Microsoft spokesperson said Monday. "We've also told officials we are committed to going the extra mile to resolve this issue."
Attorney generals from several states are investigating the matter and are apparently giving some weight to the Google complaint. Separately, Microsoft faces a regularly-scheduled compliance hearing on June 26, and it's likely that the newly-revealed Google complaint will be among the topics discussed there.