WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. antitrust authorities on Friday rejected concerns that a search feature in the new version of Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer browser would give the company an unfair advantage over Google Inc..
The Justice Department said it had investigated and found no basis for concerns voiced by Google that a new search box included in the Internet Explorer 7 browser would give an unfair advantage to Microsoft’s MSN search service.
The department said the new Internet search box in Microsoft’s browser “respects users’ and (computer makers’) default choices.” It said government officials had “concluded their work on this matter.”
The comments by the Justice Department were part of a report filed with U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the judge overseeing Microsoft’s compliance with its landmark 2002 antitrust settlement with the government.
Google, the world’s most popular Web search provider, recently had expressed concerns over the new Microsoft browser.
Google spokesman Steve Langdon said on Friday that Microsoft is unfairly setting up the search box within the new Internet Explorer so that it defaults to MSN’s search service when users type in search terms — rather than allowing users a simple choice of search providers.
“Changing the search engine may be simple by Microsoft’s standards. But if it were truly simple, users would be able to change the default with one click,” the Google spokesman said.
“Microsoft could have easily designed it that way. Instead, they’ve built it so users have to go through multiple steps to choose a search engine,” Langdon said.
Internet Explorer is the dominant browser on the Internet. Mountain View, California-based Google likened the new search box to the conduct that provoked the government’s earlier antitrust suit against Microsoft.
In the antitrust case, Microsoft was accused of using its Windows operating system monopoly to crush the rival Netscape Internet browser.
Similar concerns have been expressed by the European Commission, which has questioned the way Microsoft’s upcoming new operating system, known as Vista, may package Internet search functions.
In its filing, the Justice Department said it concluded the new search box in Internet Explorer was not anticompetitive, even though it would default to MSN in some instances.
It based that conclusion on the fact that the default could be easily changed by computer users. On new PCs, the department said, computer manufacturers can set the default to other search engines, including Google or Yahoo Inc.