I thought you might like to read the section about Google in the June 19, 2007 Microsoft-Department of Justice Joint Status Report on Microsoft's Compliance with the Final Judgments instead of just hearing others describe it.
This is a proposed solution satisfactory to the parties. However, that doesn't mean that Google or even the court, for that matter, will necessarily agree that these terms are sufficient. In fact, Google has already indicated that it doesn't think they are. And there are some legal questions left unresolved. So, in order for you to understand the issues, I'm reproducing those sections. One glaring issue is that you can't turn Microsoft's desktop search engine off, even if you want to use Google instead.
My own Alice-in-Wonderland reaction is to ask, is Microsoft staying up nights trying to think up ways to annoy and harass customers? Or is it just a side effect of other goals? Who in the world would want to use something like that, a resource-depleting application you can't turn off? I'm really puzzled, being a Linux girl. To each his own, of course, but I really can't imagine finding that acceptable. I do use Apple's MacOSX too, but I turn off widgets and Spotlight precisely because they are always running. I hate them. And I can turn them off, even if Apple won't show me how.
ITWire's Stan Beer notes that Vista desktop search still remains switched on:
Faced with another antitrust action, Microsoft has agreed to open up Vista to allow other desktop search providers easier access to the operating system. However, one can understand Google's sentiments when it claims that the Microsoft concessions are a step in the right direction but do not go far enough.
The fact is Microsoft still won't allow its desktop search to be completely switched off. There will be links and a place on the Start Menu for Google and other desktop search tools but the Microsoft tool will remain firmly and uselessly in place, sucking away valuable computing resources.
Therefore if you put Google Desktop Search up, under the current "concessions" made by Microsoft, the system's performance will suffer because you have two search indexing engines running. And if you happen to be using Microsoft's new operating system, the one thing you simply can't afford to suffer is performance. As most of us well know by now, Vista is a memory hog.
This might, presumably, encourage OEMs and users to give up on Google and just use Microsoft's search engine since it's already running and can't be removed. However, Microsoft's position, in the report, is that its search engine works in the background and cedes precedence to any other program running:
Third, Microsoft will inform ISVs, OEMs, and end users that the desktop search index in Vista is designed to run in the background and cede precedence over computing resources to any other software product, including third-party desktop search products and their respective search indices. Microsoft will emphasize that there is no technical reason why OEMs and end users cannot, if they choose to, install additional desktop search products on their system, even if those products maintain separate indices from that operated by Windows. In addition, Microsoft will provide technical information that will enable other desktop search companies also to design their products to optimize their priorities on the computer and minimize any impact on performance.
Microsoft will deliver the required changes in Service Pack 1 of Windows Vista, which Microsoft currently anticipates will be available in beta form by the end of the year.
Microsoft has offered, as you see, to help with documentation to tweak performance, but it doesn't say, to my reading, that there will be no effect on performance, only that they'll help you minimize the effect. Here's a good overview, in addition to the ones we've already posted in News Picks:
In response to claims that Vista's "Instant Search" slows competing products, Microsoft agreed to give competitors technical information to help optimize performance.
Microsoft said it expects the changes to be implemented in its first service pack for Vista, putting to rest speculation among Microsoft watchers that the company would do away with its practice of catchall software upgrades. The software maker plans to release an early version of Service Pack 1 by the end of the year.
"We're pleased we were able to reach an agreement with all the states and the Justice Department that addresses their concerns so that everyone can move forward," Microsoft's Smith said in a statement.
Update: Todd Bishop has Google's statement as to what else it would like:
Google issued this statement tonight from its chief legal officer, David Drummond, after Microsoft and antitrust regulators announced an agreement to make changes to Windows Vista in response to Google's concerns about the Microsoft operating system's built-in desktop search tool:
"Microsoft's current approach to Vista desktop search clearly violates the consent decree and limits consumer choice. We are pleased that as a result of Google's request that the consent decree be enforced, the Department of Justice and state Attorneys General have required Microsoft to make changes to Vista. These remedies are a step in the right direction, but they should be improved further to give consumers greater access to alternate desktop search providers."
Asked for more details about what the company would like to see, a Google spokesman said Microsoft should give users a choice of desktop search engines from all search access points on the desktop, and make it easier to disable Windows Vista's desktop search index.
And California's attorney general put out a press release:
Under the proposed solution, Microsoft will provide users and Original Equipment Manufacturers, such as HP or Dell, with greater flexibility to choose and access competing desktop search products. Microsoft has promised to deliver the required changes in a beta Service Pack 1 of Windows Vista, which Microsoft currently anticipates will be available by the end of the year.
The attorney general announced the agreement in conjunction with Microsoft, the United States Department of Justice and Plaintiffs in the New York Group (including New York, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin) and the California Group (including California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Utah, and the District of Columbia). The changes resolve complaints lodged against Microsoft under the California Groupís Final Judgment from November 2002.
With all those attorneys general signing off on the compromise, as ComputerWorld's Gregg Keizer points out in his article, it's not clear how Google will now get more, but this is a bit more detail on what they see as the problem:
According to reports last week, Google accused Microsoft of making it difficult for users to disable Vista's integrated indexing and search. If a second desktop search application was installed, the computer would slow down as two competing indexers churned through the hard drive, Google said. The Mountain View, Calif. search giant also complained that Microsoft's search was the only tool allowed to generate results in Vista's search bars, which appear in several places, including the Start menu, in the Windows Explorer file manager and in the Control Panels main display.
In the joint status settlement report issued Tuesday, the DOJ and state attorneys general said that Microsoft must modify Vista so users and OEMs can select a default search tool for producing results in the Start menu. Other search bars, however, will continue to rely on Vista's own search and indexing program, and must only provide users with a link to the default search engine.
So Microsoft's search is still favored:
The agreement doesn't cover "Explorer" search windows found in operating system window panes. These will remain tied to Vista's internal search, though Microsoft plans to add a link to such windows that will launch the default desktop search program.
That articles says Microsoft says it hasn't read the Google complaint but still called it "without merit" in the status report. And here's the proposal, so you can evaluate it yourself:
Complaint Regarding Desktop Search
Plaintiffs have previously reported that they were investigating a
middleware-related complaint. This complaint, filed by Google, relates
to the desktop search functionality in Windows Vista that enables users
to search for files located on their computer. This desktop search functionality
in Vista, referred to as "Instant Search" in Microsoft's promotional
materials, allows users to enter a search query into a text box and
receive a list of results from the user's hard drive that contain the
search term, either in the name of the file or program, in the full
text of the file, or in the keywords associated with that file. The
desktop search functionality relies on an index that is updated whenever
files on the computer change. The use of an index enables the quick
return of search results, as Windows can run the search query against
the index and obtain the results, rather than having to search every
file on the computer for the search term every time the user conducts
Google's complaint contends that desktop search in Windows Vista is
a new "Microsoft Middleware Product" under the Final Judgments. The
complaint contends that Microsoft has violated the Final Judgment by
failing to adhere to the requirements of Section III.C and Section III.H
as it pertains to this new Microsoft Middleware Product.
After completing their investigation of the complaint, Plaintiffs
worked together to reach an agreement by Microsoft with the goal of
promoting user and OEM choice for desktop search in Windows Vista. Plaintiffs
are collectively satisfied that this agreement will resolve any issues
the complaint may raise under the Final Judgments, provided that Microsoft
implements it as promised.
The agreement contains three primary features:
First, Microsoft will create a mechanism for end users and
OEMs to select a default program to handle desktop search. ISVs will
be able to register their desktop search products for this default,
in the same way that ISVs can register third-party web browsers and
media players as the default in Windows today.
Second, the default desktop search program will be launched
whenever Windows launches a new top-level window to provide search results.
This will include an existing location on the Start menu that a user
can select to display additional search results in a new window. Windows
Vista also includes search boxes located in the upper-right hand corner
of various windows in the operating system, such as all the windows
used to explore the files on the computer -- often called "Explorer"
windows -- and the Control Panel. In these windows, when the user enters
a query Vista will continue to display the search results using the
internal Vista desktop search functionality. Microsoft has agreed, however,
to add a link that, if clicked, will launch the default desktop search
program and display search results from that program.
Third, Microsoft will inform ISVs, OEMs, and end users that
the desktop search index in Vista is designed to run in the background
and cede precedence over computing resources to any other software product,
including third-party desktop search products and their respective search
indices. Microsoft will emphasize that there is no technical reason
why OEMs and end users cannot, if they choose to, install additional
desktop search products on their system, even if those products maintain
separate indices from that operated by Windows. In addition, Microsoft
will provide technical information that will enable other desktop search
companies also to design their products to optimize their priorities
on the computer and minimize any impact on performance.
Microsoft will deliver the required changes in Service Pack 1 of Windows
Vista, which Microsoft currently anticipates will be available in beta
form by the end of the year.
It was unnecessary for Plaintiffs to reach a joint resolution of the
question whether desktop search is a new Microsoft Middleware Product
under the Final Judgments. Specifically, Plaintiffs did not agree on
whether desktop search in Vista constitutes "any functionality,"
under Section VI.K.2, "that is first licensed, distributed
or sold by Microsoft after the entry of this Final Judgment"
(emphasis added).(2) While Windows included
search functionality in prior versions, in Vista -- the first version
of Windows launched after entry of the Final Judgment -- the search
function is improved in several respects. For example, Vista turns on
the index by default, increases the file-types searched, adds search
boxes throughout the operating system, and improves the selection, display,
and use of results. The Plaintiffs were not able to agree whether these
and other enhancements to existing desktop search functionality merely
upgrade existing functionality or instead convert desktop search into
functionality first licensed after entry of the Final Judgment. Nonetheless,
Plaintiffs were able to work together to obtain Microsoft's agreement
as described above....
5. The "Desktop Search Complaint"
Late last year, the Plaintiffs told Microsoft that Google had filed a complaint relating to the desktop search capabilities in Windows Vista. (Desktop search makes it easy for users to find and sort files and programs on their computers.) Microsoft has worked cooperatively with the Plaintiffs to answer their questions and has provided detailed documentary and technical information to the Plaintiffs and their technical experts. Microsoft believes that Google's complaint is without merit. Nevertheless, Microsoft worked with the Plaintiffs in a spirit of cooperation to resolve any issues the complaint may raise under the Final Judgments. Microsoft has committed to make the changes described in the Plaintiffs' section of this report in Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista. Microsoft anticipates that beta code will be available by the end of the year.