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AOL-Time Warner first in there following MS step-down

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Microsoft's step-down over forcing PC companies to put its icons on Windows desktops and Start menus has been immediately snapped up by - guess who? - AOL-Time Warner.

In a bid to relieve criticism of its practices, the Beast of Redmond told computer companies that they no longer had to feature Explorer and related icons on Windows desktops. That didn't mean they could remove the programs however.

Never one to miss an opportunity though, AOL-Time Warner has nearly finished a deal with Compaq that will see AOL icons on the desktop. It's not certain what icons in particular will be included, although AOL's Instant Messenger and ISP service are certain to feature.

According to the Washington Post, AOL will pay manufacturers $35 for every user that signs up through new software bundling deals. AOL is also finally opening up its Instant Messenger technology so it can inter-operate with competing products, although it has been widely criticised for its slow progress in doing so.

AOL is clearly attempting a Microsoft in gaining control of desktops except that it has learnt some lessons and is paying for results as well as opening up its software. This will give it a ready-made excuse of choice and capitalism when the inevitable criticism starts filtering down.

Microsoft doesn't like this one bit. CEO Steve Ballmer has already started moaning: "We've never told an OEM what they can and cannot ship, or tried to restrict what they can put on the operating system. The stuff AOL is doing now is just limiting market choice - it's just egregious." If it came from anyone other than Microsoft, we might listen but it's hard to see it as anything but sour grapes.

Control-freaks hate it when they start losing their power. ®

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