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MS slammed for antitrust deal violations in XP, Win2k SPs

Can't even comply with a toothless deal, says ProComp

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ProComp, the Sun-, Oracle- and usual suspects-backed lobbying group set up to push for tougher measures against Microsoft, has launched an attack on WinXP SP1 and Win2k SP3, saying they contain clear violations of the MS-DoJ proposed antitrust settlement terms they're claimed by Microsoft to comply with. That is not of course to say that ProComp would be happy with those terms even if the Service Packs did meet them - it would not - but it has taken the opportunity to send an extended and reasonably well-researched 'told you so' to the DoJ, listing six claimed violations, and it intimates that its study of Microsoft's API disclosure procedures will follow shortly.

ProComp's study, we are pleased to note, supports several of The Register's preliminary observations on SP3; it does major on XP SP1, but the two are similar in intent and execution. The new 'Set Program Access and Defaults' item introduced with the stated aim of allowing users to hide access to Microsoft middleware and substitute other products is confusing, and will only make it easier to substitute products if those products have been redesigned to comply with, er, the new Set Program Access and Defaults.

ProComp notes that you could do something pretty similar with add/remove, and actually if Microsoft was really complying rather than doing the old dumb insolence stuff (we paraphrase a tad here), then the system could check the hard disk to see what possible rivals were installed. Which is true enough - Microsoft's quick enough to check out what you've got when you're using, say, Windows Update.

Which brings us onto 'and another thing.' In order to download SP1 you need to be running Internet Explorer, so if you've already bundled it off somewhere into the bowels of your hard disk you can't get either your bugfix or the the compliance routines. This, according to a Register reality check we just performed, is not entirely true. Start at the Microsoft front page, go to get SP1 and opt for express install and you do get kicked to Windows Update which then tells you to clear off if you're running Opera pretending to be Mozilla (which we are today). But follow the network install link instead and it will allow you to download in a single file, while the link that went live slightly ahead of MS announcing SP1 is still here.

ProComp would however argue that it's the front door route that counts, and that people having to figure their way around the barbed wire for themselves is just the same old story, not compliance. Which seems reasonable. And as it took us a whole five seconds to insert the link above, Microsoft putting it on the get SP1 page would also seem reasonable.

But, erm, here comes ProComp with another objection or two. Set Program Access and Defaults has a non-obvious name, no instructions with it and you can only get it attached to SP1/SP3, when it is in essence a trivially small routine. Not everybody is going to have the facility to download a very large service pack, if there are known issues with their own setup they may not want to apply the service pack, and $10 for the CD version looks like Microsoft making itself more money out of not pretending to comply with the settlement when it's not really doing so.

Well yes, that would also seem reasonable. There is, furthermore, an interesting claim made in the document. Many OEMs do not, it says, intend to start shipping new machines with SP1 applied until next year. Naturally they need some time to check it with their hardware, but they have had it for a while, and they could have had it tested and installed for the Q4 sales (cross fingers) rush, so what's their problem? It's not as if there aren't any security rollups in SP1...

In addition to the gripes above (which cover three claimed violations), ProComp has these. Shop for Music in the MyMusic folder has IE popping up straight away, no matter what you selected (this is valuable research - The Register does not know anyone who'd be likely to ever try this). Set Program Access and Defaults does not disable the .NET Common Language runtime, and the implementation of the system in Win2k is substantially less intuitive than in XP.

The Register was equally baffled by both, but as it is also baffled by add/remove these days, what do we know? We do however have a vague feeling that once upon a time add/remove was somewhat more intuitive than it is now. Are we right, or are we losing it? Anyway, the full ProComp document, in terms far more outraged and colourful than we feel inclined to muster, is available here. ProComp itself is here. ®

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