Microsoft to Make Minor Changes to Ease Access to Rival Browsers

Friday April 4th, 2003

A Bloomberg article at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review—owned reports that Microsoft have agreed to make it easier for Windows XP users to set their default browser and other middleware. At the request of the US Department of Justice, Microsoft will make a few minor alterations to the changes they implemented as part of their antitrust settlement last year, including moving the Set Program Access and Defaults icon to a more promient location on the Start menu and producing a tutorial that will explain how to use the feature.

The Set Program Access and Defaults Control Panel applet was introduced as part of the settlement Microsoft made with the DOJ, which was approved by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly last November. In that settlement, the software giant agreed to update Windows to make it simpler for users to select their preferred browser, mail client, media player, instant messaging application and Java virtual machine. These updates shipped with Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 and Windows XP Service Pack 1. Microsoft argues that these changes fully satisified the terms of the original settlement but have agreed to "go the extra mile" anyway. ProComp's Mike Pettit says the revisions "will not do a thing to meaningfully restore competition." Thanks to Adam Hauner for the link.

#4 Not old news, but not good news either

by mpthomas

Friday April 4th, 2003 8:41 PM

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sime, if you're not going to read the article, please don't comment on it, otherwise you're wasting everyone else's time. The article describes changes which will make the control panel *different* from how it was in Win2k SP3 and WinXP SP1. And even the MozillaZine summary described exactly what those changes are: moving the control panel's shortcut, and adding a help tutorial.

Unfortunately, I don't think they'll make any difference. The control panel shortcut is already pretty dang obvious. As for online help, well, something as simple as this shouldn't *need* it. A much bigger problem is that the control panel is unnecessarily difficult to use in the first place.

All it needs is an option menu for each function (browser, mailer, media player, etc), with each menu containing the installed programs which have registered themselves as providing that function. That's it. But Microsoft have gunged it up with (1) the `Choose a configuration' rubbish, (2) the misleading configuration name `Microsoft Windows' (making any other option implicitly scary), (3) the `Use my current ______' radio button (but what if my current ______ is *already* the Microsoft program offered in the other radio button, and I want a different one?), and (4) the inability to choose `None of the above'.

An example of (4). We have Windows XP SP1 on a few of the computers here at the cafe, and I can *not* figure out how to prevent Outlook Express from being launched when people click on mailto: links. Because this is an Internet cafe, we don't want *any* e-mail program installed, just a Web browser. In Windows 98, we can just uninstall Outlook Express. In Windows XP, we can't, and we can't even delete its files manually because of Windows File Protection. The `Set Program Access and Defaults' control panel is no use to us there.

-- mpt