Microsoft Remedy Hearings: WMP Bundling Comes to the Forefront

Under cross-examination during her company's remedy hearings, Microsoft executive Linda Averett testified that to meet the letter of its proposed settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the company considered simply hiding the applications it bundles with Windows. According to lawyers for the nine nonsettling states and the District of Columbia, this admission emphasizes the problem with the settlement: As with past agreements the company has made with the government, the settlement's wording lets Microsoft technically meet its requirements while willfully betraying its actual purpose.

Averett made her comments during a discussion about Windows Media Player (WMP), which Microsoft says is now more integrated than ever in Windows XP, the latest Windows release. WMP competitors such as RealNetworks complain that Microsoft is simply following the strategy it took with Internet Explorer (IE) and commingling code to shut out competition.

States attorney John Schmidtlein asked Averett about this contention. If Microsoft integrated WMP functionality with Windows so that the player worked without actually opening, would the company need to give competitors access to that functionality, as the settlement requires? "If this function were presented as an integrated feature," Averett said, "then there would not be a requirement to disclose it." She said Microsoft is looking at exposing functionality in this way so that it can meet the settlement requirements. "It is one of the areas we are constantly looking at," she said.

In another bizarre exchange, Schmidtlein asked Averett how Microsoft would determine which WMP functionality to reveal to partners and competitors--another settlement requirement. "Microsoft decides which functionality it deems appropriate?" Schmidtlein asked Averett. "That's correct," she answered. The nonsettling states say that this policy ensures that the Microsoft-bundled WMP gets new features before the competition does, ensuring that users continue to use the Microsoft product. However, Averett says that third-party developers will have access to beta Windows builds and can "work hard" to add the newest features before Microsoft releases the final version.

TAGS: Windows 8
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