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Microsoft Movements With Widespread Effects

A couple of recent actions from Microsoft are likely to have far-reaching effects that will affect almost everybody. The first, and probably most benign, action from Microsoft is their announcement that OEM system builders will no longer be able to bundle Office 2003 with their new systems, it will have to be Office 2007.

On the surface, this doesn't appear too much of an issue, but there are concerns that it is too early in the life cycle of Office 2007 to be mandating that only that version will be available with new systems. In addition, the new User Interface features (the ribbon bar) introduced with Office 2007 are likely to cause some teething problems when users move to these new systems. Users who have had many years of experience with different Office versions will also be wary of the push to a new version, particularly the difficulty in ensuring documents will maintain consistency across different Office versions.

The second change is one that industry and Microsoft observers didn't really think was going to take place.

Earlier this year Google filed documents with antitrust regulators investigating Microsoft - claiming that the 'Instant Search' feature of Windows Vista was anticompetitive, considering the Google Desktop search application (and a number of other lesser-known desktop search applications) is also available for this capability. These documents contributed to issues raised by Google at the end of 2006.

Observers were dubious about the apparent merits of Google's claims - after all most Operating Systems come with some form of inbuilt search and find capability (Spotlight, find, etc). The timing of the filing was also called into question when it appeared soon after Microsoft complained to antitrust regulators about Google's purchase of online advertising powerhouse DoubleClick.

One of Google's biggest problems was that if a user had installed and was using a third party desktop search application (such as Google's), then Windows Vista would apparently slow down the performance of these competing applications. The level of system resources required to adequately perform desktop search, especially with multiple applications performing the same capability, would seem to nullify this claim - but it appears not.

This apparent difference in performance between the inbuilt solution and a third party solution is, it is claimed, counter to the antitrust settlement from 2002. To address this problem, Microsoft is expected to release system optimisation to give the third party applications parity in performance in the upcoming Service Pack 1 (SP 1) for Vista.

This last disclosure is sure to make Microsoft's efforts to get system builders to focus on building Vista-only systems just that much harder. According to documents that are supposedly under NDA protection, Microsoft is pushing hard for consumers and businesses to move to Vista - though the reason why documents highlighting the benefits of Vista would be under an NDA is an exercise best left for the reader.

21 June 2007

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