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Judge Defers to Feds on Google Complaint

The judge overseeing Microsoft antitrust settlement said Tuesday she would not immediately address complaints Google has made about Microsoft's Windows Vista software.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said she would decide later this year whether to consider Google's request to extend government oversight of Microsoft's compliance with its 2002 antitrust settlement. That oversight is scheduled to expire in November for most aspects of the agreement.

Kollar-Kotelly emphasized that it is up to the state and federal agencies to decide whether to request additional enforcement action or oversight from the court.

State and federal officials, meanwhile, said during a regularly scheduled hearing on Microsoft's antitrust compliance that they are satisfied with a compromise reached last week with Microsoft to address Google's concerns.

The federal and state governments "stand in the shoes of the consumers," Kollar-Kotelly said, while Google, she added, is not a party to the case.

Google complained to federal and state officials that Microsoft's desktop seach program, which helps Windows Vista users search their hard drives, slows down third-party desktop search programs and makes it hard for computer users to choose alternatives, such as Google's desktop search.

In the compromise, detailed in a court filing last week, Microsoft agreed to allow Windows Vista users to set a non-Microsoft program as the default desktop search engine, and add a link to the alternate program in the Windows Start menu.

But those changes didn't go far enough for Google, which complained they were only "vaguely described" in the court filing. The online search giant asked the court to extend the government's oversight to ensure that Microsoft followed through on its desktop search commitments.

Under questioning from Kollar-Kotelly, Aaron Hoag, a Justice Department lawyer, said Google would receive more information about the compromise agreement than what was included in the court filing.

Both sides said they were pleased with the outcome of the hearing.

"As a result of our raising concerns about Vista desktop search, the Department of Justice and the states secured remedies from Microsoft that will provide consumers more choices than existed before," said Alan Davidson, Google's senior policy counsel.

"The government represents the interests of consumers and Google clearly does not," Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, said.

Shares of Microsoft rose 19 cents to $29.68, while shares of Google rose $1.47 to $528.89 in afternoon trading Tuesday.

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