will release a patch for Windows XP next
week that will allow users more choices in their browser, e-mail, instant
messenger and media player, according to reports Friday.
The patch will represent the first product changes the company has made as
part of its proposed anti-trust settlement reached with the Department of
Justice in November. Nine states are challenging the judgment in court,
leaving the settlement pending.
The Windows XP Service Pack, set for release to 10,000 beta testers next
week, will be widely available for free download in August in a 40-megabyte
patch, the Wall Street Journal reported. The service pack will
address some of the anti-competitive charges that were made against the
Redmond, Wash. software giant. It will give manufacturers more choices
between Microsoft and non-Microsoft products, allowing them more options to
use third-party software.
The heart of the anti-trust case against Microsoft was the company’s
practice of bundling its many programs with its ubiquitous Windows operating
system. The government charged the practice put rival programs, such as the
Netscape browser, at a severe competitive disadvantage against Microsoft
products. The new patch does not un-bundle Microsoft programs, but it does
give computer manufacturers and users more options about which programs are
For example, a new start menu button called “set program access and
defaults” will allow users four choices: computer-maker’s settings;
Microsoft only; non-Microsoft only; and customized. The default choice is
The new options could help computer manufacturers, who can now choose
third-party middleware, as well as rival manufacturers of Microsoft products
like AOL Time Warner and RealNetworks.
Another change is the patch will stop Passport from prompting users until
they have visited Hotmail, MSN, or another Microsoft site or program
requiring Passport’s personal-identification system.
Between now and the general release, Microsoft plans to open its code to
other software companies, allowing them to write their programs to work
seamlessly with Windows XP.
The service pack will also roll together a variety of security patches
issues by Microsoft since XP’s release in October.
Microsoft still has to deal with the case brought by the states, which want
more restrictive penalties against the company. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly
will hear closing arguments in the case on June 19.