Microsoft Loosens Grip on OEMs

In a move aimed at granting more freedom to OEMs, provisions of the licensing agreement for Windows have been changed. Microsoft announced today what amounts to a reversal of some of the stringent requirements it has imposed on OEMS in the past. The recent Appeals Court ruling prompted Microsoft to alter specific areas of the Windows licensing agreement that were in violation of Federal anti-trust laws. The flexibility to add and remove components from Internet Explorer, as well as to choose the placement of Start menu shortcuts and desktop icons has been granted to computer manufacturers. The decision to make changes in the agreement will not affect the October 25 launch date of Windows XP, despite requiring slight changes to its code.


The software giant has moved to take immediate steps to appease the court, recognizing what the court considers to be its wrong doings. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stated today, "We recognize that some provisions in our existing Windows licenses have been ruled improper by the court, so we are providing computer manufacturers with greater flexibility and we are doing this immediately so that computer manufacturers can take advantage of them in planning for the upcoming release of Windows XP." Ballmer also remarked that this decision in no way replaces settlement talks with the government, stating that the company was willing to iron out any lingering issues.

The removal of all desktop icons from Windows XP is a requiem that Microsoft has stubbornly enforced until now. Through extensive usability testing the company found that desktop icons tended to confuse users. With the release of Windows XP, Redmond aimed to simplify the user interface much to the chagrin of partners such as AOL who rely on precious desktop real estate to promote their services.


However, Microsoft claims the decision to change this policy was not made in response to increased pressure from partners. "These changes specifically address the court of appeals decision and its determination that certain provisions of our license agreements with OEMs were anticompetitive. We always welcome feedback from partners, but this announcement focused on addressing the court of appeals decision," Microsoft spokesperson Jim Cullinan told BetaNews. AOL refused to comment on the announcement.


According to a press release issued today, the exact changes being made to the license are as follows:

  • PC manufacturers will have the option to remove the Start menu entries and icons that provide end users with access to the Internet Explorer components of the operating system. Microsoft will include Internet Explorer in the Add/Remove programs feature in Windows XP.
  • PC manufacturers will have the option to remove the Start menu entries and icons that provide end users with access to Internet Explorer from previous versions of Windows, including Windows 98, Windows 2000 and Windows Me.
  • PC manufacturers will retain the option of putting icons directly onto the Windows desktop. Based on extensive customer usability studies, Microsoft had designed Windows XP to ship with a clean desktop and improved Start menu, but PC manufacturers will now have the option of continuing to place icons on the Windows desktop if they want to.
  • Consumers will be able to use the Add-Remove Programs feature in Windows XP to remove end-user access to the Internet Explorer components of the operating system. Microsoft has always made it easy for consumers to delete the icons for Internet Explorer, but will now offer consumers this additional option in Windows XP.

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