News of the requirement that PC makers include an MSN Internet access icon on PC desktops emerged last week. On Wednesday, Microsoft spokesman Vivek Varma said Microsoft restrictions could also compel PC makers to place icons for Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player as well as the Recycle Bin on PC desktops.
The placement of the Windows Media Player icon could create more controversy for Microsoft as it puts the finishing touches on Windows XP. PC makers on Wednesday reported that Microsoft told them the company would likely release final, or gold, code Aug. 22. New Windows XP PCs are expected to go on sale Sept. 24, about a month before the operating system's official late October launch.
Varma emphasized that placing the Windows Media Player icon is not a new development. "OEMs (original equipment makers) have known about this since" Microsoft announced Windows licensing changes, she said.
But Microsoft's further integration of the feature into Windows XP has brought fire from competitors and trustbusters. News of the Windows Media Player icon could intensify controversy surrounding the product, which, among other things, supports CD recording and DVD playback.
The media player could play a prominent role in remedy hearings planned for later this year. Microsoft on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the decision a federal Court of Appeals rendered in June. Any day that court could decide whether to send the case back to the trial court for new proceedings even while the High Court weighs Microsoft's request.
Windows XP and some of its technologies--Windows Media Player, Windows Messenger and Passport authentication, among others--are expected to take up part of proceedings when the case returns to the trial court.
The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant had planned to ship Windows XP with a clean desktop. But last month the company gave PC makers the option to populate the desktop with icons and to change icons on the Windows XP Start menu.
Microsoft has taken a similar approach to the desktop as it has to the enhanced and redesigned Start menu. There are two options for those PC makers choosing not to ship a clean desktop. The first is placing icons for Internet Explorer 6, MSN Explorer, Windows Media Player and the Recycle Bin on the desktop.
Windows XP copies sold at retail will come with a clean desktop and by default a feature that occasionally offers the user the opportunity to clean icons off the desktop.
"OEMs can turn that off and pre-populate the desktop," Varma said. "If they do that, they must display the following icons in addition to the Recycle Bin: IE, MSN and Windows Media Player."
PC makers that don't want the two browser icons must place one icon for MSN Internet access and another for the Recycle Bin.
On the Start menu, PC makers can remove Internet Explorer 6 and MSN Explorer icons, but not some others, such as Windows Media Player. PC makers that choose to remove both browser icons--Internet Explorer 6 and MSN Explorer--must at least place another for the MSN Internet service. While PC makers cannot remove the icon, consumers can easily do so. That placement could be vital for competing with AOL Time Warner's America Online service should it gain placement on the Windows Start menu.
Although the desktop seems like the natural battleground for placing and competing for placement of icons, the real war may be waged over the Start menu. Windows XP comes with a redesigned Start menu with eight icons prominently placed and easily accessible in one mouse click. In testing versions of the operating system, some of those icons rotated out and were placed with others for frequently used programs.
Varma noted that of the eight spaces available, five are reserved for computer manufacturers. Several PC makers said privately they had been approached by companies looking for either icon placement on the desktop or in the Start menu.
AOL has been at the forefront of companies negotiating hard for prominent placement on the Windows XP desktop and during the installation start-up sequence, in which people can choose a means of connecting to the Internet. In the final testing version of Windows, MSN Internet service is the option available.
But Microsoft has accused AOL of negotiating deals that would prevent PC makers from offering connection options for MSN or another Internet service provider.
"AOL has an exclusive deal with OEMs that forces OEMs to remove the MSN icon from the boot-up process on new PCs," Varma said. "We believe this is an anti-consumer action by AOL, where AOL is removing alternative ISP choice in the boot-up process."