Allchin: Microsoft sticking to its guns

Despite continuing legal tangles and criticism that Windows XP is anti-competitive, Microsoft is maintaining its hard line
Written by Peter Galli, Contributor on

If Microsoft's enthusiasm for bundling new technologies into Windows XP was dampened last week by the US Court of Appeals, the company isn't showing any signs of it.

In fact, Microsoft is maintaining its hard line on the inclusion of several potentially controversial technologies in the forthcoming operating system. In addition to sticking to its plan to include HailStorm Web services in XP, Microsoft is also readying a second service called Rendezvous. The protocol will allow people to initiate instant messaging conversations and video chat, and will be part of XP by the time it ships 25 October. This is in addition to Microsoft's Passport authentication service, which will also be included.

"XP will include Passport and Rendezvous, which are meta-Internet services," said Jim Allchin, vice president of Microsoft's platform group, in an interview with eWeek late last week. "Rendezvous will allow things like real-time communications between people. If you use Windows Messenger in XP -- and you can choose not to -- you will have to use the HailStorm Passport and the Rendezvous services."

That may not please critics, how ever, many of whom are keeping a close eye on the Redmond, Washington software company, especially after the appeals court late last week rejected the company's request that it reconsider its finding that Microsoft illegally integrated its Internet Explorer browser with Windows.

Attorneys general such as Iowa's Tom Miller, in Des Moines, are already concerned about HailStorm and XP. Microsoft's announcements "indicate to us that Microsoft may be repeating its efforts to maintain and extend its monopoly even more broadly into the Internet", Miller has said previously.

But Microsoft is sticking to its guns. Allchin said he has "absolutely no plans" to change the release date for XP or alter any of the technology included in the product.

"We think this is a technical discussion best had with the attorneys," Allchin said. "I'm trying to put together the best product I possibly can. I do not see this, or any of the other legal challenges, as an impediment to the release of Windows XP at this point."

Microsoft is also working on initiatives to include the controversial Smart Tag technology it recently decided to drop from Windows XP in ensuing versions of Windows. Critics have claimed that Smart Tags drive Internet users to Microsoft-preferred Web sites, something Allchin described as "blatant nonsense".

"We dropped it because we listened to feedback, which led us to believe we should go out and have more meetings with the content owners and show them how Smart Tags can work to their advantage," Allchin said.

"I expect Smart Tags to be included in the next version of Windows post-XP [code-named Longhorn]," he said. "I expect we will come up with a new proposal, probably have a design preview on it and then include this in the appropriate release, the most likely being Longhorn."

He also confirmed that Microsoft had told PC makers that if they were going to put icons on the XP desktop, so was Microsoft. While Microsoft's senior management had decided to give its OEM partners freedom on the desktop, the company remained a believer that the clean desktop was the way to go, he said.

"This is not just an MSN thing; it's a set of our icons that will go on the desktop. I'm not sure exactly what's in that list, but it's probably very similar to what was there before," Allchin said.

Microsoft also has no plans to change the way it has included its reworked real-time communications technology, Windows Messenger, in XP. This technology resulted in a wave of criticism that the company was restricting competition by bundling a range of audio, video and messaging technologies into the operating system.

But Allchin countered by saying that users could also load any third-party software "with no problem at all. If anything, we're fighting for user choice and pushing hard for that. We shouldn't necessarily have to remove things; we want to give people a choice about whether to use it or not."

Microsoft is also aggressively working with third-party vendors, particularly AOL Time Warner, to make sure their software works well with Windows XP.

"Windows is a platform; we need those [third-party] applications," Allchin said. "I would be pretty dumb if I didn't try and make them work as well as possible."

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