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By | Ashlee Vance 20th June 2007 22:21

Rivals torture consumers via Microsoft

Talk about unfair competition

Comment It looks like you can start thanking Google for making Microsoft's Vista operating system even worse.

Microsoft has given in to demands that it afford rivals a more direct path for providing desktop search functions to users via Vista. The concession underscores Microsoft's revulsion for federal regulators. It will cede a prominent OS function to competitors without a fight just to keep Uncle Sam away from its business.

This is a practical move but one that's ultimately not good for consumers.

The desktop search function in Vista happens to be one of the best features in the new OS. It mimics Apple's Spotlight tool that has been around for years and makes finding files or even just phrases from documents a breeze. If you're looking for a reason to upgrade from XP to Vista, desktop search could prove worth the jump on its own, depending on how organized you are.

Google desktop search, by contrast, is a total joke. It bombards users with so many irrelevant hits on many searches that the tool becomes unusable and annoying. Having Google and other sub par competitors throw their search bars at users will only confuse the average PC customer. Many people will end up picking a really crappy desktop search tool because HP, Dell or whoever signed a deal with Google or because Google managed to foist its software on consumers via some web delivery mechanism.

This is unfair even for a convicted monopolist.

Let's face it. Vista does not have much going for it. At present, the OS mutilates my dual-core Athlon box from HP. It shuns software such as Adobe's Audition sound package or the even more "Vista-ready" Cubase software. Worst of all, Vista boots slower and slower with every passing day as new applications add to its bloat.

Many people miffed by this poor performance will find themselves outraged when tools such as Google desktop search let them down. And it's likely that Microsoft and not Google will be blamed for this. Microsoft's chance at pleasing customers comes through things such as its flashy new interface and solid desktop search. Should competitors be allowed to remove these gems in favor of their clunky code?

Desktop search, it seems to me, is not really like the browser, an office suite or Java – products Microsoft has been in trouble for trampling in the past. It's a basic OS tool. One that Apple with its miniscule market share is free to ship unfettered.

The federal Microsoft watch should result in better operating systems. Even the staunchest Microsoft critic can agree to that. So, let Microsoft have a chance at making quality code rather than having rivals add more cruft. ®

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