Microsoft Corp. will release the first beta for the Windows XP Service Pack 1 in the next two weeks, and it will include changes that allow both computer manufacturers and users to hide Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, Windows Messenger and Outlook Express.
In late February the Redmond, Wash., software company said that it was already working on incorporating the changes required under its proposed settlement with the Department of Justice in the first Service Pack for Windows XP.
Jim Cullinan, the lead product manager for Windows XP, told eWEEK on Thursday that Microsoft continues to actively work toward complying with the consent decree between it and the DOJ in the antitrust case.
"As such, we have added a new option in the Start menu that allows users to select program access and defaults and which gives them access to a new user interface," he said. The new UI can also be accessed through the Control Panel and will allow configuration options for both OEMs and users where they can select or choose to hide different technologies.
The four options will allow OEMs to hide any of Microsofts five middleware components: the browser (Internet Explorer), e-mail (Outlook Express), Windows Media Player, Windows Messenger and the Java Virtual Machine.
Users can also choose between Microsoft Windows technologies, non-Microsoft technologies and customized technologies. While the Windows technologies will be the default, that option screen will continue to reflect any technology an OEM or user puts on the system. "So were not going to hide the OEM stuff, even though technically we could have," Cullinan said.
Microsoft has already provided information on its Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) for how third parties can register their non-Windows technologies. Microsoft will release the APIs so these third parties know how to make their technologies the default and effectively communicate between the middleware and operating system. "So, once the beta process is over, all those companies who want to do this will be able to do so," he said.
But, while Microsoft believes these moves address some of the requirements of the consent decree with the Department of Justice, they are unlikely to satisfy the nine states and the District of Columbia, which have refused to sign off on the proposed antitrust settlement.
They believe Microsoft should be forced to offer a modular version of the Windows operating system in addition to the fully integrated version of the product.
Cullinan said SP1 will ship with Windows Messenger 4.7 as it provides the compliance mechanism to remove Messenger access from XP. OEMs will also no longer be able to run Messenger by default.
"Previously, even if you werent using it, it was running in the background. That will no longer be the case, and the byproduct of this is that therell be no more offering of the Passport single sign-in mechanism," he said.
The Passport bubble will thus also no longer appear until a user affirmatively chooses something that needs it, like MSN, Hotmail or Windows Messenger.
Going forward, Microsoft will also be disclosing some additional APIs, including those that deal with how the Windows Media Player talks to the rest of the operating system and how Internet Explorer talks to the Media Player. "All of those things need to be disclosed, and in the coming months were going to share those with the industry," Cullinan said.
Microsoft also has to license at "a reasonable rate" the protocols between the client and server, which was another challenge for the company, he said.
The Service Pack beta will be made available to more than 10,000 testers and will likely be followed up with a single Release Candidate. It is expected to ship by late summer.
At this point it is not expected to include new features and functionality, but rather be a rollup of all security fixes made available over Windows Update as well as the critical security fixes found as a result of the companys Trustworthy Computing initiative, Cullinan said.
Some Quick Fix Engineering (QFE) components will be available, including USB 2.0, while the .Net Framework is an optional component that is not available by default.
These latest moves follow Microsofts March announcement that it planned to open up more of its proprietary source code to allow greater interoperability between different server operating systems and its Windows client and server operating systems.