How the Antitrust Settlement Affects You.

By Timothy R. Butler | Posted at 9:49 PM

As an IT worker, I'm sure that you recognize the USA v. Microsoft case as something that could profoundly affect the direction IT will move in. However, after today's settlement announcement, many pundits suggested that the proposed end accomplished little at all. I beg to differ.

    Okay, I have your attention now, so what am I talking about? It all comes down to an oft ignored problem, and its solution in the proposed settlement. It's the issue of the boot loader, the key software that loads the operating system (or systems) on your computer.

Here is what the proposed settlement states:

“Microsoft shall not restrict by agreement any OEM licensee from exercising any of the following options or alternatives … Offering users the option of launching other Operating Systems from the Basic Input/Output System or a non-Microsoft boot-loader or similar program that launches prior to the start of the Windows Operating System Product.”

    In other words, this agreement could bring to life the possibility of OEM dual boot systems with Linux or FreeBSD packaged right along side Windows. This means we could soon see the day where you can call up a first tier OEM or go to the local CompUSA, and purchase a system that has more than just Windows installed on it.

    The agreement also details that users and OEM's should have the freedom to choose their own browsers, media players, and other forms of middleware. This might not be the ground breaking kind of settlement some had been seeking - but wasn't operating system and browser choice the goal of the suit to begin with?

Timothy R. Butler is editor-in-chief of Open for Business. You can reach him at