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For Microsoft, compromise fends off a fight

Microsoft promises changes to give Vista users more choices. Microsoft promises changes to give Vista users more choices. (JAY LAPRETE/BLOOMBERG NEWS)

SEATTLE -- Microsoft has fended off Google antitrust complaints by agreeing to make it easier for computer users to choose competitors' programs, an increasingly common response from a company long accused of trying to stifle competition.

The compromise with the Justice Department, detailed late Tuesday, allows Windows Vista users to set a non-Microsoft program as the default search engine on hard drives. Microsoft will also add a link to that alternate program in the Windows Start menu, but will not change the way Vista's Instant Search technology works.

Recent concessions by Microsoft are part of a broader battle. Windows still dominates the PC operating system market, but Google's ability to make money from search advertising has left Microsoft scrambling to catch up. Google has also stepped into traditional Microsoft territory with free Web-based programs for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations.

Microsoft said changes to desktop search will be implemented in its first service pack for Vista.