Windows, IE Browser Changes Suspended

Microsoft Thursday said it has suspended any proposed changes to its Web browser because the lawsuit that prompted it has not been fully resolved.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant issued a statement saying it will not, for now, “implement modifications to its Windows operating system or Microsoft Internet Explorer as a result of the Eolas patent lawsuit.”

Last summer, Chicago-based Eolas Technology and the University of California sued Microsoft over a patent which covers technologies for the creation of a browser system that allowed for the embedding of small interactive programs, such as plug-ins, applets, scriptlets or ActiveX controls, into online documents.

In October Microsoft said that it was considering minor changes that would allow Web developers and others who use Internet Explorer technology to avoid any concern of infringement. Microsoft also said the changes would be made in new versions of Windows that were shipping this year.

Microsoft said the decision to hold off on changing IE was based not only on the present legal status of the suit, which is being re-examined by the U.S. Patent Trademark Office, but on requests made by partners and customers.

“The action by the Patent Office may result in the cancellation of the Eolas patent,” Microsoft said in a statement. “Given these circumstances, Microsoft, for now, will not be releasing an update to Internet Explorer and does not plan on making the changes it announced in October to Windows XP Service Pack 2.”

Meanwhile, Microsoft said it plans to appeal the judge’s approval of a jury’s $520 million judgment. The court stayed the judgment, including implementation of an injunction, until the appeal has been heard and decided.

Spokesperson Jim Desler declined to speculate on whether or not Microsoft would resume the proposed changes once the appeals process resolved.

“Obviously circumstances can change how we approach the modest steps we are taking,” Desler told internetnews.com. “If circumstances were to change, we would evaluate our situation and consult with specific companies and developers that use the functionality of pop-up advertising and the ActiveX control.”

The modifications would have meant that users visiting which Web pages had not been updated would be presented with a dialog box before the browser loaded the ActiveX control. The changes would have affected embedded content, including Microsoft’s Windows Media Player, RealNetworks’ RealOne, Apple’s QuickTime, Adobe’s Acrobat, Macromedia’s Flash and Java Virtual Machine.

Spokespeople with Macromedia, Apple and RealNetworks were not immediately available to comment.

Desler said Microsoft would work with industry partners to provide documentation for Web developers describing ways to build Web pages while avoiding the dialog box.

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