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Business in brief: Microsoft to allow default choices

Thu., July 20, 2006, midnight

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday said computer manufacturers and consumers will be able to choose rivals’ search engines and other tools as default applications in the Vista operating system to be rolled out by the world’s largest software maker next year.

Allowing search engine leaders such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. to be selected as the default service, rather than one of Microsoft’s applications, marks a new tack for the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant, with some industry analysts saying the move is little more than public relations.

The move was one of a dozen antitrust guidelines for future development of the Windows operating system worldwide announced Wednesday by Microsoft’s general counsel, Brad Smith.

Microsoft has long been under legal, regulatory and competitive pressures to make its dominant operating systems more open. The European Union levied a $357 million fine against Microsoft last week and threatened greater penalties in the future, unless the company obeys a 2004 antitrust order to share technical details of its Windows operating system.


VA official leaves after laptop theft

A top Veterans Affairs official criticized after the theft of a laptop containing 26.5 million veterans’ sensitive information is leaving to take a job in the private sector, the department said Wednesday.

Tim McClain, the VA’s general counsel since 2001, is resigning effective Sept. 1 to pursue unspecified opportunities elsewhere. He is the fifth official to leave the department following the May 3 theft of a laptop from a VA data analyst’s suburban Maryland home.

In recent weeks, McClain has come under fire by lawmakers of both parties who said he resisted repeated attempts in previous years to centralize authority for information security under the agency’s chief information officer.

Gulfport, Miss.

Judge to rule on insurance refusal

A groundbreaking case that challenges one of the nation’s largest insurers for refusing to cover damage from Hurricane Katrina’s monster storm surge went into the hands of a federal judge on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr., who presided over an eight-day trial without a jury, heard closing arguments and promised a ruling “just as rapidly as possible.”

Paul and Julie Leonard, of Pascagoula, Miss., sued Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. after the Columbus, Ohio-based insurer paid them roughly $1,600 for the more than $130,000 in damage to their home. Their attorneys asked Senter to award them more than $158,000 for the damage to the house and its contents, plus interest, attorneys’ fees and expenses.


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