After years of adhering to Microsoft's tight controls of what PC makers could and couldn't do to the Windows desktop on new machines, manufacturers are now looking to get cash upfront for some of the icons and fees for the upcoming XP machines.
The change comes in light of the recent US Appeals court ruling in the federal government's antitrust case against Microsoft.
The Windows XP start menu has six spots, three of which can be filled by the PC vendor. Only the icons for Internet Explorer, Microsoft Network Explorer and Windows Media Player can be removed; the underlying technology remains.
Although PC makers are reluctant to discuss pending agreements, AOL has led the pack to take advantage of the new flexibility.
AOL and AOL-owned CompuServe Interactive Services will be the only internet services with an icon on the Windows XP desktop in Compaq computers.
Dell, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Sony and Toshiba will also have icons for AOL on their Windows XP machines.
An HP spokeswoman said the company would include icons to deliver personal solutions. In one example, HP included the three required Microsoft icons, as well as ones for AOL, Quicken Financials, McAfee virus protection, and the company's Tour Guide, Help and Support.
While Dell confirmed it would have about 10 icons on its XP desktops, Gateway is the only PC maker at this time shipping machines in accordance with Microsoft's clean desktop plan.
In contrast, Compaq, rejecting the plan, will put some 10 icons on its desktop machines, in addition to the three Microsoft requires.
Right now, PC makers such as Compaq, Gateway and Dell make money by leasing space on the desktop to software providers. It is still unclear what will happen to these arrangements once icons leave the top screen.
A Compaq spokeswoman said financial deals with Compaq's partners should not change, as the company expects to have its own folder somewhere in the start menu that links to "our own page and our own software."
In Gartner's opinion, for AOL and other third parties, it opens the door for their products to be more accessible to users of the Microsoft platform.
"For PC makers, it offers a chance to provide another feature to differentiate themselves in the eyes of the consumer," said Gartner analyst Michael Silver.
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