Non-suing states raise XP concerns

By Rick Perera, IDG News Service |  Government

Six U.S. states that are not part of a government antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. are adding their support to the suit, and suggesting that Microsoft's latest operating system could perpetuate a monopoly situation.

In an open letter to Microsoft Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Steve Ballmer, Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell wrote Thursday, "Today we write to you to express our support for concerns raised by the states and the Department of Justice in the litigation. We add our voices to those calling on Microsoft to remedy the antitrust problems that are now evident."

The letter, which was also signed by the attorneys general of Arkansas, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, went on to say the new Windows XP operating system should also be addressed in the remedy phase of the case, in which the U.S. Department of Justice and 18 states joined against Microsoft.

The two sides in the case are in settlement talks, after an Appeals Court upheld a ruling that Microsoft has a monopoly in operating systems, but threw out a plan to split up the company.

"We are concerned that Windows XP may involve additional unlawful attempts by Microsoft to maintain its operating system monopoly," the letter said. "Notwithstanding the notable technological achievements imbedded into some of the products and services offered by Windows XP, Microsoft may have constructed this new product without due regard for relevant legal rulings, and without due regard for other issues involving consumer choice and consumer privacy."

An industry group that backs Microsoft in the case attacked the letter, calling it a veiled attempt by the company's competitor AOL Time Warner Inc. to prolong the case.

The Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) claimed the states' letter was drafted by AOL lobbyist Jeff Modisett. The association called the letter an attempt to derail settlement talks in the Microsoft antitrust case, and termed it "tactless" in difficult economic times.

AOL officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080, or http://www.microsoft.com/. AOL Time Warner, in New York, can be contacted at +1-212-484-8000 or http://www.aoltimewarner.com/.

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