Massachusetts Pursues Antitrust Claims

WASHINGTON -- Microsoft continues to engage in monopolistic actions and to violate an antitrust settlement approved by a federal judge, says the attorney general of the lone U.S. state still pursuing the antitrust case against Microsoft.

The Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General makes the accusations in a court brief released Friday by the U.S. Department of Justice. It says Microsoft charges excessive prices for software communications protocols that it was ordered to share with competitors under the terms of its November 2002 antitrust settlement with the Justice Department. The protocol-sharing program is "ineffective," according to the brief, which is signed by Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly and Assistant Attorney General Glenn Kaplan.

"We continue to receive and review complaints, some of them recent, that Microsoft's pricing for the protocols is excessive, that the information provided is incomplete, and that key protocols are beyond the reach of the program," the brief states.

A Microsoft spokesperson calls the Massachusetts complaints "unsubstantiated."

"Given the vague and unsubstantiated nature of these allegations, it's difficult to respond," says Stacy Drake, the Microsoft representative. "However, we are always willing to sit down and discuss any issues of concern."

Some Concessions

The Massachusetts attorneys also complain about the "Shop for Music Online" feature in Windows XP. When activated, it opens Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, even if the user has selected a different browser as the default. Microsoft and the Department of Justice announced Thursday that Microsoft has agreed to stop its shop-for-music feature from defaulting to Internet Explorer, although the company still contends the feature does not violate the part of the antitrust settlement that bans anticompetitive behavior against other browsers, Drake says.

Microsoft will make changes in a Windows XP update due out in February or March, Drake said Thursday. But the Massachusetts brief suggests that those changes may not be enough.

"It is unclear whether Microsoft's proposed changes, which apparently will not be put in place for at least two months, will actually remedy the competitive problem," the Massachusetts brief states.

The brief does not expand on its charge that Microsoft's actions will not remedy the situation. Microsoft's Drake calls the issue resolved.

The Massachusetts attorneys also accuse Microsoft of engaging in a "campaign against various search engines" and software for creating documents such as Adobe Acrobat. Drake says she cannot comment on the individual complaints in the brief.

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