US may not seek halt of Windows XP

By : |August 10, 2001 0

Peter Kaplan

WASHINGTON: A source close to government antitrust enforcers said on Thursday
they are “highly unlikely” to ask the courts to halt the release of
Microsoft Corp.’s new Windows XP operating system.

Despite fears that Windows XP could hinder competition in the software
business, most state and federal prosecutors oppose the idea of trying to block
its scheduled October 25 release because they doubt a judge would grant the
request, the source said.

A possible injunction against Windows XP has been hanging over Microsoft
since a June 28 federal appeals court ruling agreed with the trial court that
the company illegally abused its monopoly in personal computer operating
systems. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia concluded that
Microsoft tried to illegally maintain its monopoly by tying its Internet browser
to Windows.

The appeals court is expected to decide within a matter of days whether to
send the case back to a lower court or grant Microsoft’s request for a delay
pending a review by the US Supreme Court. The idea of seeking an injunction
against the new XP operating system is supported by only a small group of the
state attorneys general involved in the case, the source said.

“It’s very hard to get a preliminary injunction,” the source said.
“You wouldn’t start off in front of a new judge with a motion you didn’t
think you could win.” The source said the government could use the
feature-packed Windows XP to build the case that Microsoft is continuing to
flout antitrust laws by tying in new features sold by rival software makers.

The government could seek changes to the new operating system later, the
source said. “Just because XP is released doesn’t mean it’s written in
stone forever.”

Time better spent
Seeking an injunction to stop the release of XP would take up time and
resources that might be better spent pursuing a long-term remedy in the case,
according to the source. A lower court judge will decide on remedies to be
imposed on Microsoft to prevent future violations and reexamine another illegal
tying claim against the company.

Some of the 18 state attorneys general who are party to the case have
expressed concern that the company is using a strategy similar to the one
condemned by the court. The new operating system includes software for instant
messaging and photo imaging, as well as a media player.

Justice Department officials have refused to discuss the government’s legal
strategy. Bob Brammer, a spokesman for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, said on
Thursday that the state attorneys general “have not made a decision on
whether to take any action regarding release of XP.”

Microsoft executives have said they want to move the case forward quickly.
However, some legal analysts believe the company is trying to hold up the case
long enough so that it does not interfere with the release of Windows XP. Legal
precedent makes it extremely difficult to get an injunction because it requires
that the government prove a product would inflict irreparable damage on
competitors. A judge would also have to weigh the impact halting Windows XP
would have on Microsoft and the public.

(C) Reuters Limited 2001.

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