Consumer Groups Lash Out Against XP

Opponents of Microsoft Corp.s newest operating system, Windows XP, today turned the heat up further on the Redmond, Wash., software maker.

Four leading consumer organizations today added to the chorus of critics of Windows XP, warning that Microsofts new bundle of software and Internet services would "extend and deepen the companys illegal monopoly and cause significant harm to the nations consumers."

Microsoft is currently preparing for the official global launch of Windows XP in New York on Oct. 25, even though new PCs with XP loaded are already shipping.

The latest attacks on Windows XP also come as Microsoft and the government head back to Washington District Court to consider appropriate behavioral remedies to address the software companys illegal anti-competitive behavior in the desktop operating system.

The two parties are scheduled to appear before Washington District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly this Friday at 9:30 a.m. for a status conference on the remedy phase of the trial. In a joint status report filed before Kollar-Kotelly last week, the Justice Department and Microsoft disagreed on nearly every issue.

But the filing did make clear that the Justice Department intends to introduce evidence of Microsofts ongoing conduct, "especially with regard to Windows XP."

At a press conference in Washington today, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Media Access Project and U.S. Public Interest Research Group released an analysis of Windows XP.

It claimed the "tight integration of Windows XP with other basic computer applications, its restrictive licensing terms, and other anti-competitive conditions imposed by Microsoft not only mimic Microsofts previous violations of the antitrust laws, but also significantly add to them."

The consumer groups have also sent a letter to Charles James, the head of the Justice De-partments Antitrust Division, the 18 state attorneys general who are party to the case, and the six state attorneys general (Arkansas, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) who last week expressed concerns about the anti-competitive nature of Windows XP.

The letter calls on the parties to ensure extensive conduct remedies that eliminate from Windows XP all of the technology and business practices that the courts found illegal and "retain District Court jurisdiction to break up Microsoft if its conduct fails to comply with any settlement.

"The Court must also aggressively police the remedy, since Microsoft has shown itself to be recalcitrant in its failure to comply with the earlier consent decree and its steadfast denial of wrongdoing," the letter said.

The groups also released a paper, "Windows XP/.NET: Microsofts Expanding Monopoly," which found that Windows XP and Microsofts .Net software-as-a-service strategy would continue to deny users and PC makers choice and would create higher costs and impair quality and innovation.

But Jim Prendergast, the executive director of Americans for Technology Leadership, came to Microsofts defense. Responding to todays attack by the four consumer groups, he said: "These beltway consumer groups are out of touch with average consumers. … Todays call for new action against Microsoft is very unpopular with consumers."

A poll conducted after the Appeals Court decision showed that 63 percent of Americans did not want the case expanded to include new products, while 74 percent of those interviewed were against delaying the shipment of Windows XP, he said.

"It is a shame that groups who are supposed to represent consumer interests do the bidding of a few powerful companies at the expense of Americas consumers," he said in a statement.