Massachusetts Charges Microsoft with Troubling Business Behavior

The Commonwealth of Mass. is investigating allegations that Microsoft is planning a campaign against document software programs, such as Adobe Acrobat.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is investigating allegations that Microsoft Corp. is planning a campaign against document software programs, such as Adobe Acrobat, along the lines of the campaign waged against Netscape Navigator.

Massachusetts disclosed its investigation in a filing on Friday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. As part of a status report on the enforcement of Microsofts November, 2002, federal anti-trust settlement, the Massachusetts attorney general said that he is also looking into complaints that a similar campaign is being waged against search engines.

"If Microsoft is taking steps to hobble the competitive effectiveness of these rival products and thereby supplant them, such serial killing of competing technologies is a serious and troubling prospect," said Attorney General Thomas Reilly in the court filing.

The only state to refrain from settling anti-trust complaints against the Redmond, Wash., software maker, Massachusetts investigates complaints regarding possible violations of the federal settlement agreement. To date, the state said, its investigations do not show that the settlement is curbing "troubling business behavior," and they "portend badly" for the effectiveness of the settlement.

The provision of the settlement most troubling to Massachusetts deals with communications protocol licensing. Charging that the protocol licensing program is ineffective, Massachusetts said that pricing is excessive and information on protocols is incomplete. Complaints about the program reflect "the fecklessness of Microsofts disclosure program," the state complained, but under the decree unsatisfied parties do not have recourse.

Microsoft did not reply immediately to a request for comment.