Massachusetts not happy with Microsoft settlement

Associated Press

BOSTON – Massachusetts’ attorney general said his state would not sign on to a proposed settlement in the antitrust case against Microsoft because it does not protect competing software makers.

“Microsoft will use this agreement to crush competition,” Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly said Sunday. He said Massachusetts would not approve the proposed agreement between the software giant and the U.S. Department of Justice without “major changes.”

He also said he did not expect those changes to happen before a Tuesday deadline, set for Massachusetts and 17 other states taking part in the case to respond. He said he expected to press for changes in the settlement before U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kottelly.

He would not say whether he had had discussions with other states.

“If we can get a core group of states, we can consider continuing litigation,” Reilly said.

“Massachusetts is the only state I can speak for,” Reilly said. “It’s a fluid situation.”

Earlier, attorneys general in some of the other 17 states sounded more positive.

“Eliminating uncertainty is going to be good for the economy,” said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

“I am inclined to sign on,” said Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan. “I am pleased that the Microsoft case appears headed for resolution and that Illinois consumers will have gained a freer and more competitive marketplace as a result.”

Reilly said he and his staff spent the weekend scrutinizing the agreement, which was announced Friday.

“Every definition is riddled with exceptions,” Reilly said.

The case, in the biggest antitrust case since the breakup of AT&T in the 1980s, began in 1998 when the Department of Justice sued Microsoft, claiming the Redmond, Wash.-based computer giant used its ubiquitous Windows operating system to stifle competitors.

The proposed settlement would require Microsoft to give independent monitors full access to its books and plans for the next five years, and to provide information to help rivals make their products compatible with Windows.

Separately, the European Commission said today it was pressing forward with its probe into Microsoft. The commission is investigating whether Microsoft had violated antitrust laws by bundling its Media Player into Windows. The EU said that Microsoft may have used “illegal practices” to extend its dominance in personal computers into server markets.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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