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Microsoft Sued Over Vista-To-XP Downgrade Fees

Suit claims the software maker is profiting from a program that allegedly violates antitrust laws.
A Los Angeles computer user has filed a lawsuit against Microsoft, claiming that fees the software maker and its partners charge for downgrading PCs from Windows Vista to the older XP operating system violate antitrust rules.

Emma Alvarado says in court papers that she was forced to pay $59.25 to downgrade a Vista-based Lenovo system she bought last year to XP. Alvarado claims Microsoft is able to impose such fees because of a lack of competition in the PC market.

"Since the introduction of Vista, Microsoft has effectively eliminated competition in the operating system PC market and created a monopoly position for itself in that market," Alvarado claims in papers filed this week in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

"Microsoft has used its power to coerce OEMs, Internet access providers, and others into agreeing to restrictive and anti-competitive licensing terms for its Windows XP operating system in order to stifle competition in the market," according to Alvarado's complaint. "Microsoft did so in order to maintain, protect, and extend its market power in operating systems software into the next generation of personal computing, to lessen competition, and to enhance its monopoly position," Alvarado claims.

Vista's heavy horsepower requirements and intrusive security measures, as well as its incompatibility with older applications, have proven unpopular with many computer users. As a result, many have downgraded their systems to XP.

Most vendors offer Vista-to-XP downgrades, but at a price.

"Microsoft has used its market power to take advantage of consumer demand for the Windows XP operating system by requiring consumers to purchase computers preinstalled with the Vista operating system and to pay additional sums to 'downgrade' to the Windows XP operating system," Alvarado's suit states.

The suit claims that one-third of all computers purchased with Vista on board have been downgraded to XP and that Microsoft has prohibited its hardware partners from selling systems with XP preinstalled since Vista arrived on the market two years ago.

Alvarado is seeking unspecified damages and wants the court to make her case a class action. Microsoft has yet to file a formal response to the allegations.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on Windows 7. Download the report here (registration required).

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