Senator Wants Changes In Windows XP Linked To Antitrust Case Settlement

New York Sen. Charles Schumer asks Justice Department to make open access to competitor's software in Microsoft's Windows XP a condition for settling its antitrust case.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Tuesday called on the U.S. Department of Justice to make open access to competitors' software in Microsoft's forthcoming Windows XP operating system a condition for settling its antitrust case with the company. Schumer also asked the 18 states suing Microsoft for antitrust violations to bring a lawsuit enjoining the Oct. 25 release of XP until Microsoft makes changes to the product.

The announcements, made at a Washington, D.C., press conference Tuesday morning, follow Schumer's request Monday night that the Senate incorporate discussions of Windows XP's legality into Judiciary Committee hearings on Internet competition set for September.

In a statement released Tuesday, and in a separate letter to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Schumer said he was on the verge of withdrawing his support for Microsoft, citing potential harm to consumers and Microsoft competitors from XP's favoritism of Microsoft applications. Schumer named AOL Time Warner, Eastman Kodak, and RealNetworks as companies whose competition with Microsoft could be endangered by the release of the new operating system. "As the company readies to launch its newest product, Windows XP, Microsoft is about to lose my support," Schumer said in the letter to Ballmer. "It appears to me that Microsoft intends to maximize its monopolistic power, using XP as a platform to enter new lines of business while encumbering competitors."

Microsoft said in a statement that "complaints" by AOL and Eastman Kodak don't merit a congressional hearing, and said "Windows XP is designed to bring more choice and options to consumers, not fewer."

Schumer and Microsoft's competitors object to the software developer's inclusion of media-player, instant-messaging, and photo-editing software in Windows XP, which they say appear too often as default choices when users want to undertake tasks. A federal appeals court last month ruled that Microsoft holds an illegal monopoly in the PC operating-system market, and officials at the Justice Department and state attorneys general offices have said they may make any software that illegally extends that monopoly an issue in future litigation.

Microsoft and the PC industry are banking on an on-time release of Windows XP to spur slumping sales during the holiday buying season. In a letter sent to Schumer Tuesday, Microsoft federal government affairs director Jack Krumholtz said, "The timely launch of Windows XP is critical to re-ignite the PC industry in the United States, including the Empire State." One source close to Microsoft says AOL Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin and Eastman Kodak CEO Daniel Carp--both based in New York--had met with Schumer this month, but that the senator did not meet with Microsoft. Krumholtz's letter says Schumer cancelled a meeting with the company Monday night. A Schumer spokesman did not return a phone call by press time.

Meanwhile, Microsoft representatives are in Washington this week for meetings with federal and state officials, according to reports. Microsoft is trying to negotiate a settlement to the current case, brought three years ago. Likely participants in this week's talks include Justice Department antitrust chief Charles James, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, and private lawyers for Microsoft, reports say. A spokesman for Miller's office said Tuesday morning that the office has no comment on Schumer's request.