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States hit Gates

Microsoft practices face additional probes

Suddenly, it’s the world against Bill Gates: Eleven state attorneys general announced Monday that they are opening their own inquiries into the alleged anti-competitive practices of software giant Microsoft Corp.

According to New York State attorney general Dennis Vacco, the states’ subpoenas specifically demand information about the company’s marketing plans for Windows 98.

“The states’ investigation is centered on the question of whether Microsoft is improperly using its dominant market position in operating system software … to force consumers also to use its Internet browser product,” Vacco announced.

Microsoft’s appeal on similar Federal suspicions will go to the U.S. Court of Appeals in April. Vacco said he and his fellow attorneys general are working with Dept. of Justice lead attorney Joel Klein and his staff on their shared area of inquiry.

In that case Monday, a federal appeals court ordered a temporary halt to the work of a court-appointed Harvard law professor who had a significant role in the federal antitrust case.

The decision represents a significant victory, for now at least, for Microsoft, which fought strongly to disqualify Lawrence Lessig as a “special master” appointed to prepare a report on technological issues in the dispute.

Microsoft had argued last Friday that Lawrence Lessig was biased against the company.

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