Massachusetts rejects Microsoft deal; other states mum

Massachusetts has come out officially against the Microsoft antitrust settlement announced by the Department of Justice last week. But it remains to be seen whether the other 17 states involved will back that position or wind up accepting the deal.

          Massachusetts has come out officially against the Microsoft antitrust settlement announced by the Department of Justice last week. But it remains to be seen whether the other 17 states involved in this case will back that position or wind up accepting the deal.

          The settlement agreement is facing trouble and some states in the coalition are pushing for more restrictions in the Justice-backed plan presented in court last Friday morning. But it was unclear by late morning Monday (US time) whether representatives from the states were committed to a single course of action.

          The states' attorneys general were involved in ongoing discussions about the settlement during the weekend and have solicited the opinions of experts, according to sources. They are due to tell US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kottelly whether they intend to join the Justice Department's settlement with Microsoft today.

          The five-year consent decree would set restrictions on some of Microsoft's business practices, giving PC makers more flexibility in configuring desktops as well as providing access to application programming interfaces (API) that developers need to write programs.

          But critics say these provisions each have exceptions that give Microsoft power. The API disclosure provision in the agreement, for instance, includes an exception that bars API disclosure if it would disclose certain security aspects of the Microsoft product. Critics believe that Microsoft could apply that provision arbitrarily.

          Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F Reilly told state news organisations over the weekend that the agreement would crush competition. A spokeswoman for Reilly confirmed that position.

          New York may be more willing than California to settle the case along the lines of what the Justice Department has proposed, but all the states could go into court tomorrow and ask for tougher restrictions. The outcome may well hinge on what Microsoft is willing to do in the final hours to address concerns, said sources.

          Twenty states initially joined the lawsuit against Microsoft: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

          Two states, South Carolina and New Mexico, have since pulled out.

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