US consumer advocate Ralph Nader has sent letters to six PC manufacturers asking them to give customers "the option of buying a PC computer without Microsoft Windows."
At issue is Microsoft's alleged strong-arming of PC makers to ensure that they install Microsoft's software on their PCs to the exclusion of other manufacturers', a charge which is currently under investigation by US law enforcement officials.
The letters to Compaq, Dell, Gateway 2000, Micron, Hewlett-Packard and Packard Bell are posted on Nader's Consumer Project on Technology Web site at http://www.essential.org/antitrust/microsoft/microsoft.html/.
In the letters Nader specifically mentions several operating systems which he says consumers should have the opportunity to purchase installed on their new PCs, including Linux BeOS, Caldera Inc.'s Open DOS/Spider and Apple Computer's Rhapsody.
"We ask that you offer the option of at least some alternative to the Windows OS. Alternatives do exist which should be available to consumers," Nader's letter says.
Nader, whose 30-year activist resume includes opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and involvement in the polluted waterway dispute known as Love Canal, took on Microsoft last November when he hosted a two-day conference to look into the company's business practices.