Microsoft accused of 'strong-arm tactics'

Microsoft used rumours, strong-arm tactics, technical sabotage and deceit to establish its monopoly over the world of computer operating systems, an attorney told a jury.

The charges came on the opening day of the nation’s first consumer class action lawsuit against the software giant in the Midwestern state of Minnesota.

In opening statements on Monday, lawyers for seven Minnesota plaintiffs said Microsoft used its dominance in the operating system market to cow computer manufacturers into not installing competing operating systems in some of their machines.

The tactics drove a company called Digital Research, which had its own operating system, out of business and effectively killed a promising operating system from IBM called OS-2, the plaintiffs’ attorney Eugene Crew charged.

Windows now operates 90% of the world’s personal computers.

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, if manufacturers tried to sell computers with another operating system, Microsoft effectively would charge the manufacturers a per-copy charge for Windows based on the number of microprocessors they used, whether the computer ran Windows or not, Crew said.

He also alleged that Microsoft raised the charge for each copy of Windows so high that the manufacturer could not compete with another computer maker that also sold only Windows machines under a lesser price.

Microsoft has denied the charges, as it has consistently over the past several years in other antitrust actions, including a historic one with the US Justice Department and nine states that was settled in 2001.

That settlement gives computer makers the option to promote rival software products on the Windows desktop screen and requires the Redmond, Washington-based company to sell licences for some code to allow competing server software to operate with Windows.

The plaintiffs in the Minnesota suit are asking for between $283 and $425-million for about one million Minnesota consumers who bought Microsoft Windows or two of its most popular applications-Word, a word processing program, and Excel, a spreadsheet software-between 1994 and 2001. - Sapa-AFP


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