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Six state attorneys general not involved in the Microsoft antitrust case sent a letter to Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer this week expressing concern about the upcoming Windows XP operating system. The letter was originally drafted by a lobbyist for Microsoft’s competitors. Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell wrote that the operating system, which will reach consumers soon, “may involve additional unlawful attempts by Microsoft to maintain its operating system monopoly.” The Justice Department and the 18 states suing Microsoft have said they want any penalty stemming from the four-year case to cover Windows XP. “Microsoft may have constructed this new product without due regard for relevant legal rulings, and without due regard for other issues involving consumer choice and consumer privacy,” Sorrell wrote on behalf of his state as well as Arkansas, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. The letter could increase pressure on Microsoft to change Windows XP, which includes many features that replace competitors’ stand-alone products. On Thursday, Microsoft and prosecutors said they were talking about a settlement. A federal judge will set a schedule for penalty hearings next week. An electronic copy of the letter reveals that the original author is Jeffrey Modisett, a former Indiana attorney general who is currently a lawyer for Manatt Phelps & Phillips in Los Angeles. The firm represents Microsoft rivals Oracle and AOL Time Warner, and the head of an anti-Microsoft group confirmed that Modisett has worked as an advocate against Microsoft as well. Microsoft spokesman Vivek Varma blamed AOL Time Warner for the letter. “It’s a shame that AOL has this much influence in the process,” Varma said. “That doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of consumers.” In an interview, Sorrell shrugged off that criticism. He said both competitors and Microsoft showed Windows XP to Sorrell’s staff and were given an opportunity to present their points of view. “The concerns that are addressed in the letter are concerns that I had and five other (attorneys general) had as a result of the information made available to us by Microsoft, by Microsoft’s competitors, and based on our own analysis,” Sorrell said. Sorrell said his interest in Windows XP was sparked by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who heads the states’ coalition against Microsoft. Sorrell said that at the time, he knew little about the case and had no opinion. A staff member attended a presentation by Modisett — who was known to represent Microsoft rivals — and Modisett provided a proposed draft of a letter. But Sorrell said he and the other five attorneys general made significant changes to the letter. “The reality is I would say the document was changed a minimum of 70 percent of what he provided,” Sorrell said. “We went through 20 revisions, easily, even in the last few days.” Modisett did not return repeated phone messages. AOL said the company had nothing to do with the letter. Mike Pettit, who heads anti-Microsoft group ProComp, said he and Modisett have talked with several state attorneys general who aren’t a party to the antitrust case and said that the meetings were all initiated by the states. ProComp is funded by Microsoft rivals like Oracle, Sun Microsystems and Netscape, now part of AOL Time Warner. Modisett has “gone around and tried to explain our concerns to try to complement what I’ve done and others have done,” Pettit said. “I think any suggestion that that’s improper is frankly ridiculous.” Sorrell had strong words for Microsoft and referred to reports that a pro-Microsoft group had organized a letter-writing campaign to Utah’s attorney general using the signatures of dead people. “To say that Microsoft can do what it wants to influence (attorneys general) and Microsoft competitors should be hamstrung and not be able to do that, frankly I just don’t buy it,” Sorrell said. “Since my name’s on the letter, I’ll stand behind it.” Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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