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Nine state attorneys general still suing Microsoft are considering whether to make the company sell a stripped-down version of its Windows operating system, according to those close to the deliberations. The nine also will seek to close what they view as loopholes in the federal government’s settlement with the company. The states are scheduled to submit their proposed penalties to a federal judge today. The attorneys general chose not to join with the Bush administration and nine other states in a settlement that has been derided by Microsoft rivals and consumer groups as too lenient. People close to the case said Thursday that the penalties, which are still being finalized, would address concerns with the three-person technical committee designed to oversee Microsoft’s conduct and weigh complaints. In the federal settlement, that committee’s power is limited to technical oversight and its findings cannot be used in court. The states are also considering whether to force Microsoft to offer a stripped-down version of the Windows operating system, the sources said. Microsoft critics complain that new additions to the operating system — like a media player and instant messaging software — give the company an unfair advantage and shut out competitors. Under the settlement, Microsoft has to let customers and computer manufacturers remove the icons used to access those added features. But after two weeks, the Windows software can ask customers to put the icons back. The state officials are debating the proposals this week at a conference in California. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is footing the bill for much of the states’ prosecution efforts and hired Washington, D.C., lawyer Brendan Sullivan to represent the states. The states that haven’t settled with Microsoft are California, Florida, Utah, Iowa, Connecticut, Minnesota, Kansas, West Virginia and Massachusetts. The District of Columbia is also suing Microsoft. Representatives of those states refused to discuss the details of their proposal, saying it was still under review. Microsoft will file its response to the state penalties next week. The case is scheduled to go to trial in March. Also in March, a federal judge will review the federal government’s settlement to determine whether it is in the public interest. The Clinton administration and several states sued Microsoft in 1998 for antitrust violations, saying the company sought to damage competition and hurt consumer choice by illegally using their monopoly in computer operating systems. Earlier this week, Attorney General Darrell McGraw of West Virginia filed a lawsuit against Microsoft on behalf of state consumers. He is asking for an undetermined amount of damages. The existing antitrust suit doesn’t include a monetary allowance. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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