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Microsoft e-mail talks of Windows' 'toll bridge'

Read an e-mail exchange between Microsoft executive Jeff Raikes and billionaire investor Warren Buffett here.

Documents in a Minnesota state class-action lawsuit accusing Microsoft of overcharging customers for some software products began trickling onto the court's Web site on Thursday.

The court is posting exhibits related to testimony in the case, which, as of Thursday, was scheduled to include videotaped depositions from former Microsoft employees Phil Barrett and Stephanie Reichel, and the founder of computer maker Vobis, Theo Lieven. Exhibits are expected to appear daily that relate to the previous day's testimony, according to the court's Web site.

A revealing e-mail exchange between Microsoft executive Jeff Raikes and legendary investor Warren Buffett, highlighted in the plaintiffs' opening remarks earlier this week, has yet to be published on the court's site.

A representative from the Minneapolis, Minn.-based law firm Zelle, Hofmann, Voelbel, Mason & Gette, which is representing the plaintiffs, declined to comment on the e-mail. A Microsoft representative did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The 1997 e-mail asks billionaire Buffett to consider investing in the Redmond, Wash.-based software company. Some observers have likened Microsoft's lucrative operating system dominance to a "toll bridge," Raikes wrote in the exchange. With a worldwide sales force of just 100 to 150 people, Raikes wrote, "this is a 90%+ margin business."

Numerous e-mails and other information are likely to find their way into evidence during the trial, before Hennepin County District Court Judge Bruce Peterson. It was unclear whether the e-mail exchange would eventually be published by the court, however.

In the trial in Minneapolis, which began this week, lawyers who filed a class-action suit on behalf of state residents claimed that Microsoft overcharged consumers for its Windows operating system and its Office application software. The suit, which asks for damages of up to $425 million, is one of a handful of class actions Microsoft has not been able to settle.

The seven plaintiffs, representing a class of 1 million homes and businesses in Minnesota, have about seven weeks to present their case, after which it will be Microsoft's turn.

Chairman Bill Gates and Chief Executive Steve Ballmer are on Microsoft's list of witnesses and are likely to testify, according to Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake.

CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.