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Microsoft antitrust case takes Linux twist

The Massachusetts attorney general's office is looking into whether Microsoft tried to squash Linux in violation of the consent decree settling the company's landmark antitrust case.

The Massachusetts attorney general's office is investigating whether Microsoft tried to squash Linux in violation of the consent decree settling the company's landmark antitrust case.

Massachusetts, the only state still pursuing antitrust charges against the software maker, said in a court filing that it "is looking at several issues related to potential enforcement of the decree." These include whether Microsoft has retaliated against an unspecified computer maker for promoting Linux and has signed unlawfully restrictive agreements with Internet service providers.

The Redmond, Wash., software giant has targeted Linux, an open-source operating system, as a significant challenger to the status of its own proprietary software.

A Microsoft representative denied the allegations. "Microsoft's compliance is being closely monitored, and the consent decree is being closely enforced," spokesman Jim Desler said on Monday.

"It's a curious filing, considering that there are several layers of enforcement over Microsoft's implementation of the consent decree," Desler said. "You have strict internal enforcement. You have Microsoft board enforcement as well. Externally you have the Department of Justice and the settling states. And you have the court."

Thomas Reilly, the Massachusetts attorney general, said in an eight-page document dated July 3 and made available on Monday that other states have not been sufficiently helpful in identifying potential wrongdoing on Microsoft's part. "Given the current state of affairs, Massachusetts has begun its own efforts to identify potential decree violations," the document said, without providing any details.

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The U.S. Justice Department, which was a party to the consent decree, said in its own filing last week that competitors have been complaining about prices that Microsoft plans to charge to allow access to Windows' innards. In response, the Justice Department said it remains "concerned" about the fees.

Massachusetts' appeal of U.S. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's final remedies directed against Microsoft is scheduled to be heard Nov. 4.