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Microsoft to meet with CPT

Microsoft, facing a multipronged offensive over alleged antitrust practices, will meet with the Consumer Project on Technology.

Microsoft, facing a multipronged offensive over alleged antitrust practices, will meet on Thursday with the Washington-based Consumer Project on Technology (CPT), a watchdog group affiliated with consumer advocate Ralph Nader, Microsoft confirmed today.

CPT has joined Microsoft competitors in criticizing the software giant for practices they say are anticompetitive. The organization is planning a conference, to be held in Washington, D.C., in mid November, that will include participation by two of Microsoft's biggest competitors and critics--Sun Microsystems chief executive Scott McNealy and Netscape Communications general counsel Roberta Katz--as well as former federal trade commissioner Christine Varney.

"We want to sit down with them and understand what their concerns are and share with them information that demonstrates that the [software] industry is one of the most competitive, pro-consumer industries in the world," said Microsoft spokesman Mark Murry. "We're concerned that they may not have the full benefit of all the information as they embark on this conference."

Murry added that Microsoft had not yet decided whether it would attend the conference, slated for November 13 and 14. The company said that, in any event, chairman and chief executive Bill Gates would be unable to attend. "We're not going to make any decision until we've had a chance to talk with them and hear their concerns," Murray said.

In addition to criticism leveled at Microsoft by CPT and the company's competitors, the Justice Department and six state attorneys general also are looking into various aspects of Microsoft's business practices. The company faces scrutiny on a number of fronts, including its $425 million acquisition of WebTV, its $150 million investment in Apple Computer, plans to integrate its browser into its next generation operating system, and its decision to give away its browser, Internet Explorer, for free.

In addition to meeting with Microsoft representatives on Thursday, CPT executive director James Love said he will send a letter to the Justice Department asking that it officially launch an investigation specifically examining Explorer. CPT has been gathering signatures for a letter it has been circulating regarding the matter. Love said today he has collected some 1,500 signatures so far.