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Nader urges Windows probe

The consumer leader is urging the Justice Department to focus on "barriers to entry faced by alternative operating systems" other than Windows.

Consumer-rights advocate Ralph Nader tomorrow will send a letter to Assistant Attorney General Joel Klein urging the Justice Department to investigate "barriers to entry faced by alternative operating systems" other than Microsoft's Windows, including free software.

"Microsoft uses its market power to discourage

Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader. AP
PC manufacturers from offering computers with non-Microsoft products, including non-Microsoft operating systems," the letter charges. "There exist several promising non-Microsoft alternatives, including free software such as GNU/Linux or Free BSD, or new systems like BeOS."

It went on to say: "It will be difficult for these alternatives to succeed in the broader consumer market if consumers cannot buy PCs with the alternative OS [operating system] preinstalled."

As reported, the Justice Department is continuing to investigate Microsoft beyond the issues addessed in its recent lawsuit against the software giant. Looking into concerns involving free software would be a significant new development in the case.

Microsoft archrival Netscape Communications recently has been trying to position itself as a champion of free software and its users.

The Nader-led Consumer Project on Technology said it See special coverage: How free is
Freeware? has received "numerous messages" during the past several months from consumers who want to buy PCs to use with non-Microsoft operating systems but say they can't.

The letter also said free-software developers are worried that Microsoft may use its market power to "limit access" to technical information that they need to write "drivers" for next-generation of hardware devices.

"We're trying to put this on [Klein's] radar screen," Jamie Love, director of the CPT, said today.

Microsoft has denied any wrongdoing, has called Nader's allegations false, and has said PC makers are free to choose any operating system they desire.