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Search may be Microsoft's next target, court told

Microsoft may be using its desktop dominance to put the squeeze on search engines and on formats like Adobe Acrobat, Massachusetts claims in its latest antitrust filing.

Microsoft may be unlawfully wielding its desktop dominance to put the squeeze on search engines and on document formats like Adobe Acrobat, the state of Massachusetts claimed on Friday.

Massachusetts, the only state government still against Microsoft through the federal courts, made its allegations in a legal filing with U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington, D.C.

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What's new:
Massachusetts, the only state still pursuing antitrust claims against Microsoft, says the company may be unlawfully wielding its desktop dominance to squeeze search engines and document formats.

Bottom line:
This warning comes as the battle for Web search dominance is heating up. Search leader Google is preparing for an IPO, while Microsoft is trying to find ways to make more money from Web searches by integrating such features more closely into its Windows operating system.

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"If Microsoft is taking steps to hobble the competitive effectiveness of these rival products and thereby supplant them, such serial killing of competing technologies is a serious and troubling prospect," read the three-page filing, which offered no details.

In addition, Massachusetts charged Microsoft with demonstrating "troubling business behavior" that could run afoul of existing court orders.

This move comes as the battle for Web search dominance is heating up, with Yahoo saying on Wednesday that it will in favor of its own. At the same time, Microsoft is trying to find ways to make more money from Web searches by integrating such features more closely into its .

"Given the vague and unsubstantiated nature of the allegations, it's difficult to respond," Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake said on Friday. "However, we are always willing to sit down and discuss any issues of concern. We are firmly committed to firm compliance with the consent decree and all matters in antitrust law."

In 2002, Microsoft entered a consent decree with the Bush administration, which Kollar-Kotelly accepted, to settle the antitrust case. It also established a schedule for ongoing antitrust oversight of the company's actions.

On Thursday, Microsoft said it will voluntarily alter a music-purchasing feature in Windows XP in response to criticism from the U.S. Department of Justice. A joint filing from Microsoft and the Justice Department is expected to be submitted to Kollar-Kotelly later on Friday.

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly has objected to the 2002 peace accord in the antitrust dispute and has kept fighting.

In November, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., in favor of overturning the settlement but has not yet ruled. A decision is expected at any time.