In what they claim is a move to ?sharpen? their antitrust case against Microsoft, the attorneys general of 20 US States and the District of Columbia are dropping charges concerning Microsoft Office.
The attorneys general filed their antitrust suit in May, at the same time as the federal Department of Justice (DoJ). Both cases have since been combined, and the trial is set to start on 8 September.
The states' complaints included a range of alleged anti-competitive practices, most of which overlapped with the DoJ case. These included the bundling of Internet Explorer into Windows 95 and ?exclusionary? contracts with Internet service providers and online content providers.
However, the states' case also included Microsoft?s practices regarding Office and the way it was licensed to PC manufacturers.
This section of the complaint originally ran: ?Through its anti-competitive conduct, Microsoft has increased barriers to entry and establishment facing competitors in the PC office productivity suite market. Specifically, Microsoft has used in the imposition of ?per system? licences to make it economically impractical for OEMs to offer competing office productivity suites for preinstallation on their PCs.?
In a statement issued on Friday, the attorneys general said they had filed an amended suit that drops these allegations. However, they maintained that they would further investigate Microsoft?s conduct regarding Office. They said subpoenas were being served on Microsoft as part of this ongoing investigation.
?The amended complaint allows the states to devote their full resources to preparing for trial on Microsoft?s conduct relating to Web browsers and operating systems while continuing their investigation into Microsoft?s conduct regarding Office productivity suites," the brief statement reads.
A key part of the antitrust case, concerning the bundling of Windows 95 and Internet Explorer, was weakened by a recent court decision. On 23 June, a panel of three judges overturned a December 1997 injunction forcing Microsoft to unbundle Explorer from Windows 95.
The panel?s decision was based on the 1994 Consent Decree between Microsoft and the DoJ, not on antitrust law. However, the judges went out of their way to suggest that ?integration of functionality into the operating system can bring benefits?.
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