COMPUTER makers may ship new Microsoft system early

Thursday, August 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SEATTLE (AP) _ Although the official launch date isn't until Oct. 25, computers equipped with Windows XP will likely be available a few weeks early, raising concerns that Microsoft is trying to pre-empt any move to block the release of the new operating system.

Microsoft spokesman Matt Pilla said some Windows XP-equipped computers may be available early, but most won't be out before Oct. 25, in keeping with the Redmond, Wash. company's usual policy.

``We're not early in any way,'' Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said.

But by allowing some Windows XP-equipped machines to be available before the official release date, Microsoft may be trying to pressure lawmakers not to block the release, said Bob Lande, a University of Baltimore law professor.

It would let Microsoft argue that any move to stop shipment would hurt innocent companies, he said.

``If there is a legal challenge to Windows XP, they can say to the judge that one of the inequities is 'you're not just going to inconvenience us,' '' Lande said.

Compaq spokesman Dave Albritton said the company had made deals with Microsoft in the past where it offered a new system a few weeks ahead of schedule. The final decision, however, has always been up to Microsoft, he said.

Compaq expects to be able to start taking Internet orders for Windows XP machines in late September, Albritton said, and customers will be able to receive them in early October.

Brad Williams, a spokesman for computer maker Gateway, said his company was still negotiating with Microsoft on a final shipment date.

Windows XP has drawn fire from lawmakers and competitors who say the system continues the type of anticompetitive practices that led a U.S. appeals court to rule the company an illegal monopoly.

The new system will bundle more Microsoft products than ever, including an instant messaging system, an advanced music and video player, and other features designed to get consumers interested in the company's planned Internet services, called .NET.

Microsoft has already argued that any move to block Windows XP will hurt the whole computer industry, which is suffering from a dramatic downturn. Many are counting on the new operating system to boost demand in computers and other technology.

Microsoft on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to overturn rulings that it violated antitrust laws.

On Thursday, an appeals court was due to send the case to a new judge to decide what penalty the Redmond, Wash., company should face.

The Justice Department and the states that brought the original antitrust charges against Microsoft must decide whether to attempt to block the release of Windows XP, even as the two sides explore possible settlements.