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Consumer groups mad at Microsoft

They urge U.S. to restrict and punish company

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WASHINGTON — A coalition of consumer groups sent a letter to state and federal prosecutors Wednesday asking them to be tough with Microsoft in the four-year antitrust case, calling for extensive business restrictions and allowing individuals to sue the company.

The groups also wrote a 33-page report detailing their concerns with the upcoming Windows XP operating system, which will reach the public soon.

"We urge the attorneys general, who represent consumers as plaintiffs in the case, to seek a swift and sure end to what we believe to be illegal leveraging of illegally obtained monopolies for the PC operating system and Internet browser," the letter states.

The letter is signed by representatives of the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Media Access Project and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said Windows XP will be good for consumers.

"Windows XP is a product that offers great benefits for consumers and is critically important to the PC industry," Desler said.

The groups argue that Windows XP will drive up consumer costs, hamper innovation and restrict choice.

The activists also want the government to consider fighting to split up the company if it fails to comply with a judge's orders. Prosecutors already abandoned an effort to break the company in two, saying it would be too difficult and time consuming to help competition.

On Friday, government prosecutors and Microsoft's lawyers will meet in court to determine a schedule for new penalty hearings.