Senate hearings on XP delayed, but not abandoned

Plans by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a series of hearings on Internet-related competition issues and Windows XP, the new operating system officially being released this week, have been put off by terrorism concerns but not abandoned.

The hearings, originally scheduled the week of Sept. 10, will be held. But no new date has been set.

"The committee has cleared the decks for action on the antiterrorism bill," said David Carle, a spokesman for Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Final action on the measure, which was proposed by Bush administration and which would give federal investigators new legal powers to pursue suspects over computer networks, may happen this week.

Plans for the hearings were announced in July after Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) lambasted Microsoft Corp. He said the software giant, through its operating system integration strategy, "intends to maximize its monopolistic power" by using Windows XP as a platform to enter new lines of business. Microsoft sees the addition of features to its operating as delivering consumer benefits.

Carle said he didn't know when the hearings would be held, but he said he didn't expect a long delay.

Microsoft is presently in mediation to settle its antitrust lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice, and both sides have a court-ordered deadline of Nov. 2 to try to reach an agreement.

When the Senate hearings were initially announced, there was speculation they might affect Windows XP, possibly by delaying its release. But XP is already available. A spokeswoman at Dell Computer Corp. said most vendors have been shipping systems with XP since late September.

The Senate hearings are expected to look at competition issues raised by instant messaging, digital photography, voice recognition, audio and video programming and editing, Web services, calendar management, navigation devices, data storage, Internet auctions, financial services, security and consumer privacy, among other issues.

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Patrick Thibodeau

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