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US Senate delays Windows XP probe

The US Senate has postponed a series of hearings on competition issues raised by Windows XP, Microsoft's new operating system, while it pushes through new anti-terrorist laws.

No new date has been set for the hearings, which were originally scheduled for the week beginning 10 September.

"The committee has cleared the decks for action on the anti-terrorism bill," said Judiciary Committee spokesman David Carle. Final action on the measure, which was proposed by the 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 senator Charles Schumer lambasted Microsoft over Windows XP. He said the software giant, through its operating system integration strategy, "intends to maximise its monopolistic power" by using Windows XP as a platform to enter new lines of business. Microsoft believes the new features in the operating system will benefit consumers.

Carle said he does not know when the hearings will be held, but does not expect a long delay.

Microsoft is in talks to settle its antitrust lawsuit with the US Department of Justice. Both sides have a deadline of 2 November to try to reach an agreement.

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

The Senate hearings are also expected to look at Internet-related competition issues raised by instant messaging, digital photography, voice recognition, audio and video programming and editing, Web services and calendar management, among other issues.

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