Apple's PC competitors Microsoft and Gateway are both under the legal spotlight.

The US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California has opened a preliminary inquiry into alleged accounting improprieties at Gateway. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has already been investigating these, Gateway said in its quarterly report yesterday.

"This disclosure is based on recent developments with the US Attorney's Office. We are cooperating fully, and do not believe that any current officer is the target of the inquiry," a Gateway spokesman said.

Gateway revealed that it was under SEC investigation last November regarding its voluntary restatement of earnings for 2000 made in February 2001. This reduced Gateway's 2000 revenue by $53 million.

Gateway recently unveiled an "ambitious" plan, according to analysts, to remake the company into a consumer electronics vendor and business hardware supplier.

Meanwhile, in a continuation of the Microsoft anti-trust trial, the court said that the US Department of Justice and state attorneys general that are plaintiffs in the government's antitrust case against Microsoft must file reports every six months detailing what the software maker is doing to comply with the final judgment in the case.

The first report is due July 3. The reports are to include a general description of what Microsoft is doing to comply with terms of the final judgment, including how it is meeting compliance schedules and the extent to which it is complying, with a general description of efforts by the plaintiffs to monitor compliance.

The report must detail complaints received by all parties in the previous six months, offering detailed information on these.