Microsoft points finger at Netscape

Microsoft points finger at Netscape

Microsoft was set up by Netscape, which itself tried to illegally divide the online market in cahoots with America Online, according to the version of events Microsoft presented in court here last week.

But Microsoft's latest argument didn't hold much weight with some legal observers. Microsoft appeared ready to try any number of defences -- some more plausible than others -- simply to raise doubts about US Department of Justice antitrust charges, they said.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department began to shift the focus from Microsoft's dealings with Netscape to its meetings with Apple (see next story) and AOL. It's part of the Government's argument that Microsoft conducted a pattern of illegal behaviour -- using its monopoly in operating systems to wrest control in other markets. Microsoft vigorously denies both that charge and the assertion that it has a monopoly.

David Boies, lead lawyer for the Justice Department, submitted evidence that, he said, shows Microsoft twisted Apple's arm to use Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser instead of Netscape's Navigator.

The day after Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs announced that Microsoft was taking a $US150 million stake in his company, in August 1997, Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale got a telephone call from Fred Anderson, Apple's chief financial officer. In hand-written notes, Anderson had scripted what he wanted to say to Barksdale.

"Apple needed to ensure that Microsoft would continue to provide MS Office for Mac or we're dead," Anderson wrote. "They were threatening to abandon Mac." The "trading card" was to make Explorer the default browser, Anderson wrote.

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