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Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 06:09 GMT 07:09 UK

Business: The Company File

Microsoft knows "no limits"

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has faced some tough questions

The US government charged that Microsoft was a company that knew no limits, as it wrapped up its case in the long-running trial on competitive practices.

"This is a company that is very vigilant in protecting its monopoly power," government lawyer David Boies said, in delivering his final arguments.

"There are no other lawful situations in which a company has done what Microsoft has done," Mr Boies said.

Microsoft lawyers said that the case was driven by complaints from Microsoft rivals. They criticised the government's "astounding failures of proof", together with "red herrings, mis-statements and omissions".

The US Justice Department opened its anti-trust case against the software giant nearly a year ago, accusing Microsoft of acting unlawfully to wipe out any rivals.

It has been considered the biggest ever trial of its kind in the US and a landmark case.

The government presented its arguments to US District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson first, with Microsoft attorneys appearing afterwards.

Judge Jackson could make a ruling as early as next month but it is more likely to come early next year.

But any appeals - which are likely - could take the case all the way to the US Supreme Court in 2001, according to observers.

'Consumers deprived of choice'

The Justice Department has alleged that Microsoft exploited the overwhelming market dominance of its Windows operating system to restrict competition in the Internet browser sector, thereby depriving consumers of a choice.

Then, in another illegal move, the company "tied" its Internet browser Explorer to Windows and required computer makers to take it as a condition for obtaining the operating system, the Justice Department says.

But according to Microsoft, "a careful review of the evidentiary record shows that the government has failed to prove the required elements of any of its legal claims."

"Microsoft has responded to a competitive marketplace by keeping prices low, integrating new features into Windows, and constantly investing in innovation to meet the demands of consumers and developers," the company said.

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