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Wednesday, 13 May, 1998, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Microsoft clears major hurdle
Bill Gates has hailed the court decision as a victory
Bill Gates has hailed the court decision as a victory
Microsoft has cleared a major hurdle preventing it from shipping its Windows 98 software to computer makers, but it could face new potential lawsuits in the next few days.

A US federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that a previous injunction preventing the company from integrating its Web browser with its Window 95 operating system does not apply to Windows 98.

The new ruling means the global software giant can now ship Windows 98 this week and require computer makers to include Microsoft's Internet browser.

Rivals say this is anti-competitive practice and more legal challenges to Windows 98 are looming.

The US Justice Department is reportedly preparing an anti-trust attack on the operating system and possibly other Microsoft products and practices.

That challenge is expected to be filed on Thursday.

Government regulators could then seek an immediate court ruling that stops the shipment of Windows 98.

Sun challenge

Meanwhile, Microsoft rival Sun Microsystems asked a federal court on Tuesday to force the software giant to include an approved version of Sun's popular Java programming language.

It is unclear how long it will take for a judge to rule on the Sun Microsystems challenge.

Microsoft spokesman William Neukom hailed the Windows 98 court ruling as "good news for consumers."

He said: "We don't believe there is any legal basis for blocking or delaying Windows 98."

The Los Angeles panel of three judges ruled unanimously ruled in favour of Microsoft, finding that whatever the chances are for the US Government to get a permanent injunction against Microsoft, they appear "very weak with respect to Windows 98."

Legal background

The current legal challenge to Microsoft dates back to December 1997, when US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson issued a preliminary injunction barring the company from bundling its web browser with its Windows 95 operating system or successor versions.

Microsoft appealed the decision, arguing that the injunction should not apply to Windows 98.

If the court had ruled against Microsoft, the software manufacturer would probably have had to keep Windows 98 off the market, or risk being found in contempt of court.

Microsoft is scheduled to begin shipping the software packages to computer makers on Friday, with the software available in new computers going on sale from June 25.

Both software rivals and the US Justice Department believe that Microsoft has an undue advantage in pushing Microsoft Explorer, its Internet browser, because of the almost universal use of its Windows operating system in computers around the world.

The version 4.0 of the Explorer browser comes integrated in the Windows 98 package, thus decreasing chances that consumers will use rival products such as the Netscape company's browser.

See also:

20 Dec 97 | Business
Microsoft to be fined $1m a day
16 Dec 97 | Business
Microsoft appeals court ruling
05 Mar 98 | Business
Gates: Net not a toll road
10 Mar 98 | Business
Microsoft crosses the Chinese wall
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