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Wednesday, 28 October, 1998, 15:26 GMT
Microsoft turns defence into attack
Bill Gates and Explorer
Bill Gates' browser strategy on trial
Lawyers for Microsoft have alleged that it was rival Netscape that has tried to reduce competition in the Internet browser market.

The issue is at the heart of the anti-trust trial brought against the software giant by the US government, now in its third day.

Cross examination of Netscape Communications chief executive Jim Barksdale centred on secret talks between the two rivals in 1994 and 1995.

Netscape has claimed that during a high-level meeting in June 1995 between executives from both companies, Microsoft tried to bully it into dividing up the market for Internet browsers software - and threatened Netscape if it failed to agree.

Secret approach

Flags
USA V Microsoft
However Microsoft lead counsel John Warden has countered the allegation, saying Microsoft was merely responding to overtures initiated by Netscape.

He produced a December 1994 e-mail from Netscape co-founder Jim Clark proposing Microsoft take a stake in the company.

The message stated: "We'd like to work with you. Working together could be in your self-interest as well as ours. Depending on the interest level, you might take an equity position in Netscape."

Netscape has not denied approach but Mr Barksdale downplayed the significance of the document saying Mr Clark "had on his own, gone off and fired a letter making this offer and it was quickly rejected".

Moment of weakness

"Jim Clark has described this as a moment of weakness," Mr Barksdale told the court.

The federal Justice Department and 20 state governments accuse Microsoft of using its market dominance to try to squeeze out its competition in an attempt to unfairly create a monopoly.

The case revolves around how Microsoft has marketed its Explorer Internet browser, including it free with the Windows 98 operating system.

Mr Barksdale is in his second day of cross-examination over his pre-trial written testimony and is expected to be in the itness box for several days.

Courtroom observers saying the trial is proceeding at a snail's pace.

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, presiding over the case, has also ruled on Wednesday to impose a two-day limit on a fact-gathering mission to Microsoft headquarters by government investigators.

Gates attack

Bill Gates
"Visionary" Gates
On Tuesday Microsoft defended its billionaire chairman Bill Gates as defence counsel opened its case of the anti-trust trial brought against the software giant by the US Government.

Justice Department lawyers had opened their case on Monday by singling out Mr Gates, pointing to what they said were inconsistencies between sworn videotaped evidence and e-mails and memos that Mr Gates had written several years earlier.

Microsoft lawyers are arguing the company has not used its dominant market position to try to squeeze out competitors and said the government is trying to "demonise" Mr Gates.

The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks. But with appeals possible all the way to the Supreme Court, the case could well last for years.

See also:

28 Oct 98 | Microsoft
28 Oct 98 | Microsoft
19 Oct 98 | The Company File
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