Judge Hears Microsoft Arguments
Dec. 06, 1997
WASHINGTON (AP) _ It's now up to a federal judge to decide if Microsoft Corp. violated a consent decree by requiring computer makers that want to use its Windows operating system to accept its Internet browser as part of the package.
The Justice Department is seeking an unprecedented $1 million-a-day fine for continued violations.
Microsoft and the department argued their cases Friday before U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who adjourned the hearing in his crowded courtroom without ruling in the dispute.
The government has asked Jackson to rule quickly on whether Microsoft is in contempt of court for violating the 1995 agreement aimed at preventing anti-competitive practices.
At the same time, Justice Department attorney Phillip R. Malone said he believed an agreement on the dispute could be reached ``if the court would send us and Microsoft off to negotiate'' a resolution.
Microsoft attorney Richard Urowsky denied that the Redmond, Wash.-based company is forcing computer makers to accept its Internet Explorer browser as part of its Windows 95 operating system. Instead, he said, the two systems are integrated and not separate programs that have been tied together.
In court papers, Microsoft said key elements of the Windows system could not operate without the browser technology. A browser lets a computer user find and retrieve information on the Internet.
Urowsky also said the decree permits development of integrated products such as the combined Windows-Internet Explorer, and the government knew when it negotiated the decree that Microsoft intended to develop the integrated system.
But Malone contended the programs were conceived as separate products and then tied together as part of Microsoft's effort to win the ``browser war.''
``Microsoft is using its Windows power to take competitive advantage,'' he maintained. The Windows operating system, used on more than 80 percent of the nation's personal computers, is usually installed on computers at the factory.
Malone said Microsoft was misinterpreting the decree, saying the company's interpretation ``permits everything and prohibits nothing.'' The decree, he said, does not let Microsoft take separate products and force computer makers to buy them as part of the Windows package.