Microsoft says its stripped-down Windows 95 complies with court
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Microsoft Corp. denied it was flouting a court order to offer computer makers Windows 95 software without its Internet Explorer on Tuesday, accusing the government of saddling consumers with an inferior product.
The Justice Department’s antitrust division showed its ignorance of software design when it obtained a Dec. 11 order to force the software manufacturer to remove its Internet browser from the latest version of Windows 95, Microsoft argued in court papers. Doing that without disabling Windows is impossible, Microsoft said.
And the Justice Department’s proposal to remedy that problem shows that ``poorly informed lawyers have no vocation for software design,″ Microsoft said in a legal brief dripping with sarcasm.
``With the confidence that accompanies an incomplete knowledge of the facts, the DOJ asserts that it understands better than Microsoft how Windows 95 works,″ the brief said.
Microsoft argues that the latest version of Windows 95 that includes the web browser is one product. The Justice Department accuses Microsoft of illegally ``tying″ two separate products together.
The software giant disputed the Justice Department’s argument that it was in contempt of court for telling manufacturers they could choose between a version of Windows 95 that wouldn’t work without Internet Explorer or an older version the government called ``commercially worthless.″
U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson issued the preliminary injunction and appointed a special master to determine whether Microsoft’s practice of integrating its Internet Explorer with the latest versions of Windows 95 is intended to stifle competition from rival web browsers, such as Netscape.
Microsoft also petitioned Jackson on Tuesday to revoke his appointment of Harvard University law professor Lawrence Lessig as the special master, saying Lessig’s writings warrant a full review of potential biases.
William H. Neukom, the company’s senior vice president for law and corporate affairs, complained that Microsoft was not consulted on the appointment or told that it was even being considered.
``Under court rules, unless the parties consent, special masters can only be apointed for specific and limited purposes, which are not applicable in this case,″ he said. ``These rules exist to protect the parties’ constitutional right to have their federal cases heard by a federal judge.″
However, Neukom said his company might support the appointment of a more narrowly defined technical assistant to advise the court on complex questions involving software code and ndustry practices.
The Justice Department has asked Jackson to impose a $1 million fine for every day the company is in contempt of the court’s order.
Microsoft said it was technologically impossible to strip out Internet Explorer from the latest version of Windows 95 without ``impairing the operating system.″
Microsoft said it sought an expedited appeal of Jackson’s order because it recognized that ``providing computer manufacturers with the option of installing a dysfunctional version of Windows 95 made little sense.″
Nor does the Justice Department’s latest proposal that Microsoft remove Internet Explorer from the Windows 95 by simply executing an ``add-remove programs″ utility on the operating software, the company said.
Trying to extract the web browser by this method would merely remove the Internet Explorer icon from the Windows 95 desktop but retain more than 100 files.
``Removing the icon from the desktop is like putting a plate over a car radio,″ Microsoft said. ``It is still a radio, and it is still part of the car, but now it is very difficult to see and use.″
Microsoft noted that the Justice Department was objecting to the company’s move to offer the older Windows, yet that is the version government lawyers cite as evidence proving Internet Explorer is not essential to the operating system.
``The government has in effect acknowledged what we have said all along, that these programs are not separate, they are integrated,″ Brad Smith, the company’s associate general counsel said in an interview.
The government, meanwhile, opposed Microsoft’s bid for a speedy appeal, saying that the company has shown that it can operate without ``significant hardship.″