A Year Ago: Sun and Netscape lambast Microsoft

First published: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 12:52:13 GMT

Netscape and Sun Microsystems executives fired a pre-emptive volley today against Microsoft in anticipation of Today's before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the US.

Sun chairman Scott McNealy and Netscape chief executive Jim Barksdale called on the Justice Department to bring a new and broader anti-trust suit against Microsoft for leveraging monopoly power.

The harsh anti-Microsoft rhetoric continued at another press conference held at the National Press Club by Roberta Katz, Netscape's senior vice president and general counsel, and Mike Morris, vice president and general counsel at Sun. "We view these hearings as a good opportunity for the public to become educated about issues in the software industry," said Katz.

Katz and Morris emphasised they were not calling for new legislation in the software industry but instead want to raise awareness about the ways Microsoft is harming competition and stifling innovation. "It's no accident that the focus of innovation in our industry had been in areas where Microsoft doesn't dominate," said Morris.

By raising public awareness and taking their cause to Capitol Hill, Sun and Netscape hope to give the Department of Justice the support to address these issues, the executives said. "I hope that the current broad investigation leads to a broader action by the DOJ. If it stops here then none of the competitive threats that Microsoft has made to perpetuate its monopoly ... none of its actions ... will be affected," said Morris, describing the impact that the DOJ's current case against Microsoft might have in the long run.

As one example of what Sun and Netscape characterise as Microsoft's "exclusionary and predatory" practices, Katz cited DOJ documents referring to an internal Microsoft e-mail in which executives at the Redmond, Wash., company said they had already copied the features and marketing strategy for Netscape's browser and, having failed to capture the desired market share, vowed to leverage Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 browser with Windows 95.

If the current DOJ inquiry and existing regulations are not enough to solve the inequities caused by Microsoft's practices, the issues raised are severe enough for society at large that further action will be required, the officials emphasised.

The press conference was a coming out party of sorts for Sun's Morris, who to date has had a very low profile in the DOJ/Microsoft battle.

Morris is leading a separate legal assault in which Sun is suing Microsoft for breech of contract regarding Microsoft's use of Java.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, Sun's McNealy and Netscape's Barksdale were called to testify at a hearing entitled "Market Power and Structural Change in the Software Industry." Senate Judiciary Chair Orrin Hatch called the hearing, which begins today, to learn more about competition in the high-tech industry.


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