Denying any wrong doing, Microsoft Corp. says it "will vigorously defend" its Internet Explorer selling practices against a court action requested by the Department of Justice.
The Justice Department charges that Microsoft violated a 1995 decree by forcing personal computer makers to license and distribute the browser as a condition of licensing its Windows 95 operating system.
Microsoft officials argued today that IE 4.0 is a part of the Windows operating system, just as are other system utility programs, and thus not part of restrictions agreed to earlier.
In a press release, Microsoft said that product improvements are always pro-competitive, and that "improvements to Windows are a key contributing factor to the phenomenal growth, rapid innovation and intense competition in the PC software industry."
"We are operating in a completely lawful manner," said William H. Neukom, Microsoft's Senior Vice President for Law and Corporate Affairs. "The consent decree explicitly states that Microsoft may integrate new features into the operating system that it licenses to PC manufacturers without violating the decree. All software vendors are entitled to improve their products, and to do so rapidly."
"We have never tried to stop any computer manufacturer from shipping any other browser," spokesman Mark Murray said.
He also said rival browsers from Netscape Communications Corp. work exactly as designed on Microsoft operating systems.
"The facts will show that Microsoft is in full compliance with the consent decree," Murray said.
--Reuters contributed to this report