Microsoft responds to US DOJ penalty

Microsoft has issued its defence against the US Justice Department's allegations that its behaviour in distributing Internet Explorer 4.0 with Windows 95 was anti-competitive.

"We are operating in a completely lawful manner. 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," said William H. Neukom, Microsoft's senior vice president for law and corporate affairs.

"A fundamental principle at Microsoft is that Windows gets better and makes the PC easier to use with each new version," said Bill Gates, chairman and CEO of Microsoft. "Today people want to use PCs to access the Internet. We are providing that functionality in Windows, and providing a platform for innovation by thousands of other software companies. It would be a great disservice to our customers if Microsoft did not enhance Windows with Internet-related features, and rapidly distribute updated versions of Windows through PC manufacturers."

Microsoft said the key part of the law it is alleged to have breached refers to it not requiring PC makers to also license another software product. The firm claims the law also prescribes that Microsoft "shall not be construed to prohibit Microsoft from developing integrated software products". Microsoft's response to this is that "The Justice Department has taken the position that Internet Explorer is not integrated with Windows -- notwithstanding the fact that the tight integration between Internet Explorer and Windows is a key customer benefit." Microsoft says that because Internet Explorer has always been an integrated feature of Windows 95 it is in compliance with the original court decree.

Microsoft also says PC makers "have complete freedom to ship or not to ship Windows on their PCs as they see fit" and notes that: "Ironically, nearly all other operating system vendors are also including Web browsing capability with their products -- mostly by bundling Netscape's Navigator."

That could be a thin boast considering that most market research gives flavours of Windows around 85 per cent of the desktop personal computer audience. Further, Apple recently agreed to bundle Internet Explorer as the default browser for Macintosh.

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