MS 'never' offered to divide market

Summary:Microsoft exec calls Jim Barksdale 'revisionist' -- claims Netscape wanted to meet.

Microsoft Corp. never offered to divide the Web browser market with Netscape Communications Corp., according to one of the participants at a now-famous meeting between the two companies.

Dan Rosen, general manager of new technology at Microsoft, also contested charges by Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale that Microsoft threatened its upstart rival when their senior managers met on June 21, 1995.

"On these points, Jim Barksdale's contrary testimony reflects either his technical ignorance or a deliberate mischaracterization of the facts," Rosen said in a 90-page deposition released Wednesday morning.

The allegations go to the heart of the government's antitrust charges against Microsoft, which has sharply rejected the claims of market division.

In his testimony, Rosen described the meeting as a wide-ranging technology discussion, and said Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) had extensively cooperated with Netscape (Nasdaq:NSCP) on technical support issues. He included references to a series of e-mail messages written shortly after the meeting.

Cordial, not antagonistic
In one of the e-mails, Rosen said he wrote that Microsoft and Netscape should "cooperate on standards" and "begin to think about how our domains can work together."

"My understanding is that the meeting was cordial and not antagonistic," he said.

Rosen said it was Netscape who wanted to meet with Microsoft after it learned that the latter had licensed the Mosaic browser technology from Spyglass -- and it feared competition in the browser space.

He pointed to an e-mail sent by Netscape founder Jim Clark shortly after the meeting, in which he suggested to Microsoft officials that the company take an equity position in Netscape.

"We'd like to work with you," Clark wrote. "Working together could be in your self interest as well as ours."

Rosen said Microsoft rejected the suggestion because executives believed Spyglass' browser code was superior to Netscape's, not because it wanted to crush the company.

Questions Barksdale's credibility
He also questioned Barksdale's credibility in general, pointing out that the Netscape executive claimed Marc Andreessen is credited with inventing the browser technology, when he was one of several people working on the software.

"Although this particular aspect of Mr. Barksdale's testimony may seem trivial, to me it illustrates a pattern of misstatements, distortions and revisionist history," Rosen wrote.

ZDNN's Lisa M. Bowman contributed to this report.

Topics: Microsoft, Browser, Government

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