Microsoft NZ adds to US DoJ's case

Microsoft New Zealand has supplied information to the US Department of Justice's antitrust lawsuit against its parent company.

Telecom New Zealand was cited by Netscape Communications' CEO Jim Barksdale as an example of Microsoft's alleged anti-competitiveness, in his written evidence presented at the second day of the trial.

Barksdale claimed that Microsoft offered to upgrade Telecom's 9000-plus Windows 3.1 machines to Windows 95 for nothing if Telecom would use Internet Explorer as its internal browser.

Microsoft New Zealand managing director Geoff Lawrie said he can't comment at this stage of the trial. "We've provided some information that will come out in court."

However, Telecom spokesman Clive Litt said Microsoft never made such an offer to the person responsible at Telecom for negotiating such contracts. "We did upgrade from Win 3.1 to Windows 95, which we paid for." Telecom was one of several examples given by Barksdale. The antitrust trial opened last week, five months after the US DoJ and 20 state attorneys-general filed broad antitrust actions in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. The original separate legal actions have been joined in the current trial.

Barksdale's written testimony comprised 126 pages. In it, he said a 1995 Microsoft proposal to divide the Web browser market stunned Netscape, leaving the company to believe that Microsoft's only goal was to take control of the growth of the Internet.

He cites informal conversations with a senior Microsoft executive in which he alleged Microsoft raised the subject of splitting up the browser market, urging Netscape to develop applications on top of Windows 95 and Internet Explorer.

"I have never been in a meeting in my 33-year business career in which a competitor has so blatantly implied that we should either stop competing with it, or the competitor would kill us," Barksdale said in his statement. "In all my years in business, I have never heard nor experienced such an explicit proposal to divide markets."

To speed up the trial, the judge has ruled that all witnesses should give written rather than oral testimony.

Barksdale was the first government witness. He said that Microsoft had flexed its corporate muscles with computer manufacturers by warning them not to get too close to Netscape or there could be negative consequences in their dealings with Microsoft.

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