MS/DoJ: Memorandum spells anticompetitive behaviour

Microsoft attempted to divide the personal finance software market with Intuit, the US DoJ has alleged in court today.

A Microsoft memorandum introduced in court outlined in strikingly blunt terms a plan to avoid competition with Intuit. But the memorandum, which is as close to a "smoking gun" as this trial has seen, is nearly a decade old and may ultimately have little direct bearing on a case that has largely focused on the browser market.

Microsoft attorney John Warden objected strongly to the US Government's use of the memorandum, saying it was "totally beyond" the direct testimony of Microsoft vice president Brad Chase, who was on the witness stand today.

But government attorney David Boies said the memorandum "shows a pattern of anticompetitive behaviour" by Microsoft "and something the witness (Chase) was aware of at the time."

Chase, along with Bill Gates, received a copy of the March 1990 memorandum written by a former Microsoft executive, Mike Slade, summarising a meeting with Intuit executives.

The memo says: "We'd rather not compete with you. Instead of growing the market we'd just both spend a lot of $ fighting each other for share. So how about this? You guys continue to do a great job on DOS and Mac. We're investing in a line of Windows biz/home products anyway, so we'll just round out the line and together we'll grow the business."

Boies asked Chase a series of questions about the Intuit memorandum, but Chase said he couldn't recall any proposal like that ever being made.

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who seemed reluctant to admit the memorandum into evidence, cut off Boies from that line of questioning after it appeared he was making little headway with Chase.

Outside of court, Bill Neukom, Microsoft vice president and head of the company's legal affairs department, defended Microsoft's antitrust compliance practices but also said that things have changed over the decade.

"In 1990 I think it was fair to say that this company was spending less time advising its clients about antitrust issues then it has since then," said Neukom.

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