Microsoft hearing will proceed -- without Microsoft

Microsoft won't send any officials to testify at a US Senate hearing on its alleged anti-competitive business practices today because company officials feel they have 'gone the extra mile' to cooperate. At the Senate Judiciary Committee's first hearing, in March, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates testified for more than four hours. The company has also briefed committee members and staff and answered a wide array of questions, Microsoft spokesman Adam Sohn says.

Microsoft won't send any officials to testify at a US Senate hearing on its alleged anti-competitive business practices today because company officials feel they have "gone the extra mile" to cooperate, a company representative says.

At the Senate Judiciary Committee's first hearing, in March, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates testified for more than four hours. The company has also briefed committee members and staff and answered a wide array of questions, Microsoft spokesman Adam Sohn says.

In light of Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch's "continued attacks on Microsoft, it is not clear that any additional testimony from the company will serve any useful purpose," Sohn says.

Instead, Gates, newly appointed Microsoft President Steve Ballmer, and other top officials will spend today at a daylong briefing for financial analysts in Seattle.

Hatch, a Utah Republican, has repeatedly criticised Microsoft's business practices, accusing the software maker of muscling competitors and partners alike.

The US Department of Justice's antitrust lawsuit against the company, scheduled to go to trial in September, is another reason Microsoft officials are hesitant to return to Washington for Hatch's hearing.

"With the ongoing legal action between Microsoft and the DOJ, a lot of the issues (to be aired in the hearing) are issues under active litigation," Sohn says. "It's not appropriate to comment on them in this type of hearing at this time."

Meanwhile, Microsoft rivals are expected to attend.

Larry Ellison, Oracle chairman and chief executive officer, will testify and will be available for a question-and-answer session after the hearing, his company announced yesterday. Mitchell Kertzman, Sybase chairman and CEO, and Jeff Papows, CEO of Lotus Development, are also on the tentative list of witnesses to be called when the hearing opens at 9:30 a.m. EDT.

The committee hearing, dubbed "Competition in the Digital Age: Beyond the Browser Wars," was called by Hatch, who represents the home state of Novell, one of Microsoft's archrivals. He has recently expressed fears that Microsoft is attempting to leverage its dominance in the OS market into other areas, including the Internet.

Microsoft Corp., based in Redmond, Wash., is at http://www.microsoft.com. The Senate Judiciary Committee can be reached at http://www.senate.gov/~judiciary.

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