Justice Department uses Microsoft's own words against it

Microsoft executives poring over the US Department of Justice's antitrust case will see plenty of familiar phrases and comments -- and may wish they could take them back. The DOJ's filing includes several internal Microsoft memos, press interview excerpts, and other comments that prosecutors say show the software giant has tried ruthlessly to crush Netscape, Sun and other competitors. The DOJ quotes one internal Microsoft document as saying that the 'strategic objective' was to 'kill cross-platform Java by grow[ing] the polluted Java market.'

Microsoft executives poring over the US Department of Justice's antitrust case will see plenty of familiar phrases and comments -- and may wish they could take them back.

The Justice Department's filing includes several internal Microsoft memos, press interview excerpts, and other comments that prosecutors say show the software giant has tried ruthlessly to crush Netscape, Sun and its Java programming language, and other competitors.

The federal government -- along with 20 states and the District of Columbia, which also filed suits -- say the documents prove that Microsoft sought to protect its operating system dominance, and use that dominance to create other monopolies.

On another level, the documents provide a fascinating "fly on the wall" glimpse inside the inner workings of the software behemoth -- even in the office of Chairman Bill Gates.

For instance, without identifying the author, the Justice Department filing quotes an internal Microsoft document as saying that the "strategic objective" was to "kill cross-platform Java by grow[ing] the polluted Java market."

Similar comments were found in an e-mail written by Paul Maritz, group vice president of the platforms and applications group, who wrote that Microsoft must "blunt" Java's momentum and "reestablish ActiveX and non-Java approaches . . . [to] protect our core asset Windows -- the thing we get paid $'s for."

Linking Internet Explorer with Windows as a way to sink Netscape and its Navigator Web browser is a recurrent theme in the internal documents the Justice Department cited.

In an e-mail allegedly written to Maritz, Senior Vice President Jim Allchin said Windows was the key to winning the browser market.

"If you agree that Windows is a huge asset, then it follows quickly that we are not investing sufficiently in finding ways to tie IE [Internet Explorer] and Windows together ...," Allchin wrote. "Memphis [the code name for Windows 98] must be a simple upgrade but most importantly it must be killer on OEM shipments so that Netscape never gets a chance on these systems."

According to the Justice Department, Windows marketing director Jonathan Roberts told his subordinates to "to really look at why people who get IE with a new machine switch to Navigator and what is being addressed in IE 4.0 to make that difficult."

And, allegedly from Windows product manager Christian Wildfeuer: "It seems clear that it will be very hard to increase browser market share on the merits of IE 4 alone. It will be more important to leverage the OS asset to make people use IE instead of Navigator."

In the end, it was hard to determine which Microsoft considered more important -- Windows 98 and the OS market, or gaining browser share with Internet Explorer.

"Memphis is a key weapon in the IE share battle," Brad Chase, head of marketing for the personal and business systems group, allegedly wrote in an e-mail.

The internal memos included in the Justice Department case also appear to bolster prosecutors' contention that Microsoft has used Windows to have its way with OEMs, Internet service providers, and other companies.

In a memo dated July 1996, Gates allegedly described to other executives his efforts to persuade Intuit CEO Scott Cook to move his company from Navigator to Internet Explorer: "I was quite frank with him ... that if he had a favor we could do for him that would cost us something like $1M to do that in return for switching browsers in the next few months I would be open to doing that."

The lawsuit also quoted Brad Silverberg, former head of Microsoft's Internet Group who currently is on a sabbatical, as telling AT&T officials that if they "want to be a part of the Windows box, you're going to have to do something special for us."

"There are very, very few people we allow to be in the Windows box," Silverberg allegedly told AT&T. "If you want that preferential treatment from us, which is extraordinary treatment, we're going to want something very extraordinary from you."

The memos also detail Microsoft's determination in keeping OEMs from removing the Internet Explorer icon from the Windows desktop. Several PC makers, including Micron, Compaq, and Gateway, butted heads with the Redmond, Wash., giant over the issue -- and lost.

"Microsoft executive Chris Jones noted in 1995 that some OEMs 'want to remove the [IE] icon from the desktop' but that the OEMs should be told 'this is not allowed,'" the lawsuit stated.

Microsoft Corp. is at http://www.microsoft.com. The Justice Department's lawsuit can be viewed at http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/cases3/micros/1762.htm.

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