The decision by a US District court late on Thursday temporarily prohibiting Microsoft Corp from linking OEM sales of Windows 95 to its Internet Explorer browser, is being described as an early victory for the Justice Department, and an indication that it has every chance of victory when the case gets to trial. The move […]
The decision by a US District court late on Thursday temporarily prohibiting Microsoft Corp from linking OEM sales of Windows 95 to its Internet Explorer browser, is being described as an early victory for the Justice Department, and an indication that it has every chance of victory when the case gets to trial. The move could affect roll-out plans for Windows 98 – due sometime in the second quarter of 1998 – within which the Explorer browser technology was to be integrated. Washington DC District Court Judge Thomas Jackson ruled that Microsoft could not force OEMs to take its browser as part of the terms for licensing Windows 95 – but denied that the Department’s request to hold Microsoft in contempt for violating the 1995 Consent Decree, for the time being, something for which Microsoft professed itself gratified. That part of the ruling saved Redmond from paying the hefty fine of $1m a day for every day it violated the Decree – which said that Microsoft could artificially tie the purchase of one product to another, but was free to sell integrated products. It has been Microsoft’s contention throughout the proceedings that the browser functionality was indeed an integrated feature of its PC operating system. The temporary injunction bars any link between the two products as the case is under further consideration. The Court has also appointed Harvard Law School professor and internet law expert Lawrence Lessig as a special judicial officer in the case. Lessig will consider the facts and pertinent legal issues of the case and is due to submit a report to the Judge by May 31. Another small victory for Microsoft in all this was that Judge Jackson denied the government’s attempt to force Redmond into altering its non- disclosure agreement with OEMs. The agreements, which Microsoft has described as industry standard, requires its business to inform Microsoft before providing any information to state or federal antitrust investigators. While Microsoft chairman Bill Gates refused to comment on the ruling, he did insist that the browser war with Netscape Communications Corp was healthy competition and would continue. Netscape, for its part, cheered the decision and vowed to be more aggressive now, offering special pricing plans to win PC makers back into its camp. Microsoft shares fell $2.3125 to $136.75, while Netscape rose $1.625 to $27.875.