A major European Internet service provider has gone public with claims that Microsoft tried to pressurise it not to offer the competing Netscape browser.
Such alleged practices are currently under investigation by the European Commission, but so far European ISPs have kept quiet.
"About a year ago, we negotiated with Microsoft and Netscape about their browsers," says Ted Lindgreen, director of NLNet in the Netherlands, in an interview with 'VNU Newswire'. "Microsoft insisted on an exclusive agreement, and for us that was a reason not to do business with them. So we signed with Netscape."
At one point during negotiations, says Lindgreen, Microsoft demanded that NLNet should not distribute another browser. It also requested that NLNet should use NT servers on its network. Lindgreen adds that these demands were never formalised on paper, because Microsoft refused to budge and NLNet didn't want to give in.
"The Internet became what it is because there never was any exclusivity," says Ted Lindgreen. "We want it to stay that way."
The directorate general for competition of the European Commission, also know as the DG4, is investigating the contracts that Microsoft signed with 23 European ISPs (see Newswire 23 October). The DG4 wishes to establish whether these contracts preclude competition.
Last Wednesday, Microsoft's director of law and corporate affairs said: "We do not have exclusive agreements with ISPs." It now appears that Microsoft negotiators have at least gone as far as to demand such exclusive arrangements during negotiations with ISPs.
Reports on Microsoft's contract clauses and negotiating techniques vary. Another ISP, EUnet, has said that Microsoft never demanded exclusivity from them in return for the right to distribute Internet Explorer. Microsoft contracts generally contain a non-disclosure clause, which prohibits the signers from revealing the terms and conditions.
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