Microsoft faced fresh allegations of evidence tampering last week, on the day it was crowned the biggest company in the US.
The software colossus toppled General Electric (GE) from its number one slot, measured by market capitalisation, in the US. At the close of markets on Monday, Microsoft's share value had risen to $106 (#63.47), putting its market capitalisation at $261.1 billion (#156.3 billion), compared with GE's $79.13 (#47.38) per share value and $257.4 billion (#154.1 billion) market capitalisation.
Even the long running anti-trust trial has so far failed to dent Microsoft's overall performance - but executives at the software company may be facing new hurdles following allegations of evidence tampering. An Obstruction of Justice charge could see Microsoft chiefs end up in prison and any charges may be included in the Government's anti-trust suit.
The allegations that Microsoft destroyed documents relevant to the Department of Justice (DoJ) case come from a former employee. It is alleged that the software company deleted files about its dealings at offices in Germany between 1991 and 1993. Separate claims that Microsoft deleted Emails in the run up to filing of the anti-trust suit in May have also been made.
The company also had its request denied for the evidence in the anti-trust case to be limited. The company argues that the coalition of the DoJ and the 20 state attorneys general has introduced new evidence that is not directly related to the case, originally focused on Microsoft's actions against Netscape in the browser market. The government argues that the allegations prove a history of monopolistic practices, for example that Microsoft threatened Intel, attempted to kill-off Java, attempted to stop Apple developing QuickTime, and introduced warning messages into Windows 3.1 to scare users away from competitor DR-DOS.
The DoJ trial, delayed for three weeks by order of the judge, will resume on 15 October.
With this as the background, Microsoft is not fighting shy of further controversy. Following Netscape's release of a second beta of Communicator 4.5, the company is grizzling about the fact that Communicator overwrites its own Internet Explorer browser settings without warning the user.
Netscape is countering this by arguing that its browser setup routines ask the user to decide which browser will be their default and, if Communicator is chosen, the default homepage is set to Netscape's NetCenter. Microsoft complains that a user who then switches back to Internet Explorer will still be directed to NetCenter as their portal to the rest of the Internet.
The crux of Microsoft's objections is that the changes made can be construed as one application detrimentally interfering with a competitor's application, the options screen being regarded by Microsoft as part of its browser and not a feature of the operating system.
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