After last ditch negotiations broke down over the weekend, the US Department of Justice, 20 US states and the District of Columbia on Monday brought antitrust suits against Microsoft.
As expected, two separate ? but similar ? lawsuits were filed with the District Court of Washington DC, one by the DoJ and one by 20 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia (the region around the US capital).
They accuse Microsoft of ?engaging in anti-competitive and exclusionary practises designed to maintain its monopoly in personal computer operating systems and extend that monopoly to Internet browsing software?.
Both lawsuits are accompanied by a request for a preliminary injuction against Microsoft, forcing the company to either strip Internet Explorer from Windows 98, or include Netscape Navigator with every copy of the operating system.
?I would have liked nothing more than to settle this without a lawsuit," said Microsoft chairman Bill Gates at a press conference on Monday. He said the negotiations broke down because of the demand that Microsoft should ship Navigator. He compared this demand to Coca Cola being forced to ship bottles of Pepsi with every six-pack.
The DoJ and states cases are both strongly focused on Microsoft?s moves in the browser market.
The DoJ accuses Microsoft of:
* "Illegally attempting, in May 95, to carve up the browser market between itself and Netscape, by asking Netscape not to supply a browser for the Windows platform."
* "Forcing PC manufacturers to install Internet Explorer on each PC shipped with Windows 95 and Windows 98.
* "Monopolising the 'first screen' Windows users see when they first boot up a new PC.
* "Signing anti-competitive agreements with online service providers, Internet service providers and Internet content providers, prohibiting them from promoting competing browsers.
The preliminary injuction requested by the DoJ would force Microsoft to:
* "Offer a version of Windows 98 that does not include Windows 98, or include Netscape Navigator with every copy.
* "Give PC manufacturers the right to modify the initial boot-up sequence.
* "Give PC manufacturers additional options for installing and removing browser software on new computers.
* "Forbid Microsoft from entering into contracts that limit the distribution and promotion of competing browsers.
In a press conference and subsequent conference call on Monday, Gates responded to the accusations. On Microsoft?s contracts with OEMs, he said: ?PC manufacturers are free to include Netscape browsers on any computer they sell."
Microsoft also demonstrated five PCs from different manufacturers, showing they all had different looking initial desktops and different pre-installed software. One of the systems, a HP Kayak workstation, had Netscape Navigator on the desktop.
But Microsoft maintains it has the right to integrate Internet functionality into Windows, and refuses to ship a competing product.
Gates also said Microsoft would ship Windows 98 to OEMs on Monday, and that the operating system would be on general sale on 25 June as originally planned.
The DoJ and the attorneys general have stated that they do not intend to block the shipment of Windows 98.
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