Twenty six tech industry leaders came out in support of Microsoft on Thursday, when they signed a letter urging the Department of Justice not to interfere with the launch of Windows 98 (see previous story). The letter does not express an opinion on the merits of the DoJ?s case, but claims any delay of Windows 98 will hurt their business.
The letter, dated 30 April, was signed by heavyweights including Andy Grove (Intel), Michael Dell (Dell Computer), Jerry Sanders (AMD), Eckhard Pfeiffer (Compaq), Lew Platt (HP) and Dwight Steffensen (Merisel).
?We are writing to express our strongest possible concern that the release of Windows would be enjoined by government antitrust litigation," the letter opens. It goes on: ?While we do not here express an opinion on the merits of any investigation of Microsoft, we respectfully urge you not to take any action that might delay or block the release of Windows 98.?
This may or may not be part of the orchestrated 'grass-roots' support movement that Microsoft was allegedly planning to launch last month, but it does come at a very convenient time for the embattled company.
Separately, a number of computer resellers lead by Vanstar president and COO Jay Amato are planning their own letter writing campaign, asking the attorneys general of 13 US states not to stop Windows 98 from shipping. Resellers stand to gain from the surge in hardware and software sales that generally accompanies the launch of an operating system update.
Windows 98 is expected to go on sale on 25 June. This means that PC vendors must receive the operating system in the next few weeks, so they have time to install it on new systems.
In December, the DoJ obtained an injunction against Microsoft. The injunction prohibits Microsoft from forcing PC vendors to install the Internet Explorer browser on every Windows 95 PC they sell. Windows 98 also includes Internet Explorer, and has it integrated even deeper into the operating system. So there has been widespread speculation that the DOJ will move to block the launch of Windows 98.
Even if it doesn?t, 13 US states are considering filing their own cases against the Redmond, Washington company.
Some critics of Microsoft were quick to dismiss the letter supporting Microsoft. Ken Wasch, the president of the Software Publishers Association, who in the past has asked for government action against Microsoft, was quoted as saying: ?The bottom line is: No computer manufacturer can afford to harm their relationship with Microsoft. When Microsoft calls and asks them to write a letter to Justice, they're hard pressed not to.?
However, whether or not they were inspired by Microsoft, some of the arguments in the letter seem to ring true ? especially those that refer to the signers? self-interest.
The letter argues: ?We ? and many other companies in the PC industry ? have spent millions of dollars developing, marketing and promoting products and services that depend on the on-time launch of Windows 98. The consumer business is a seasonal one and any delay to Windows 98 will undermine our ability to include these products and services in the ?back to school? and holiday demand ? traditionally the industry?s strongest sales seasons?, the letter argues."
And it adds, damningly: ?Customers would keep their cash in their pocket books?.
Last month, Microsoft was embarrassed by revelations in the 'Los Angeles Times' about a secret plan to influence the media by encouraging industry leaders and others to write press articles, opinion pieces and letters to the editor supportive of the company. Microsoft denied the plans.
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