Steve Case, America Online's (AOL) billionaire chairman, has dismissed suggestions that the online service provider plotted with the US Department of Justice (D0J) against Microsoft as "ridiculous".
Case was interviewed by lawyers in a hotel in Washington DC on Friday in preparation for the next phase of the government's antitrust lawsuit against the software giant.
Microsoft contends that AOL's purchase of rival Netscape Communications in November last year shows that "its competitors have always had the ability and the resources to change the competitive landscape overnight" and that any actions of its own had not undermined rival Netscape's competitiveness in the browser market.
But while Case acknowledged that a senior AOL executive had privately warned David Boies, a top Government lawyer, in October that it was in "sensitive negotiations" with Netscape, he said it "struck me as the only reasonable thing to do".
He continued that if, when giving evidence, the line of questioning started moving towards the secret negotiations taking place between the two companies, "we would have some problems and have to object to those questions. It was a complicated three ring circus to coordinate. We didn't want any premature disclosures to leak out".
But he added that he did not see he had anything new to contribute to the ongoing trial.
"Nothing there [involving Netscape] has anything to do with operating systems, which, as best I can tell, is the focus of the trial," he said.
US District Judge, Thomas Penfield Jackson has already expressed an interest in hearing Case's future plans for Netscape, however.
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