Did Microsoft try to put the screws on Netscape? The 'Wall Street Journal' claims federal prosecutors are currently investigating a meeting between executives of both companies that took place in May 1995.
During the meeting, the reports claim, Microsoft attempted to collude with Netscape, suggesting the two companies should carve up the Internet software market. Microsoft would only sell browsers for Windows, while Netscape would concentrate on all other platforms. Netscape refused, the paper stated, and Microsoft went on to launch a no-holds-barred offensive against the start-up.
This offensive included adding a free copy of its competing Internet Explorer browser to its Windows 95 operating system, which prompted last year' complaint by the US Department of Justice, leading to an injunction against the company in December. Microsoft is currently appealing this injunction, which insists that it does not force licensees to offer IE with Windows 95.
The investigations into the May 1995 meeting, if the reports prove true, could give the Department of Justice investigators proof of anti-competitive behaviour by Microsoft. The DoJ has been investigating other instances of such behaviour, with a view to bringing a wider antitrust case against the Redmond company.
Both companies have acknowledged that their executives met in May 1995. However, at this date the companies were not yet the arch rivals they would later become. Netscape was already a hot Internet company, but it had yet to emerge as a major software player. Microsoft, meanwhile, did not yet have a browser of its own. In fact, it did not even have an Internet strategy. The company was still planning to launch its own Microsoft Network (MSN) as a proprietary online service ? an attempt that failed.
It wasn?t until December 1995 that Microsoft officially turned around its strategy and decided to address the Internet. By late 1996, the Redmond giant launched Internet Explorer 3.0.
Netscape executives have earlier claimed that Microsoft at one point attempted to purchase the company.
Separately, US news reports on Friday suggested that a number of US states, which have been conducting their own investigations against Microsoft, are on the verge of filing an antitrust suit in order to block the launch of Windows 98, scheduled to ship on 25 June.
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