Microsoft's business ethics came under fire yesterday, the opening day of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on competition on the Internet.
Senator Orrin Hatch, the Republican chairman of the committee, set the tone when he fired a warning shot at Microsoft in his opening remarks. "I have not made any secret of the fact that I have serious concerns about Microsoft's recent efforts to exercise its monopoly power, and that I plan to continue to examine the company's practices," he said.
Hatch lambasted Microsoft's insistence that licensees sign non-disclosure agreements. "The difficulty that the government has had in getting witnesses to go on the record speaks volumes about the nature of competition in the software industry," he said.
But he was quick to avoid criticism of Microsoft bashing when he explained that the committee intends to explore the fast growing high technology business and will attempt to assess how antitrust and intellectual property laws should be applied. "The government certainly should not use antitrust law to make winners and losers in the marketplace," he said. "But it should use (antitrust laws) to ensure that it is the consumers who get to pick the winners and losers."
Last month the US Justice Department accused Microsoft of violating a 1995 consent decree by bundling its Internet Explorer browser with Windows 95, effectively giving it an unfair advantage in the market.
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