In its second day of cross examining Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale, Microsoft scored its first big points in the antitrust trial, when it confronted Barksdale with statements from his company?s chairman and former CEO, Jim Clark.
Turning the DoJ?s own weapon ? snippets of email ? against it, Microsoft attorney John Warden quoted from a message sent by Jim Clark to Microsoft vice president Brad Silverberg. In it, the Netscape chairman suggests that Microsoft should opt for Netscape?s Navigator browser, and appears to ask Microsoft to invest in Netscape. The email ends by stating that ?no one in my organisation knows about this message?.
According to Microsoft, the message shows that Netscape was aware of Microsoft?s plans to give away its browser, and that Netscape and Microsoft had for some time been discussing various forms of collaboration.
Potentially more damaging to the DoJ?s case is a statement made by Jim Clark when he was deposed by Microsoft. In the deposition, he said: ?Bill Gates specifically told me he was going to give away the Web browser in the operating system, and this was before we released our first beta, and I felt we would have to [give away our own browser] in order to survive against Microsoft?.
Clark said Bill Gates told him about these plans in 1994, long before the June 21, 1995 meeting at which Microsoft allegedly threatened Netscape.
The new evidence weakens the DoJ?s and Netscape?s version of events, as presented in the original complaint against Microsoft. The DoJ case suggests that, during the 21 June meeting, Microsoft made Netscape an illegal offer to divide up the browser market, and when Netscape refused, attempted to wipe out the fledgling company by giving away its own browser for free.
It now appears that at least one Netscape executive was aware that Microsoft intended to give away its browser and integrate it with its operating system, even before Netscape entered the market.
Further weakening Barksdale?s earlier written testimony, the Netscape CEO was forced to admit under cross examination that he never heard Microsoft officials explicitly offer to split the browser market.
However, the DoJ case is built around more than just the 21 June meeting. The government hopes to prove a pattern of anti-competitive behaviour from Microsoft, including efforts to ?bully? other companies such as Apple. Microsoft so far has made little headway in countering these allegations, which it attempted in vain to get excluded from the trial.
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