As part of its ongoing Microsoft antitrust probe, the Department of Justice (DoJP has begun examining Microsoft?s deals with its Internet content provider partners. Wired Digital, one of a dozen companies which has deals with Microsoft to have its content included in the Active Desktop of Internet Explorer, confirmed this week that the DoH had issued civil investigative demands (CIDs) demanding details on their Windows 98 deals with Microsoft. It has also been reported that some but not all the other participants of the Active Desktop have received CIDs. While the DoJ insists that these investigations are just part of their "open investigations to see whether Microsoft is acting illegally" industry watchers believe it is part of a broadening of its case to cover Windows 98, beyond the current allegations. Reuters reported that, of the list of Microsoft practices it is looking at, the DoJ is prioritising "tying content, Internet products and services and software applications to the operating system". Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Orrin Hatch warned strongly against allowing Microsoft to dominate the Internet. He argued that preserving competition is the best way to prevent "heavy-handed regulation of the Internet" in the future. At the moment Microsoft requires licencees of Internet Explorer 4.0 to display the Active Desktop screen with its dozen content provider partners. While users can hide the ?Active Desktop? which will also be part of Windows 98, PC makers cannot. The DoJ may see this strategy as a form of tying which is using the company?s monopoly as a way to get into new markets which is similar to the current case which alleges that Microsoft is illegally forcing computer makers to accept Internet Explorer. * Yesterday Microsoft announced a reorganisation clarifying its intentions to bring together its Internet technology and its operating systems. It has moved its Internet Client and Developer Relations groups from the applications and Internet Cleint Group to the Personal and Business Systems Group, which produces Windows 9x and Windows NT.
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