12/96 News: Justice Eyes MS ... Again
By Diganta Majumder
Back in july 1994, after protracted negotiations, Microsoft signed
a consent decree with the Department of Justice to settle charges
of antitrust violations. It took another year for the agreement
to go into effect and even then, no one expected the thorny issue
to go away. It hasn't. (See The Explorer in this issue.)
In September, the DOJ told Microsoft it wants detailed information
on just what the software giant plans to do in the Internet arena.
The investigation was apparently sparked by a letter from Netscape,
which claimed that Microsoft is violating the terms of the decree
by using its dominance in operating systems to give its Internet
offerings-particularly its browser, Internet Explorer-a big leg
up over Netscape's Navigator and other such products.
At press time, no one seemed to know just how far the DOJ investigation
would reach. After all, despite the hype, Internet Explorer is
free; Windows NT and Internet Information Server will be the real
battleground in the Internet wars. And the company's licensing
practices in these areas have already drawn considerable fire.
Observers say the browser investigation probably won't amount
to much. But if the government starts asking just how far Microsoft
can go in leveraging its desktop dominance to gain on Internet
rivals, then the whole industry will be waiting for the answer.