Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mighty Microsoft Runs into Resistance Lawsuit May Curb Its Net Growth

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mighty Microsoft Runs into Resistance Lawsuit May Curb Its Net Growth

Article excerpt

Call it "Showdown in Cyberspace."

The US Justice Department, in redoubling its efforts to put a check on Microsoft Corp. and its cut-throat marketing tactics, is drawing a line in the sand over what constitutes monopolistic behavior in an era of ever-bigger corporations.

On Monday, the department took action it says is intended to keep the mammoth software company from dominating the Internet, the same way it dominates the multibillion-dollar market in basic computer software. The department says Microsoft is using its ubiquitous Windows 95 operating system to steal customers from rival Netscape Communications Inc. It asked for a $1 million-a-day fine if Microsoft continues to bundle its Internet Explorer browser with its operating system. The economic and social stakes of the antitrust initiative are enormous. The Internet, an unsurpassed highway for information, is the most promising and undeveloped frontier for the software industry. Should Microsoft come to dominate the way computer users navigate the Internet, it could quash innovative rivals, shape pricing, and influence the preferences of visitors to the World Wide Web, say technology experts. "If Microsoft dominates, you won't have open standards for Internet publishing," says Jamie Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology, an advocacy group headed by Ralph Nader in Washington. "It will be a case where Microsoft just announces the standards, and {without Justice Department intervention} they would have done on the Internet what they do with the desktop computer," says Mr. Love. The Microsoft operating system runs on an estimated 90 percent of the world's computers. But in the browser market, its Explorer has 36 percent of the business compared with 60 percent for Netscape's Navigator. Justice officials do not have to look far for examples where Microsoft has leveraged its operating system to seize chunks of the software industry. …

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