Microsoft Accused of Undermining Software
Abrahms, Doug, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The chief executive of upstart software company RealNetworks Inc. accused Microsoft Corp. at a Senate hearing yesterday of using its monopoly over desktop computers to block consumers' access to RealNetworks software.
Microsoft offers a competing product that allows consumers to receive audio and video clips over the Internet, said Rob Glaser, chief executive, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on competition in the software industry. An upcoming version of Microsoft's Windows 98 blocks consumers' ability to use RealNetworks' software to download information from the Internet, he said.
"Code would have had to be written deliberately to achieve this effect," Mr. Glaser said.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, held a second hearing on competition in the software industry yesterday, but the main focus quickly turned to Microsoft and the way it conducts business.
"The critical debate, many believe, is the extent to which Microsoft is exploiting its current monopolies both to kill off potential threats and to leverage these monopolies to control new technologies which will define the future of computing," Mr. Hatch said.
Microsoft denied RealNetworks' allegations, and the company's product does work with Windows, said Mark Murray, a Microsoft spokesman. The Redmond, Wash.-based company is negotiating a licensing agreement with RealNetworks, and Mr. Glaser could be using his testimony to gain a bargaining advantage, he said.
A Microsoft executive signed an affidavit Wednesday that said Mr. Glaser would agree not to testify before the Senate committee yesterday if the two companies could work out a licensing agreement on Wednesday night.
"We are disappointed that Mr. Glaser has chosen a government forum, rather than the marketplace, to pursue his proprietary business agenda," said spokesman Mark Murray.
Yesterday's hearing featured mostly Microsoft critics and competitors - including officials from Oracle Corp., Sybase Inc. and Lotus Development Corp. Microsoft executives declined to testify yesterday, and Mr. Murray said the matters raised by the committee would be better resolved in the court system.
Larry Ellison, chairman of Oracle and a leading Microsoft critic, said Microsoft does not develop innovative software but merely copies the ideas from other companies and bundles it into its Windows monopoly on desktop computers. …