Microsoft Appeals `Monopoly' Ruling
Glanz, William, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Lawyers for Redmond, Wash.-based software giant Microsoft Corp. told the U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday the company did not illegally stifle competition.
Microsoft and the federal government fielded a barrage of questions from all seven judges in the company's appeal of a federal judge's ruling that the company violated U.S. antitrust law and should be split in two.
Lawyers spent the first of two days of oral arguments fighting about Microsoft maintaining a monopoly in the market for operating systems and about the company's practice of tying Internet Explorer, its popular Web browser, to the Windows operating system to market a single, dominant product.
Neither Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Minear nor Microsoft attorney Richard Urowsky escaped the courtroom before undergoing aggressive questioning.
Microsoft is trying to reverse a decision last year by District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who concluded the company violated antitrust laws by using illegal methods to protect its monopoly in computer-operating systems and said the company must be split in two. He also said the company tried illegally to use its dominance of operating systems to gain a monopoly of the market for Internet browsers.
The federal government, 18 states and the District filed their suit against Microsoft in May 1998.
The first half of yesterday's hearing was dominated by discussion of whether Microsoft maintained and expanded its operating-system monopoly by stifling competition from Netscape Navigator, a rival Web browser.
Mr. Urowsky told the appeals court the government's case was damaged by the availability of Netscape's browser.
"Nothing Microsoft did foreclosed Netscape from any portion of the marketplace," he said.
Offering evidence that Netscape was unscathed by Microsoft, Mr. Urowsky said the number of Navigator users increased from 15 million to 33 million from 1996 to 1998.
"Millions of people chose to use Navigator despite" the fact rival Explorer was included with Windows, said Mr. Urowsky, who is arguing the case before the same U.S. Court of Appeals that ruled for Microsoft in a related matter in 1998.
Although the number of people buying the product increased, Netscape's share of the market has fallen, according to San Diego-based Internet research firm WebSideStory.
The research firm says Netscape's share of the global browser market has fallen from 13 percent in June to 12 percent Feb. 21. The company had an 80 percent share of the market in 1996. …