Netscape accuses Microsoft of unfair tactics

August 22, 1996|By SEATTLE TIMES

SEATTLE -- Netscape Communications says more than hot products and sophisticated marketing are fueling Microsoft in the race for the World Wide Web browser market.

Netscape has sent a detailed letter to the Justice Department containing allegations that Microsoft uses strong-arm negotiations and quiet side payments to persuade computer manufacturers and Internet-service providers to favor Microsoft's products.

Microsoft uses its leverage as the maker of Windows, the operating software used in the vast majority of personal computers, to persuade its business customers to favor Microsoft, Netscape attorney Gary Reback wrote in the letter dated Aug. 12. The letter comes as the companies battle over who will control the software that lets computer users surf through the World Wide Web.

Reback outlines several scenarios in which Microsoft allegedly violated federal antitrust laws and the terms of a 1994 agreement between Microsoft and the government over the sale of Microsoft's operating-system software.

"Microsoft muzzles all of the [computer manufacturers] with 'nondisclosure' terms that place them in an entirely untenable position: They have been induced with secret payments and ostensibly cannot tell anyone, including their customers, about them," the letter states.

The letter accuses Microsoft of offering prime placement on the Windows desktop to major Internet providers that make Netscape's browser "less accessible" to their customers. Microsoft has offered free hardware and software to smaller Internet-service providers that also make Netscape inaccessible, according to the letter.

Microsoft denied that it is violating antitrust laws. "We do deals to try to make our browser the one people prefer, and Netscape does exactly the same thing," said an official. "Our business dealings are on the up and up."

Pub Date: 8/22/96

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