Microsoft and government each name 3 rebuttal witnesses

Final phase of trial to begin later this month

Antitrust trial

May 04, 1999|By COX NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Barring a last-minute settlement, the Microsoft antitrust trial will enter the payoff phase, probably late this month, with the warring parties seeking to overcome weak spots in their initial arguments.

The Justice Department and Microsoft Corp. each named three rebuttal witnesses yesterday. They will use those witnesses to try to gain the upper hand during the crucial period of the case, which promises to shape antitrust law in the high-technology field for the coming century.

Microsoft will call David Colburn, senior vice president for business affairs of America Online Inc.; Gordon Eubanks, president and chief executive officer of Oblix Inc.; and Richard Schmalensee, acting dean of the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The government witnesses will be Garry Norris, an International Business Machines Corp. executive; Franklin Fisher of MIT, who in earlier testimony argued that Windows has given Microsoft monopoly powers that it has used to engage in anti-competitive business practices; and Edward Felten, a computer science professor at Princeton University who also testified earlier.

The Justice Department and 19 states, which sued Microsoft nearly a year ago, must seek to show how the company's hardball business tactics have harmed consumers by driving up prices or by curtailing innovation.

Before a Feb. 26 recess, prosecutors offered compelling evidence that Microsoft repeatedly used its Windows-based market dominance to pressure personal computer makers and software companies to dance to its tune, especially in their choices of Internet browsers.

So, the rebuttal case for the defense is aimed at persuading U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson that Microsoft's power over the personal computer market is limited and, perhaps in the long run, transitory.

In court documents unsealed yesterday, IBM, the world's largest computer maker, presented evidence to support the government's charge that Microsoft has used its Windows software licenses to maintain a choke hold on computer makers.

"Our rebuttal witnesses will show that the $10 billion merger of AOL and Netscape completely undercuts the government's case," said William Neukom, Microsoft's general counsel. "Our rebuttal witnesses will also show that competition and innovation are stronger than ever in the software industry."

The trial is not expected to resume before May 24.

Pub Date: 5/04/99

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