Article 10 of 448
plays rough with Microsoft attorneys by Dorothee Moisan
ATTENTION - ADDS details from hearing ///
WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (AFP) - Microsoft's lead attorney came
under surprisingly sharp questioning from a federal appeals
panel here Monday as he sought to convince the court the
company had not tried to stifle competition.
The seven-judge panel turned up the heat on attorney
Richard Urowsky on the first day of a two-day hearing before
the US Court of Appeals.
The tone of the questioning shattered the notion that the
appeals panel might be more sympathetic to Microsoft, which is
trying to overturn a lower court ruling that it violated
antitrust law and should be broken up.
Urowsky insisted that while Microsoft enjoyed a powerful
position in the market for personal computer operating
systems, it had not abused such power and had done nothing to
harm the operations of rival Netscape.
"Microsoft did nothing to foreclose Netscape from any
marketplace," he insisted.
He also denied that the company, with its market-dominant
Windows platform, had a monopoly in the operating systems
"There is no question that Microsoft has some market power
but that does not represent monopoly power."
Jeffrey Minear, representing the US Justice Department,
also confronted a series of pointed questions from the court.
Chief Judge Harry Edwards challenged the government's
contention that an alliance between Netscape and Sun
Microsystems -- and its Java programming language -- had
threatened Microsoft, prompting it to try to eliminate
competition in the software sector.
Netscape, according to Edwards, had neither the ability nor
the intention to threaten Microsoft.
Attorneys for the software giant and the US Justice
Department will have a total of seven hours -- equally divided
between the two sides -- spread over two days to present their
Microsoft is challenging findings by US District Court
Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who last April upheld charges
by the Justice Department and a coalition of states that the
company had abused its monopoly position in the personal
computer operating systems market and had sought to snuff out
Microsoft also rejected Jackson's subsequent directive,
issued in June, that it should be split into two entities, one
to develop its Windows operating platform and another to
specialize in software applications.
Legal experts have said the company stands a reasonable
chance of getting Jackson's "remedy" -- the breakup directive
"The remedy is way too severe given the facts of the case,"
said Nicholas Economides , a New York University
professor of economics and an antitrust expert.
"The most likely (outcome) is that they will find Microsoft
liable on some points and then send it back to the district
court to discuss a remedy in much greater detail."
Economides suggested that in place of the breakup
order, the district court could impose restrictions on
Microsoft's corporate conduct -- notably affecting its
relations with computer makers -- while keeping the group
The appeals court will be considering whether Microsoft, as
Jackson found, violated antitrust law by exploiting the
market- dominant position of the Windows platform to hamper
the operations of rival software providers.
In particular, the court will focus on Microsoft's decision
to "tie" its Internet browser Explorer to the Windows system,
which according to the government was done to thwart sales of
the Navigator browser offered by Netscape.
The seven judges will also review the remedy imposed by
Jackson as well as his conduct of the trial and his
out-of-court remarks to the press, which according to
Microsoft revealed a bias against the company.