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Microsoft Exec Denies Trying to Harm Netscape

From Reuters

A top Microsoft Corp. executive defended his company Friday in written testimony for the firm’s antitrust trial, contradicting other witnesses and flatly denying he ever threatened to cut off the “air supply” of rival Netscape Communications Corp.

The testimony by Paul Maritz, a vice president who is one of the most senior executives at Microsoft, answered charges made during the first 12 weeks of the trial by executives of Apple Computer Corp., Intel Corp. and Netscape.

The most dramatic charge came from Intel Vice President Steven McGeady, who testified that during a September 1995 meeting in Oregon, Maritz described Netscape as their common enemy and outlined plans to “cut off Netscape’s air supply.”

Maritz said that never happened.

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“I never said, in the presence of Intel personnel or otherwise, that Microsoft would ‘cut off Netscape’s air supply,’ or words to that effect,” Maritz declared in his 160-page written testimony. He will be cross-examined next week.

McGeady said that Maritz’s words meant that Microsoft planned to cut off income to Netscape so it would be unable to pay its engineers and compete.

Microsoft later gave away its Internet Explorer Web browser, forcing Netscape to also give away its Web browser.

The Justice Department and 19 states allege that because the browser had been a key source of income for Netscape, Microsoft’s action was part of a pattern of unfair competition. The government alleges that Microsoft used a monopoly in the Windows operating system to preserve that monopoly and to gain advantage in other business areas.

The government said that Microsoft, in a meeting with Netscape held on June 21, 1995, proposed dividing the market for Internet browser software, threatening to crush Netscape if it did not cooperate.

Netscape Chief Executive Jim Barksdale testified Microsoft used the meeting to propose that Netscape abandon providing browsers for Windows 95, which was set to come out later that year. Instead, Netscape would be permitted to provide browsers in the diminishing market for the older Windows 3.1 operating system.

Maritz said that did not happen.

“I never instructed any Microsoft personnel to seek a ‘division of the market,’ nor do I believe that any such proposal was ever made,” said Maritz.

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