Feeds

How Microsoft squeezed Netscape out of contracts – Barksdale

Netscape CEO's testimony details 'anticompetitive' allegations

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Boost IT visibility and business value

Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale will take the stand in the Microsoft antitrust trial later today with his testimony already in the court records. Barksdale will be cross-examined on his testimony, but in accordance with Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's wishes to speed up the trial, the text of his 127 page deposition was released by the DoJ late last night. Unsurprisingly, the deposition is wide-ranging, alleging a concerted Microsoft campaign to destroy Netscape by altering Windows software to disadvantage rival browsers, by restrictive contracts, and by giving away the browser free, or even paying ISPs to distribute it rather than Netscape Navigator. Barksdale covers the meeting of June 1995 where Netscape claims Microsoft offered to carve up the browser market with it, and says that in exchange for steering clear of the Windows browser segment Netscape would be made a preferred Microsoft partner, giving it privileged access to API and technologies. This is an area that's been well-trodden in the past by Microsoft's critics -- applications developers have complained about 'secret' hooks in the OS that were known only to Microsoft's developers. So Barksdale is claiming not only that Microsoft concedes such things exist, but that the company does use them as a competitive weapon, granting or declining access to them as it chooses. Says Barksdale: "I have never been in a meeting in my 33-year business career in which a competitor has so blatantly implied that we should either stop competing with it, or the competitor would kill us... I have never heard nor experienced such an explicit proposal to divide markets." After Netscape declined the offer, Barksdale says that Netscape's ISP customers were slowly picked off. It had over 1000 ISP browser contracts in 1995-96, but now Barksdale says practically none of these remain as originally negotiated (although Microsoft here might observe that it would be a strange ISP that was still paying Netscape $20 a pop when Navigator's been free since last winter). AOL went exclusive with Internet Explorer, and the fact that Explorer was free shoehorned Netscape out of other accounts. He describes how Erol, then a major US regional ISP, defected: "According to Erol's CEO, Microsoft not only offered Internet Explorer for free, but also offered to pay 20 per cent of the $600,000 a month Erols' spends in advertising along with some other attractive incentive he didn't disclose." Other ISPs dropped Navigator complaining that they couldn't afford to pay Netscape when Explorer was free, even saying that they still preferred Netscape as they did so. Barksdale also covers the Compaq episode, when Microsoft threatened to withdraw Compaq's Windows 95 licence. Microsoft's case here is that Compaq was making changes to Windows in contravention of its licence terms, and that these terms are intended to protect the integrity of Windows. Barksdale, however, says that what this boiled down to was that Microsoft would terminate Compaq's licence if it removed IE and substituted Netscape, or even if it put the Netscape icon alongside the Explorer one. In addition to this, Barksdale cites a long list of OEMs he claims have been forced at best to offer Netscape only limited contracts. Basically, he's painting a picture of how Microsoft set out to cut off Netscape's air supply. Nor did the giveaways stop at IE -- Barksdale claims that some corporate customers were given free upgrades to Windows 95 in exchange for standardising on IE internally. These are at the moment largely allegations that Microsoft can deny, but that's exactly why the DoJ and Microsoft are tussling so hard over access to Microsoft's databases. If Microsoft has been offering special terms or even subsidies in order to knock Netscape out of OEMs, ISPs and corporate customers, this should show up from the numbers in its sales databases. If not, then Microsoft could no doubt exonerate itself by letting the DoJ see the figures. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.