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‘How much to screw Netscape’ memo sheds light on AOL IE deal

These days AOL claims IE was technically superior -- but what was it saying at the time?

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It will not help Microsoft's case that AOL has a document which details a meeting between Microsoft and AOL executives, where Gates was trying to persuade AOL to drop Netscape and use Internet Explorer only. The document is dated 21 January 1996, and was written by David Cole, an AOL executive. To make matters even more difficult for Microsoft, it was widely distributed at AOL, making its repudiation essentially impossible, especially as the meeting took place only three days earlier. It is noted that Microsoft was also willing to offer a "significant long-term commitment to buying advertising from AOL... on the order of tens of millions of dollars of advertising and promotion". The note includes: "Gates delivered a characteristically blunt query: how much do we need to pay you to screw Netscape?" Microsoft is dismissing this as "a third-hand reflection of the meeting" but as has been said before in another case (by Mandy Rice Davies during the Profumo scandal), "they would say that, wouldn't they?" The beautiful irony about this is that the AOL internal memo would not have been disclosed by AOL, because of its ongoing fear of Microsoft, had it not been for a subpoena served on AOL by Microsoft demanding all such documents, which automatically gave the DoJ access to the document. The document also reveals that Microsoft's Netscape strategy was to "bundle increased functions in their existing product lines and turn the screws on their channels". It is good evidence that Microsoft did indeed add Internet functionality to Windows to harm Netscape, and that Microsoft did pressure OEMs and ISPs to stop including Navigator. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories

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