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MS subpoenas AOL-Netscape documents

Which may eventually tell us interesting things about the Sun connection

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MS on Trial Microsoft has issued subpoenas to Netscape, AOL and Sun requesting documents relating to the AOL takeover of Netscape. The company has already been given access to some documents covering the subject, but is now chasing additional information. The subpoenas were authorised last week, and Microsoft expects replies by the end of this week. When the AOL-Netscape deal was announced last year Microsoft hailed it -- somewhat optimistically -- as proving that it was not an invincible monopoly. The Department of Justice should therefore, said Microsoft, fold its tents and go home. AOL currently offers Internet Explorer as its preferred browser, and is contracted to continue to do this until 2001, but there is clear justification to Microsoft's view that once it owns Netscape it will be inevitable that AOL will switch back to Navigator, and boost Netscape's market share back up. But it's a little difficult to interpret that as meaning that Microsoft's activities didn't actually damage Netscape in the long run, and Microsoft still has to prove that it didn't try to damage Netscape. The effect of the deal on the browser wars however is less interesting than the construction of the deal itself, and Sun's role in it. With luck, the subpoenaed documents should provide useful material on this. The Sun alliance which was announced at the same time as the takeover includes significant financial advantages for AOL-Netscape, and could be viewed as subsidising the deal to some extent (see MS to see documents). It's not Sun that's on trial here, of course, but Microsoft ought to be able to make some mileage out of the cartel aspects of the deal, and back up its plaintive claims that it's done nothing wrong, and anyway, everybody does it. ® Complete Register trial coverage

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