D-Day Against Microsoft

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WASHINGTON: Game on. After a three-day delay for negotiations with Microsoft that one source described as a "non-event," Janet Reno and state Attorneys General finally filed their antitrust suit Monday. "We want to make sure the field is open to the next Microsoft," Reno explained. Her first swing: A sweeping preliminary injunction that , if granted, will force Microsoft to bundle Netscape Navigator along with Internet Explorer -- or unbundle Explorer altogether.

Which should confirm Bill Gates' worst fears. In an exclusive interview with TIME published Monday, Gates says he will “seize every opportunity to settle” -- while displaying a near-paranoid antipathy to the forces of law and order.When deal-brokering DOJ lawyers suggested he might think about bundling Netscape with Explorer, Gates saw a conspiracy. “Netscape,” he claims, “was able to get the government working on its behalf.”

Not that the Microsoft boss has to worry. The Netscape proposal is unlikely to stand up in court, according to antitrust expert Professor William Kovacic. And it’ll be tough for the government to show -- as it must -- that Explorer is “a completely stand-alone product.” Then again, few believe Redmond’s repeated claim that the browser is a mere part of Windows’ “functionality.” What does that leave us with? Same standoff, different courtroom.