Microsoft's Case Against Itself

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If Microsoft ever goes down to defeat in the lawsuits brought Monday by the Justice Department and 20 states, it may just have been condemned out of its own mouth. For this, the largest antitrust action in history, DOJ investigators have spent months assembling an armory of smoking guns: internal e-mails and memos that, if they are to be believed, represent Redmond’s private face. And it’s not a pretty sight.

In Justice’s filing, Microsoft executives are shown describing the promotion of Internet Explorer as a “jihad” to win the browser war. “Netscape pollution must be eradicated,” Microsoft vice president Jeff Raikes writes. Another memo details company plans to “kill cross-platform Java.” Even Bill Gates appears in a different light, offering Intuit CEO Scott Cook $1 million “in return for switching browsers in the next few months.”

All in all, it’s a far cry from the company line -- and antitrust defense -- that Explorer is a mere part of Windows “functionality.” Without having seen the extracts, Microsoft counsel William Neukom accused the DOJ of “pulling excerpts out of documents out of context.” Yet Christian Wildfeuer’s alleged e-mail of February 1997, for one, couldn’t be clearer: “It will be very hard to increase market share on the merits of Internet Explorer 4 alone,” the Microsoft executive is quoted as writing. “It will be more important to leverage the Operating System asset to make people use IE instead of Navigator.”

More bad news for Microsoft: It was revealed late Monday that its case would be heard by Thomas Penfield Jackson, the same judge who ordered Windows 95 unbundled back in December. Jackson is reported to be giving the DOJ’s request for a preliminary injunction his immediate attention. In the face of overwhelming evidence, Microsoft has a lot of explaining to do.