Justice Calls for Microsoft Sanction

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Claiming that Microsoft violated a 1995 consent decree, Attorney General Janet Reno stunned the software industry Monday afternoon by asking a federal court to hold the company in contempt for forcing PC makers to license it's browser, Internet Explorer, along with its desktop software, Windows '95. Reno also asked that Microsoft pay a fine of $1 million a day until the company changed its distribution practices. "Microsoft is unlawfully taking advantage of its Windows monopoly to protect and extend that monopoly," Reno told reporters.

Those awaiting a response from the Great and Powerful One had to settle for a confident (yet curiously error-riddled) press release on the company's website: "We are operating in a completely appropriate and lawful mannerare operating in a completely lawful manner," it quoted William H. Neukom, Microsoft's Senior Vice President for Law and Corporate Affairs, as saying. "The consent decree specifically explicitly states that allows Microsoft to may integrate new features into the operating system that it licenses to PC manufacturers without violating the decree."

The Justice Department considers those "new features" to be a browser by any other name, a separate product from the Windows desktop, and thus subject to anti-trust law. It's now up to the courts; but the early betting on Wall Street was that there's very little that the boys from Redmond can't buy/bully their way out of. A pleasant earnings reports at day's end left Microsoft stock up 1/4 at 132 1/2. Rival browser-pusher Netscape was up 4 5/16 after a early $6 rise.

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