Robert Bork: Antitrust case strong against Microsoft
Microsoft consultant Charles Rule and Netscape representative Robert Bork
Netscape hires former judge to press its complaints
April 26, 1998
Web posted at: 8:39 p.m. EDT (0039 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Even though Microsoft Corp. is a "great
American success story," the Justice Department can make a
strong case that the computer giant is unfairly using
monopoly power to stifle competition, says a former federal
judge hired by one of Microsoft's unhappy competitors.
Robert Bork, a one-time nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court,
said "the [antitrust] case of monopolization against
Microsoft is cold."
He disclosed April 17 that he had been hired by Netscape
Communications Corp. to push the department to pursue an
antitrust case against Microsoft.
"You have the monopoly. You have the expressed intent to
stifle competition," Bork said during an appearance Sunday on
CBS's "Face The Nation." "You have the practices which are
not necessary for consumers but do crush rivals."
"Anything that happens in an antitrust case should certainly
not damage Microsoft or its ability to innovate," Bork said.
"However, they ought not to be able to maintain their
monopoly, not by doing a better product but by using these
kinds of practices that exclude competition."
Microsoft: Consumers stand to lose
But Charles Rule, a Microsoft legal consultant, said any
Justice Department antitrust action against Microsoft
threatens innovation in the entire computer industry and is
bad news for consumers.
"You're going to have the government standing over
Microsoft's shoulder -- and ultimately, other computer
manufacturers -- deciding what products you can get, what
features they can put into their operating system, maybe even
affecting what prices Microsoft can charge," said Rule, also
on "Face The Nation."
"I've got to wonder why we in America want to take this part
of the economy that has worked so wonderfully, has driven
economic growth, and essentially put Department of Justice
lawyers and economists smack dab in the middle of making
decisions consumers ought to be making," Rule said.
Bork doesn't favor breaking up Microsoft
Bork, who has a conservative reputation for opposing
government intervention in the marketplace, said he doesn't
believe his work for Netscape conflicts with his pro-market
"Only a knee-jerk conservative would say that there's never a
case for antitrust," he said. "Now, a monopolization case
ought to be a rare thing. This is one of those rare cases."
However, he said he doesn't believe the government should try
to break up Microsoft, as it did the telephone monopoly.
Rather, he says the Justice Department should take steps to
force Microsoft to stop monopolistic practices that have
harmed Netscape and other competitors.
Netscape's Internet browser, which has about 60 percent of
the market, is the biggest competitor of Microsoft's Internet
Netscape and other competitors have complained that Microsoft
is using its dominant position in operating systems -- its
Windows software runs the vast majority of computers
worldwide -- to force computer manufacturers to give
preference to Internet Explorer.
Rule: Computer manufacturers can offer both
But Rule said Microsoft's goal is not to stifle Netscape but
to "make the computing easier" by making Internet access
"Microsoft creates a product. It says to a computer
manufacturer, 'If you want to sell that product, put it on
your machine as we've made it. You can add additional
features -- Netscape's browser -- on to it,'" Rule said.
"When it comes to your house, you can go to the Internet,
download Netscape's browser. You can take the Internet
Explorer icon off the desktop."
Rule said Microsoft will include Internet Explorer on its new
Windows 98 software, which will be released soon to computer
manufacturers who use Microsoft systems.
"If computer manufacturers want to put Netscape's browser on
there, too, they can still do it, as they have in the past
and can in the future," Rule said.