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Robert Bork: Antitrust case strong against Microsoft

Rule and Bork
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 views.

"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 Explorer.

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 easier.

"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.

 
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