Microsoft still pushing for access to professors' Netscape research
October 5, 1998
by Clare Haney
(IDG) -- Microsoft late yesterday filed a motion in the Federal District Court in Boston to force two U.S. academics to turn over materials the software giant believes are crucial in its antitrust battle with the U.S. Department of Justice.
The materials Ð audio tapes, notes, letters and e-mail messages Ð are background research for a forthcoming book about Netscape and the development of the company's Navigator Web browser. The book, written by David Yoffie of Harvard Business School and Michael Cusumano, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management is called "Competing on Internet Time: Lessons From Netscape and Its Battle With Microsoft."
Microsoft subpoenaed Cusumano and Yoffie last week seeking access to the primary materials. The deadline for the pair to hand over the materials was Monday, but the professors' universities are challenging the subpoena in the U.S. District Court.
In a statement yesterday, Microsoft said the content of the academics' materials "seriously undermines" the U.S. government's allegations that Microsoft used illegal business practices in its fight against Netscape's Navigator browser.
Microsoft wants to use the materials in a DoJ vs. Microsoft trial beginning Oct. 15 that hinges on whether the software company illegally used its commanding position in the operating systems market to create a dominant position over Netscape in the Web browser market.
In an interview on Tuesday, Cusumano told IDGNS that the authors' 60 hours of taped interviews with Netscape employees detail company business and technology decisions that turned sour.
From Microsoft's point of view, the tapes show that many of Netscape's difficulties with Navigator were its rival's own doing.
"In interviews with Messrs. Cusumano and Yoffie, various Netscape officers and employees frankly conceded that many of Netscape's problems were of its own creation," Microsoft attorney Steven L. Holleyman said in an affidavit included with the Microsoft motion yesterday. He added, "Their account directly contradicts the government's case against Microsoft."
In his affidavit, the Microsoft attorney cited the academics' research to refute the DoJ's and U.S. states' contention that Microsoft illegally persuaded America Online to use Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser instead of Netscape Navigator.
"Ram Shriram, Netscape's former vice president in charge of sales to computer manufacturers, told the authors that Netscape's loss of the AOL business to Microsoft was Netscape's own fault," Holleyman said in his affidavit.
His affidavit also cites Michael Toy, the Netscape employee responsible for releasing new versions of Netscape Navigator. "[Toy] told Messrs. Cusumano and Yoffie that the code base for Netscape's Web browsing software was slapped together originally and had never been fixed," Holleyman said.
Leaving no doubt as to how important Microsoft believes the materials to be its antitrust case, his affidavit added, "There are many other quotations in the book that reflect the shortsighted manner in which Netscape conducted its business. Many of those quotations are attributed to persons who are, or were, among the most senior executives at Netscape. Their account directly contradicts the government's case against Microsoft."
Clare Haney writes for the IDG News Service in Hong Kong.
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