Microsoft Trial Update: Both Sides Put Spin On Courtroom Events

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In what is fast becoming a tradition, lawyers on both sides of the government-Microsoft Corp. rift took turns outside the courtroom putting a spin on the day's events.

Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray was quick to claim victory from Wednesday morning's session at which attorney John Warden rebutted Netscape Communications Corp.'s claims that Microsoft tried to run it out of the browser business with predatory pricing.

"We think this was a very good day for Microsoft in court," Murray said. The company presented "very powerful facts that undermined and chipped away at the government's case," he added.

Microsoft attorney Warden used E-mail and a deposition from Netscape Chairman Jim Clark to show that Microsoft planned to put the browser into Windows and give it away, even in advance of a June 1995 meeting between the companies.

Netscape executives said that at that meeting Microsoft tried to force them into dividing up the browser market, ceding the large Windows segment of that market to Microsoft. The implication is that when Netscape refused, Microsoft opted to carpet the world with free browsers, thus forcing Netscape from the game.

The evidence presented also showed that Netscape has not been "foreclosed" from the market but makes money on its Netcenter portal and other non-browser-related products, Murray said.

Netscape attorneys begged to differ. Christine Varney, a former Federal Trade Commission member and now Netscape attorney, pooh-poohed evidence in a December 1994 E-mail from Clark to Microsoft Vice President Brad Silverberg soliciting an equity investment from Microsoft and offering up Netscape Navigator for Microsoft's use.

"This is another attempt by Microsoft to make fiction out of fact," Varney said.

That December 1994 message should not be relevant, she argued. "The company had not shipped its product, money was running out, and I think [Clark] was a little nervous."

The later June 1995 meeting was in no way related to Clark's message, she said.

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