October 16, 1998 8:00 AM PDT

Senator comments on Microsoft

The war of words heated up just days before Microsoft is set to go to trial to defend its business practices, which critics charge are anticompetitive.

As earlier reported, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) weighed in with his first remarks on the case.

"I believe the Justice Department's (DOJ) antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, no matter how it comes out, has encouraged important public discussion of anticompetitive practices in the software industry," Daschle said in a statement. "High-tech industries are the key to America's future competitiveness, and we simply cannot afford to look the other way when serious questions are raised about allegedly inappropriate business practices."

The battle promises to escalate today. That's when former U.S. Court of Appeals judge Robert Bork, Jeffrey Eisenach, president of the Progress & Freedom Foundation, and Mitchell Pettit, executive director of ProComp, will address "how stopping Microsoft's anticompetitive abuse of monopoly power will benefit innovation in the high-tech industry" in Washington, D.C.

Microsoft has denied any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, government attorneys See related story:
Microsoft's holy war on Javaplan to show a videotaped deposition of Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates at the software giant's trial set to start Monday at 10 a.m. ET, a court filing revealed.

As for Microsoft, the company released several new letters from politicians that appeared critical of the government's legal actions against Microsoft.

The Justice Department and 20 states, which filed a broad antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft in May, announced their intention in a court filing released Wednesday. The brief was filed with a separate list of exhibits also filed Wednesday, that catalogues more than 1,200 exhibits the government intends to introduce in the case.

Government officials have said privately that Gates repeatedly sparred with government attorneys during the three-day deposition taken this summer and claimed he had trouble remembering sending and receiving documents at the heart of the case. The government also intends to introduce a deposition taken of Gates in a separate case Microsoft is involved in with Caldera.

In addition to Gates's pretrial testimony, the government intends to enter into the record depositions of numerous other individuals. They include:

  • Microsoft executives Steve Ballmer, Brad Chase, Jim Allchin, Ben Slivka, and Charles Fitzgerald;

  • executives from Microsoft competitors, including Netscape Communications' Marc Andreessen, RealNetworks' Phil Barrett, Santa Cruz Operations' Wayne Bergland, and Bristol Technology's Keith Blackwell.

    Microsoft also filed a list of exhibits and depositions to be introduced at trial. Representatives from the company were not immediately available for comment.

    On the lobbying front, Microsoft during the past month has lined up the support of several new politicians, most notably a letter from Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. Thompson, whose state is among the 20 taking on Microsoft, refers to a 13-year antitrust case the government waged on IBM.

    "We are concerned that the legal action by the DOJ and several state attorneys general against another American success story, Microsoft, may again undermine American leadership in this vital sector of the economy," Thompson wrote in the September 9 letter. "While we support enforcement of antitrust laws to preserve competition and protect consumers, this action appears to benefit a specific competitor or group of competitors rather than consumer [sic] or the marketplace."

    Microsoft released a separate letter signed by 27 members of the House that also criticized the case. Separate letters signed by 14 Senate members make vague criticisms of the case as well.

    Reuters contributed to this report.

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