Microsoft releases its proposed conclusions of law

Microsoft Corporation has issued its proposed conclusions of law in its antitrust case, a response to Judge Jackson's November findings of fact. While Microsoft disagrees with Jackson, this document forced the company to publicly admit that the findings painted "an unflattering picture of the company," while "the findings do not add up an antitrust violation," to use Microsoft's own words. In other words, since Microsoft's proposed conclusions must legally agree with the findings of fact, it is now attempting to prove that those findings do not add up to breaking the law.

"Microsoft respectfully disagrees with many of the Court's findings of fact and believes they are unsupported by the record," the filing reads. "Even accepting the Court's findings of fact, plaintiffs still have not satisfied their burden under the governing law on any of their claims."

In its filing, Microsoft steps through each of the government's allegations, including product tying, preferential contracts, first screen restrictions for PC makers, attempting monopolization of the Web browser market, and the maintenance of its Windows monopoly. Microsoft attempts to show that each of the allegations is unsupported and that the company was simply trying to compete. For example, Microsoft doesn't believe that it has illegally tied its Web browser to the Windows operating system. Rather, it has provided this integration to benefit the millions of Windows users and reduced costs for consumers.

Microsoft further argues that while it was allegedly attempting to push Netscape out of the Web browser market, Netscape was still able to distribute 160 million copies of its Navigator and Communicator software in 1998 alone.

Microsoft argues that its control of the first screen that users see when they boot Windows is simply a protection of its copyright. It quotes past court cases where a distributor cannot pull apart a copyrighted work simply to distribute only part of it. Microsoft says that PC makers are given "significant flexibility" to modify the Windows desktop in various ways, however.

As for attempting to monopolize the Web browser market, Microsoft says that the court's own findings prove that the company was simply trying to prevent Netscape from becoming the de facto browser client and that competition is not illegal.

But the most controversial part of Microsoft's brief, perhaps, concerns its response to the allegation of illegal monopoly maintenance. Microsoft denies emphatically that it even has a monopoly in Intel PC operating systems, while noting that such a market is too narrowly defined anyway, because Windows faces threats from many outlets, some of which cannot be defined as "Intel PC operating systems." Microsoft says that its most serious threats come from other places, such as Java and AOL.

An extensive examination of this document will follow, but a preliminary reading suggests nothing unexpected. In Microsoft's eyes, it has done nothing wrong. One might wonder how the government could have had the temerity to bring them to trial in the first place

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