DOJ seeks contempt charge against Microsoft

The Department of Justice filed papers today with U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Jackson asking that Microsoft Corporation be held in contempt for not complying with his order barring the company from forcing OEMs to bundle Internet Explorer browser with Windows 95. The DOJ is complaining that Microsoft's half-hearted attempt to "comply" with the injunction has been "an absolute mockery of the preliminary injunction."

In what can only be described as a childish response to the Justice Department, Microsoft announced that it would offer a "stripped," older version of Windows 95 to OEMs that didn't want IE bundled with the OS. As an alternative, Microsoft is even offering an "unusable" version, in an attempt to prove that stripping IE from Windows 95 makes the OS unusable. The DOJ, however, is asking the court to force Microsoft to give OEMs the latest version of Windows 95, minus Internet Explorer.

"Microsoft has gone from tying its products to tying the hands of its vendors," said Joel Klein, head of the DOJ's anti-trust division. "The more Microsoft continues this practice, the more consumers are harmed."

Since Microsoft is not complying in good faith with the injunction, the DOJ is requesting the Microsoft be forced to notify the DOJ 30 days in advance whenever it wishes to release a new or updated operating system or browser. It is also asking the court to charge Microsoft $1 million a day.

Microsoft, for its part, is showing its complete lack of respect for the judicial system by releasing a new version of Windows 95, OSR-2.5, to its top vendors, that bundles Internet Explorer 4.01 with Windows 95 in a single install. The rest of Microsoft's OEMs can expect to receive OSR-2.5 by next week.

"It's optional for OEMs as to whether they offer their customers OSR 2.5," said Shannon Perdue, a Windows product manager at Microsoft. "The advantage is, they'll be able to preload it from a single CD or include just one CD in the box, instead of two, as they currently do."

Microsoft maintains that OSR-2.5 is not a violation of the 1995 consent decree because OEMs have the option of installing it or not.

Justice isn't convinced.

"Microsoft's naked attempt to defeat the purpose of the court order and to further its litigation strategy is an affront to the court's authority," the DOJ said in court documents

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