Let the games begin: Microsoft trial opens

The historic Microsoft antitrust case began today in a courtroom in Washington D.C. as the U.S. Department of Justice spelled out the various anti-competitive and illegal practices it believes Microsoft is guilty of. New York Assistant Attorney General Stephen Houck and DOJ chief litigator David Boies presented the government's opening statements on Monday, attempting to establish that Microsoft's Windows operating system has a monopoly. This monopoly, they said, is abused by Microsoft as they attempt to gain entrance--and dominance--in other markets.

They also sought to cast doubt on the credibility of Microsoft executives, especially CEO Bill Gates, by comparing comments they've made publicly with numerous email messages that were sent internally around the company. Other damaging evidence includes notes from Netscape officials at a meeting with Microsoft officials, email messages from AOL executives, and internal memos from Microsoft, all showing that Microsoft would "crush" Netscape if they didn't come to an illegal collusion deal with the company.

"This, your honor, in and of itself is a clear example of attempted monopolization," said the DOJ's Boies.

Boies summarized Microsoft's other attempts at blocking competition, such as their bullying of Intel, Apple Computer, and Sun Microsystems. Microsoft threatened to stop working on a version of Office for Apple's Macintosh if the company didn't back its Internet Explorer browser over Netscape, for example.

In all, the charges against Microsoft are substantial, but the government didn't really introduce any new themes during the first day of the trial, which is expected to last about six weeks. On Tuesday, the first witnesses will be brought to the stand, including Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale and Apple Computer's Avie Tevanian.

"We are off to a great start," said Assistant Attorney General Joel Klein. "In the weeks ahead, we will detail with great care the specifics of the charges we made today. It is time that everyone studies the facts...and learns the truth.

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