December 5, 1996 7:00 PM ET

DOJ requests Netscape documents as part of Microsoft investigation

By Margaret Kane

  Continuing its investigation of Microsoft Corp., the U.S. Department of Justice has requested documents from Netscape Communications Corp.

Netscape attorney Gary Reback said today the CID (civil investigative demand) from the Justice Department goes beyond browsers, the area of competition initially reported to be the target of the investigation.

"The [request] ... went into many aspects of Internet technology far beyond the browser market," Reback said. "The fact is, they're continuing [the investigation]. The CID is detailed and evidences a lot of thought and understanding about the Internet."

Reback declined to elaborate on which documents had been requested, saying, "I don't want to tip off Microsoft where the government is going."

In August, Netscape, of Mountain View, Calif., filed a letter with the Justice Department alleging that Microsoft had used unfair practices in its competition with Netscape over Internet browsers. Specifically, Netscape claimed that Microsoft pressured hardware OEMs to drop Netscape's Navigator software in bundled packages by threatening to revoke or alter licensing agreements for the Windows operating system.

In September, the Justice Department requested documents from Microsoft concerning its browser agreements.

Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said the Redmond, Wash., software giant was not aware of any new direction in the ongoing investigation. No documents had been requested concerning anything other than browsers, he added.

"I'm not aware of any requests other than the initial request, which focused on the browsers," Murray said.

Officials at the Justice Department could not be reached for comment.

The Netscape subpoena comes as some industry watchers are expressing concern about Microsoft's new licensing agreements for Windows 95.

According to Murray, the new license requires manufacturers to let the Windows 95 startup sequence complete itself before an end user is taken into any shell programs.

Murray said some users contacted Microsoft, confused as to whether their new systems were running Windows 95 because the systems reverted to an OEM-installed shell.

Critics, among them Netscape, charge that Microsoft is preventing competition. Netscape is developing its own shell, known as Constellation, which would expand the Navigator browser onto the desktop.

"Obviously, we would like to be on a level playing field. We don't want our stuff limited because of contracts," said Netscape spokeswoman Roseanne Siino. "On the other hand, a lot of our stuff is sold through IS departments, so [it] can be installed by IS managers."

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