UPDATE: Judge Rules Microsoft Broke the Law

BOSTON (04/03/2000) - U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson today ruled that Microsoft Corp. violated federal antitrust laws.

Issuing his "conclusions of law" in the U.S. government's antitrust case against the software maker, Jackson ruled that "Microsoft maintained its monopoly power by anticompetitive means and attempted to monopolize the Web browser market," in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Law.

The judge also ruled that Microsoft's tying of its Internet Explorer Web browser to the Windows operating system was illegal, and found that the software maker broke various U.S. state laws as well as federal laws. The U.S.

Department of Justice (DOJ), 19 U.S. state attorneys general and the District of Columbia are plaintiffs in the case.

Microsoft issued a statement after the conclusions of law were released saying that the company will appeal today's ruling.

Although the judge ruled that Microsoft's marketing deals with other vendors were not unlawful, his verdict endorses the U.S. government position on other key points of the case and paints a damning picture of anticompetitive behavior by a company bent on controlling the Internet browser market and maintaining its operating systems monopoly.

Microsoft behaved as a "profit-maximizing firm" in its approach to stomping out competition in middleware, specifically when it came to dealing with Netscape Communication Corp.'s Navigator Web browser and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java technology.

"Microsoft early on recognized middleware as the Trojan horse" that if left to march on would "enter the market for Intel-compatible PC operating systems unimpeded," Jackson wrote in his verdict.

"Simply put, middleware threatened to demolish Microsoft's coveted monopoly power. Alerted to the threat, Microsoft strove over a period of approximately four years to prevent middleware technologies from fostering the development of enough full-featured, cross-platform applications to erode the applications barrier," Jackson wrote.

Microsoft's effort "succeeded in preventing -- for several years, and perhaps permanently -- Navigator and Java from fulfilling their potential to open the market for Intel-compatible PC operating systems to competition on the merits," Jackson found.

(More details to follow.)

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