WASHINGTON -- Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Bill Gates met with the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust chief to make a personal appeal that blocking the release of Windows 98 would seriously disrupt the computer industry, company and government officials said yesterday.
Gates met in Washington for about two hours Tuesday night with Assistant Attorney General Joel Klein and other Justice Department antitrust officials, just hours after Gates made a similar pitch at a New York news conference. Dozens of computer industry officials took part in the New York City event.
The Gates-Klein meeting "was just an opportunity for [Gates] to express his views on the investigation," said Justice Department spokeswoman Gina M. Talamona. "Our investigation is continuing. No decisions have been made. That's where we stand."
Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said there was no discussion of any settlement of the company's dispute with the Justice Department to head off a lawsuit. "Those issues were not raised," he said.
A Microsoft official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was not aware of any other meetings scheduled between the company and the Justice Department.
However, the official said he expected another meeting before the Justice Department files a lawsuit. The idea would be to give the company one last chance to present its views before enforcers take any action.
Gates requested the meeting to talk about the history of operating system innovation in the software industry and to convince Klein that the changes Microsoft was making in Windows 98 were part of the evolution of technology, the official said.
The Justice Department and a dozen state attorneys general are considering whether to seek an injunction to block the May 15 shipment of the Windows 98 operating system to personal computer manufacturers.
Antitrust enforcers are concerned that Microsoft is using its dominant position in operating systems to leverage control of new markets, particularly for Internet browsers.
Gates, accompanied by Microsoft's chief counsel, William Neukom, met with Klein and other Justice Department aides at the Washington law offices of Sullivan & Cromwell, which represents Microsoft.
Such meetings with a company are a normal part of the process when the Justice Department conducts an antitrust investigation, Talamona said.
Gates said in New York that he viewed the threat of an injunction as "a serious situation." Microsoft officials have also been meeting with state attorneys general to present the company's views.
"We think the meeting was very constructive," Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said. "We requested the meeting as part of our ongoing dialogue with the department on these critical issues."
Pub Date: 5/07/98