Microsoft says rivals did same thing; Even Netscape sought exclusive deals it now faults, official says


WASHINGTON -- Microsoft Corp. unsheathed its "everybody does it defense" yesterday as a company executive played down agreements that required news and entertainment sites to exclude rival Netscape Communications Corp. in exchange for a spot on the first screen of Windows-equipped computers.

Will Poole, senior director of Microsoft business development, said the exclusive deals -- aimed at shutting out Netscape -- were no different from agreements made by America Online Inc. and Netscape itself.

Netscape, at the time of the deals, was the leading maker of browsing software and Microsoft was the underdog, Poole said. The browsing software allows computer users to navigate the Internet.

Poole also attempted to minimize complaints from those companies, including financial software maker Intuit and Disney, that had complained about the terms of the deals and how they had been treated by Microsoft.

The dispute between Microsoft and Disney was whether Disney should be allowed to let users of Netscape's Netcaster software see Disney's logo, complete with Mickey Mouse ears.

During questioning from Microsoft attorney Richard Pepperman, Poole was asked, "So we could characterize this as a dispute between the King Kong of content and the 1,000-pound gorilla over mouse ears?"

Answered Poole: "That is a fair characterization."

Poole also worked to rebut the allegations of the Department of Justice and 19 states that a part of its contracts with news and entertainment companies, known as Internet content providers, required their sites to include "degraded" content for users of Net- scape's browser.

For example, he said, the Disney site would include some extras for users of the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser rather than the Netscape browser.

Poole said the deals -- which gave the news and entertainment companies a spot on the "active desktop" on the operating system's first screen -- involved 24 out of 4 million Internet sites.

Netscape also had cut deals with 1,500 Internet content providers, Poole said.

Pub Date: 2/10/99

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