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A JURY in Connecticut found Microsoft innocent of violating US anti- trust laws in the case brought against it by Bristol Technology. But Microsoft was found guilty of acting deceptively in its dealings with Bristol, contravening the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, and had to pay only a nominal $1 in damages, instead of the $263m Bristol sought. Bristol claimed Microsoft refused to negotiate a new licence and blocked access to the source code of Windows NT, which Bristol needed to build its software allowing Microsoft products to run on Unix systems.

Analysts said the Bristol case was fundamentally about a licence dispute and had little chance of succeeding on wider anti-competition charges. Bristol has 30 days to decide whether to appeal. The case is unrelated to two further anti-trust trials which involve Microsoft, one with Caldera, the other brought by the US Government and a coalition of American states.

AOL SAID that it would launch a subscription-free Internet service next month, but it has no plans to abandon its traditional fee-based packages with access to online content. The new service, Netscape Online, is designed to complement its existing AOL and CompuServe brands by winning a different sort of user - typically young single males. It is not known how much actual content Netscape Online users will be able to access, but Instant Messenger and Buddy List chat features will be available.

Andreas Schmidt, AOL Europe's president, said the stripped-down service would outperform its rivals, but he hoped users would eventually switch to the standard plans. Schmidt said Netscape Online would make its profits in the longer term from advertising revenue and e-commerce, rather than the share of phone charges that free Internet service providers (ISPs) rely on. He said the future of the free ISP business model was not assured. "No one knows how long this business model - which is an anomaly mainly in the UK - will stay around," he said. "In the medium term, there will be much consolidation among the 100-plus free ISPs in the UK."

COMPAQ'S SEARCH for a new president and chief executive, following the forced retirement of Eckhard Pfeiffer in April, ended last week with Michael Capellas getting the job. Capellas became acting chief operating officer last month.

He told a news conference in New York he would have a restructuring plan in place by the middle of next month to cut costs and drop unprofitable products. Competitors such as Dell have eaten away at Compaq's market share by using direct sales. Capellas indicated that Compaq would try to increase their direct sales from 15 per cent of total sales to 40 per cent, which would maintain their market position as the world's largest producer of personal computers.

NETWORK SOLUTIONS (NSI) said it will charge in advance for domain names ending in .com, .net and .org. NSI has been criticised for allowing names to be registered and remain unpaid for several months, which actually helped speculators, or "cyber squatters", to register names and re-sell them at a profit. From September, registrations will have to be paid in advance using credit cards online.

The NSI chief executive, Jim Rutt, said the move would help to streamline the registration process by eliminating the need for e-mail exchanges and administrative paperwork as well as discouraging speculation.

The invoicing system had also been criticised by new registrars authorised by Icann, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, because they are required to receive payment before registering an address. They said NSI's previous sales policy, effectively offering customers credit, gave it an unfair competitive advantage.

INTEL PENTIUM III processor prices will be cut twice next month, on 1 and 22 August, the company said last week. New chips are scheduled to appear as well. A 600MHz Pentium III and a 500MHz Celeron are due next month.

A new chipset, the 820 Cambino, with support for faster Rambus-style memory should appear in September and an improved version of the Pentium III with integrated secondary cache, called Coppermine, is due for release in November.

AMD's Athlon, also known as the K7, which was released last month and appears to offer better performance at given clock speeds than the Pentium III, is expected to be available in quantities next month. It runs at 500, 550 and 600MHz.