Microsoft tastes defeat in Net monopoly case

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The computer software giant, Microsoft, has lost its landmark case against the US government and has been ordered to change marketing practices that could have given it a virtual monopoly on access to the Internet. In a verdict published late yesterday, a US federal judge ruled that the company must license its Windows 95 software to computer makers without requiring them to take its Internet browser as well.

At a hearing last week, lawyers for the US government had argued that Microsoft had engaged in restrictive practices by refusing to supply Windows 95 to computer companies, unless they also agreed to accept its browser. The market dominance of Windows 95, they contended, left computer makers with no choice but to take the browser as well, cutting rival suppliers of browser software out of the market.

The ruling is a double defeat for Microsoft. It had hoped, if not to win the case, then to have the decision delayed while it collected more technical evidence - a request opposed by the US government on the grounds that it would allow Microsoft's hold on the market to strengthen by default.

Microsoft, whose market dominance has effectively set the standard for computer software worldwide, ia expected to appeal against the judgment.

- Mary Dejevsky, Washington