The two antitrust lawsuits filed against Microsoft by the Justice Department and twenty states lead at the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post. The suits are also flagged at the top of the Wall Street Journal front-page news box. They are the off-lead at USA Today (and also covered in that paper’s front-page “cover story”), which leads instead with the news that in working out the $200 billion highway bill, congressional negotiators dropped the provision that would have set a tough national drunk-driving standard.
The papers all have the same basic lawsuit details: The government and state lawyers argue that after an abortive attempt at an “illegal conspiracy” deal with browser rival Netscape, Microsoft violated antitrust laws by using its virtual lock with Windows to dominate the Internet browser market. Although Microsoft has already begun shipping Windows 98, the plaintiffs have asked a judge to issue a quick preliminary injunction requiring the company to either take its own browser out of that program or also include Netscape’s browser. And preventing Microsoft from enforcing contracts with online service providers that would restrict the providers from also offering their customers alternative browsers. (An area, says the NYT, that MS was apparently flexible about before negotiations broke down over the weekend.) The state suit additionally asks for Microsoft to be forced to change the way it sells its “Office” software to computer manufacturers so that they would be freer to license competitors’ software.
Bill Gates is quoted in the WP saying that these government demands for inclusion of competitors is like “requiring Coca-Cola to include three cans of Pepsi in every six-pack.” The NYT lead editorial says the analogy is bad because Coke isn’t a monopoly.
The government’s papers include Microsoft internal e-mails and memos as well as interviews and depositions of Microsoft executives, which, USAT says, the government attorneys consider smoking-gun evidence. The WP cites for instance a memo that says it would “be very hard to increase browser share on the merits” of the company’s product, and hence that the company should “leverage Windows to make people use” it. But none of the dailies explain how these internal documents came to be possessed by the government nor wonder about the propriety of that. Also, although the WP and NYT list the states suing, there is no explanation anywhere about what point there is for the states to file their own suit, or why the other thirty states are staying on the sidelines.
Most of the coverage is steeped in the particulars of the memos, etc. The LAT however, takes a somewhat broader view. It calls the move against Microsoft, “one of the sharpest legal attacks on big business in this century,” and accompanies its lead with an interesting graphic depicting the relative market shares enjoyed by American history’s other celebrated anti-trust targets, IBM, AT&T, and Standard Oil. IBM’s is listed at 65 percent, but the other two are the same as Microsoft: 90 percent. The LAT says that although fewer than half of Americans own a home personal computer and fewer still surf the Internet, the suit could throw the computer industry and the economy into turmoil.
The LAT off-lead reports that three Mexican banks and 107 people were indicted yesterday in Los Angeles by the U.S. on charges of laundering millions for Latin American drug cartels. The story is also on the WP front, while the NYT runs it inside.
The WSJ and the WP report that Kodak is set to announce a deal with AOL designed help the film manufacturer counteract inroads on its business being made by computerized photography: You bring your film into a Kodak authorized developer and the snaps are returned digitally to your AOL account. The program will be called “You’ve Got Pictures.”
The NYT profile of San Francisco Examiner executive editor Phil Bronstein quotes his wife Sharon Stone thusly: “He’s big enough for me…for my intense personality, my stature in the world.”