Apple spokeswoman Katie Cotton said today that the two companies have encountered "disagreements" in their business partnership but would not elaborate on their nature.
"We agree on many issues and disagree on a few of them from time to time," she said, appearing to play down the issue. "All I can say is we have been subpoenaed by Microsoft and the DOJ and are complying fully."
The subpoenas were first disclosed today by the Wall Street Journal, which reported that the Justice Department is investigating Microsoft over allegations that the software giant has tried to pressure Apple to step away from the multimedia software market.
Questions about the Justice Department's interest in Microsoft's streaming technologies--and their relationship with a controversial $150 million investment in Apple--were raised last year. At that time, speculation centered on Microsoft potential access to QuickTime patents and other Apple multimedia technologies as the streaming market continued to heat up.
In an interview today with CNET NEWS.COM, a former Apple employee said that about three years ago Microsoft proposed holding off on developing its own multimedia products if Apple would refrain from advancing other technologies.
"I had never come across that practice before," said the former employee, who declined to elaborate on the technologies in question.
Microsoft and the Justice Department are heading to trial on September 8 over allegations that Microsoft competed unfairly with other software makers. But Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said the antitrust case has nothing to do with allegations that Microsoft had pressured Apple to retreat from the development of any technologies.
Cullinan said any allegations that the software giant is trying to split up and monopolize the multimedia market are simply "false." He said that Apple and Microsoft compete in the multimedia space but that the two companies are also "working hard" to make sure Apple's multimedia authoring tool and playback technology known as QuickTime works with Windows.
Microsoft associate general counsel Brad Smith also flatly denied allegations that the software giant tried to coerce Apple into stopping development of a multimedia application for the Windows operating system.
"We have never had any discussions aimed at dividing up markets," Smith said. He said he doubted that the allegations, which focus on Apple's QuickTime multimedia program, would be added to the antitrust case that is now scheduled to go to trial on September 8.
Cotton acknowledged that "multimedia is one area where we have disagreements" but said "we are working in a professional way to resolve them." She said that the computer maker enjoys its partnership with Microsoft and that, like many partnerships, there are occasional conflicts.
In testimony today on Capitol Hill, Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison addressed the issue. "There is how the software industry works, Senator, and there is how would like the software industry to work," he said. "Bill [Gates] would like Apple to stay out of the desktop multimedia business.... QuickTime is clearly the best technology."