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Barksdale dismisses MS defense

At a Pacific Rim technology and e-commerce policy conference, Netscape's CEO discusses Microsoft's Justice Department woes and his company's e-commerce plans.

SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft has misrepresented the chronology of events in defending itself against charges by the Justice Department that it violated a 1995 consent decree on its marketing practice, Netscape Communications (NSCP) chief executive James Barksdale said today.

"They are pushing a little," Barksdale said of Microsoft in comments to reporters today.

"Is it integrated? That's silly. They give the browser away on the Macintosh, so it has nothing to do with Windows 95," he said.

He called Microsoft's tying sales of its Windows 95 operating system to its Web browser "a clear contractual violation [of the consent decree]. I think [government lawyers] have the facts and law on their side."

Barksdale's comments on the Microsoft antitrust case came at a press conference after a speech to a Pacific Rim technology and electronic commerce policy conference sponsored by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC).

"If you reduce the friction of commerce [using the Internet], you change the whole way the world works," he told business executives at the conference. He touted major cost savings in moving corporate purchases of routine high-volume, low-cost items online.

At the press conference, Barksdale described Netscape's recent buyout of GE Information Systems' interest in their Actra Business Systems e-commerce software joint venture as strategic for Netscape. (See related story)

"We don't make a big distinction between international and domestic e-commerce opportunities. We go where the market is," he said. But he noted that Netscape's e-commerce software has been very popular overseas.

"Our Merchant System and Publishing System have enjoyed an intense amount of interest in Asia. Some of our early sales were in Hong Kong and parts of Europe. The telephone companies have been big pushers as service providers?more than U.S. telcos and companies."

He noted that the Actra-Netscape e-commerce software does not require use of Netscape's browser.

In other comments, Barksdale said:

  • The recent Ralph Nader conference in Washington, D.C., on Microsoft's influence in the software industry had not been a giant PR success but became topical because of the DOJ case against Microsoft. Netscape general counsel Roberta Katz spoke at the conference.

  • Netscape's standalone sales of Web browser software accounted for just 18 percent of revenues last quarter, down from 85 percent two years ago.

  • Presenting bills online instead of mailing them is emerging as a popular e-commerce application, now that adequate numbers of consumers and businesses are coming online. Barksdale predicted banks would be the driving force in that market.

  • Netscape's Asian business has experienced almost no impact from the region's currency crises.