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Intuit wants to rein in Microsoft

In written testimony expected to be released this week, Intuit chief executive William Harris asks the court to rein in Microsoft.

Intuit's chief executive will next week call on the federal government to rein in Microsoft by means of a concept he calls "operating system neutrality."

But in an odd twist, Microsoft

Intuit CEO
William Harris
today issued a rebuttal to the still-unreleased testimony of William Harris.

Harris's concept of "operating system neutrality" apparently envisions barring Microsoft from using Windows' predominance to cut exclusive or near-exclusive deals with industry partners. Microsoft called Harris' idea "entirely new and irrelevant" to its ongoing antitrust trial, in which the Justice Department and 19 states have accused the software giant of illegally wielding its operating system in other software markets.

Also on Monday, Harris is expected to testify that Bill Gates told Intuit executives in 1994 that he believed Microsoft could buy the personal finance software company, which makes top-selling Quicken, despite a decree consent decree with the U.S. government, according to the Seattle Times. The disclosure comes in published accounts of Harris' testimony, scheduled to be released tomorrow by the Justice Department.

Microsoft's rebuttal, which called Harris's testimony "half-baked," Microsoft's day in court confirmed some details in previously published reports. It also said Intuit is seeking to use the government to advance its business interests.

"It's clear from the testimony that Intuit wants the government to repeal the laws of competition for Intuit.... Intuit apparently wants the government to guarantee it a permanent lead in the marketplace without actually competing," Microsoft stated.

Additionally, Harris' testimony apparently addresses Intuit's decision to use Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser with Quicken instead of Netscape's Navigator. "Contrary to Mr. Harris's testimony, Intuit chose Microsoft's Internet Explorer technologies because our modular architecture permitted Intuit to integrate Internet functionality into Intuit's products--Netscape did not have comparable technology," Microsoft's rebuttal said.

In his testimony, according to Microsoft, Harris spends a good deal of time talking about a technology called "WinATM," an idea that never made it off the drawing board. Microsoft said that it has not added personal finance functionality to Windows, something Intuit feared.

Federal antitrust regulators objected to Microsoft's proposed acquisition of Intuit because Microsoft has a competing program called Money. Regulators feared Microsoft would have a near monopoly on personal finance software.

Microsoft later dropped the offer. It now is being tried on claims that it used predatory business practices to crush Internet software rivals.

Microsoft's rebuttal also confirmed that Harris criticizes Intuit's "active desktop" agreement, saying it barred Intuit from cutting content deals with Netscape. Microsoft noted that the agreement has been changed and that Intuit and Netscape still have no content deal, although Netscape's Netcenter portal uses personal finance content from close Intuit partner Excite.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.