Microsoft money: Help or harm?

Money can buy a lot of things, but companies that have received investments from Microsoft know a trouble-free business relationship isn't one of them.

Dawn Kawamoto Former Staff writer, CNET News
Dawn Kawamoto covered enterprise security and financial news relating to technology for CNET News.
Dawn Kawamoto
2 min read
Money can buy a lot of things, but a trouble-free business relationship isn't one of them. Just ask companies that have received millions of dollars in investments from Microsoft.

Taking to the stand to testify against the software giant during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today was Robert Glaser, chief executive of Web-streaming company RealNetworks. (See related story)

The company, which sold a 10 percent non-voting stake to Microsoft last year, previously has voiced its concern that Microsoft may harm innovation and customer choice if it leverages its pervasive Windows operating system in order to "break" competing products.

In a presentation during the hearing, Glaser demonstrated that Microsoft's Windows Media Player did not support a version of RealNetworks' RealPlayer.

"We're disappointed in Glaser airing his business agenda when we've worked closely with him and RealNetworks," said Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan.

But is Microsoft disappointed enough to pull its investment?

"Our investment is not an issue that we're thinking about now," said Cullinan, who said he does not know whether Microsoft has ever rescinded its investment stake in a company following a disagreement or challenge to its business practices.

Apple Computer today conceded that it has had some disagreements with the software giant over multimedia products, but said that the companies were working "professionally" to resolve them. Apple received a $150 million investment from Microsoft last year.

The Mac maker has been subpoenaed by the Justice Department, which is embroiled in a legal battle with Microsoft over allegations that the software giant has violated antitrust laws.

In the meantime, Microsoft's investments in both companies have paid off handsomely. RealNetworks, which received its investment from Redmond last July, has seen its stock climb from 12.50 a share when it went public last November to 37.50 at today's close. Apple, which traded around the high teens when Microsoft announced its investment last August, today closed at 34.9375 a share.