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Microsoft Snaps Back

In a surprise move, Microsoft has filed a petition against the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking relief from a "campaign of harrassment" that reached a nadir last week when the company was given 2 days to reply to a set of 29 interrogatories and 16 document requests. According to legal analysts, recipients of civil investigative demands, or CIDs, are usually given up to 30 days to respond.

The latest donnybrook with the DOJ concerns Microsoft's plans to include its Microsoft Network software in the August 24 release of Windows 95. Rival online service providers claim that the bundling of the online service with the Windows 95 operating system will give Microsoft an unfair advantage. Dataquest analysts estimate that Microsoft will sell 30 million copies of Windows 95 within the first six months.

Claiming that the two-day turnaround requirement constitutes harassment, Microsoft officials said they had no alternative but to file a suit in order to avoid fines. In an unusual maneuver, Microsoft officials included a copy of the subpoena in the suit in order to demonstrate the breadth of the DOJ's request for information.

Both Microsoft and a group of content providers for Microsoft Network were subpoenaed last week for information. One of the third parties, Pipeline Communications, sent out a release today alluding to the DOJ's request for information concerning Microsoft Network. Pipeline officials said the DOJ is interested in information regarding trial online service memberships and the rate at which most consumers choose to join up after the trial expires. Pipeline works with online service providers get new users onboard.

The bottom line is speed analysts said. One of the areas the DOJ seeks to explore is how much work would be involved in unbundling MSN from Windows 95--a decision that Microsoft hopes to avoid at all costs.