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MS freebies to be probed by Justice?

Claiming it's in a battle for its life, a tiny start-up wants the Justice Department to investigate Microsoft's plans to give away its Internet Information Server.

Claiming it's in a battle for its life, a tiny start-up wants the Justice Department to investigate Microsoft's plans to give away its Internet Information Server (IIS).

In its letter to the Justice Department, the Internet Factory contends that Microsoft's bundling of IIS with Windows NT is unfair competition because it offers most features of competitive brands, but does not charge money for it. In addition, the company accuses Microsoft of tapping into some features of NT that other companies are not privy to. The company, which charges $995 for its Commerce Server, will be in dire straits if it cannot charge for the server product, officials said.

"I didn't want to take this step. We're not a company of Microsoft bashers," said Ernest Priestly, Internet Factory's CEO. "We just wanted to explain our plight to Bill Gates himself and recommend Microsoft bundle a 'low-end' product, just like they do in Windows 95 and Windows NT with programs like Windows Write, or Windows Terminal. This gives other developers a fair chance to compete," he said.

"I'm sure we'll take a look at it," a Justice Department spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal, but declined to comment further on Internet Factory's complaint. A Microsoft spokesperson told the paper that several other Internet server programs were also being given away and that the server functionality will eventually become part of operating systems, and hence will be available at no extra cost to customers.