NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Sen. Orrin Hatch challenged Microsoft Corp. Friday to drop its "multimillion dollar PR campaign" and come forward with the facts about its alleged anticompetitive practices.
Hatch, R-Utah, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Microsoft (MSFT) has displayed its hubris by "using the appropriations process to 'go on the offensive' and seek to restrain a federal law enforcement agency that has an obligation to enforce the laws."
"Microsoft has, regrettably, seen fit to deploy a massive PR campaign grounded in spin control and misdirection as opposed to engaging the American public on the basis of the facts and the merits," Hatch said.
In March, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates testified at a Senate Judiciary hearing regarding competition in the computer industry. Hatch said he plans to hold further hearings after the Senate returns from its July recess.
"I believe this is one of the more important policy issues of our day, one which will have far-reaching ramifications for years to come, and that it would be remiss for lawmakers and law enforcers not to be paying close attention to the issue," he said.
More than a browser issue
On Tuesday, a federal appeals court lifted a preliminary injunction against Microsoft that prohibited the company from forcing PC makers to include the Internet Explorer Web browser with the Windows 95 operating system.
Microsoft hailed the decision as a major victory, one that could have far-reaching implications in the government's broad antitrust suit involving Windows 98.
Hatch, however, stressed that the government's ongoing investigations and legal actions against Microsoft go beyond the browser issue.
"It is about whether one company will be able to exploit its current monopoly in order to control access to, and commerce on, the Internet," Hatch said. "Whether one company will control the increasingly networked world in which we are coming to conduct our business and lead our lives." [224K WAV] or [224K AIFF]
Hatch pointed to Microsoft's contracts with Internet service providers as an example of the software titan's anticompetitive behavior.
Hatch said he was troubled with the limits Microsoft has imposed on Internet firms that seek placement on the Windows desktop, including preventing those companies from promoting Netscape Communications Corp.'s (NSCP) Navigator Web browser.
"Rather than admit that they have indeed imposed such terms, and explain to us why we should not find them objectionable, Microsoft has consistently sought to avoid the existence and implications of the contracts," Hatch said.
He added Microsoft told the Judiciary Committee before the March hearing that it no longer would enforce the contracts, but that the company continues to do so. [490K WAV] or [490K AIFF]
Hatch said the Judiciary Committee plans to give Microsoft a fair opportunity to argue its case, but that the company should do so "on the record rather than through multimillion dollar PR campaigns."
Microsoft (MSFT) shares climbed 1-11/16 to 103-1/4 in Friday morning trading.