Microsoft digs in for the long term as the feds file anti-trust charges


As expected, the Department of Justice and more than 20 state's attorneys general filed antitrust charges against Microsoft Corp. on Monday -- the day that Microsoft released its new Windows 98 operating system to computer makers.

The government's case against the software giant focuses primarily on the relationship between the operating system and the Internet Explorer Web browsing software.

The government wants to force Microsoft to "unbundle" the Internet Explorer Web browser from the Windows 98 operating system.

If Microsoft isn't willing to do that, the government wants Microsoft to agree to distribute its competitor's Web browser -- Netscape Navigator -- with every copy of Windows 98.

While the suit is narrowly focused on the Web browser issue, the Justice Department could broaden the suit later, analysts say.

The suit filed by the states' attorneys general was broader in nature, alleging that Microsoft also exploited its monopoly in office productivity software as well as Windows operating system.

The suits don't seek to stop the release of Windows 98, which means the economic impact the suits have in the short-term will be minimal.

Computer makers and other software makers had complained that a delay in the release of Windows 98 would send economic shockwaves throughout a number of PC-related business sectors.

The most memorable comment that's been widely quoted in the days since the antitrust action came directly from Microsoft. In its response to the government's action, Microsoft's press release said that forcing the company to include the Netscape Navigator Web browser in the Windows 98 operating system is "like requiring Coca-Cola to include three cans of Pepsi in every six-pack it sells."

HIGH-SPEED ACCESS. If there's a common thread that unites Internet users, it's the desire to have faster access to the World Wide Web.

Well soon, for many BellSouth and GTE telephone subscribers, that day is on its way.

BellSouth recently announced its FastAccess high-speed Internet service.

FastAccess uses Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) technology, and offers access 50 times faster than a 28.8 modem.

How fast is that?

According to a GTE's Web site, the entire Encyclopedia Britannica would take 54 hours to download via a 14.4 Kbps modem; it would take 31 minutes via ADSL.

Both companies plan to roll-out their consumer ADSL services this summer in selected areas.

GTE plans to offer fast access in Oregon, North Carolina, Indiana, and Washington State this summer. BellSouth will roll-out its service first in Atlanta, Jacksonville, Birmingham, New Orleans, Charlotte, Raleigh, and the Fort Lauderdale/South Florida areas.

The first GTE area to in Kentucky to receive ADSL access will be the Lexington campus of the University of Kentucky.

How does ADSL compare to cable modems?

Cable modems offer slightly higher speeds, but are less likely to be deployed anytime soon, since most cable TV networks don't support two-way transmission.

PC Week columnist Jesse Berst wrote earlier this month that ADSL is the only high-speed technology that's ready for a quick roll-out -- and for me, it's still not soon enough.

GTE's Web site didn't all the pricing details set, though a notice said the company would be devoting part of its site to ADSL access information. Price packages for ADSL access will range from $30 to $250 per month, excluding installation and equipment charges.

Both company's rates sound reasonable -- particularly if like me, you are shelling out for a second telephone line for your computer.

BellSouth's monthly rate will be $49.95 if you're a subscriber to BellSouth's Complete Choice or Business Choice telephone packages. For nonsubscribers, the monthly fee for unlimited monthly usage is $59.95 -- which includes regular Internet access, but not telephone service charges.

There are other charges to consider: First, a one-time $99.95 installation fee covers activation and installation. Secondly, ADSL access requires installing a card in your computer, and the phone company's equipment charges will add an additional $199.95.

Yes, it's a premium price, but for no-wait Web access -- plus the ADSL line also serves as your telephone line (and you can use it and surf the Web at the same time without interrupting either) -- it's worth considering.

And with the sudden increase in competition for local phone services, ADSL prices may wind up discounted.

For more details, visit the BellSouth and GTE Web sites at and respectively.

SEE YOU IN PICTURES. Eastman Kodak and America Online announced last week that AOL will soon offer its members electronic delivery of their pictures via the online service.

Dubbed "You've Got Pictures," AOL members will give their screen names to retailers when taking film in to be developed. The images will be delivered digitally to their AOL accounts.

The electronic delivery system will be available at more than 30,000 retailers that process Kodak film later this year.

Photos will be available within 48 hours of dropping the film off for processing.

YAHOO! SHAKEUP. The Yahoo! Web directory has dropped its partnership with the Alta Vista search engine and chosen to link with San Mateo, Calif.-based Inktomi.

Searches for Yahoo! made use of the search engine for performing more in-depth searches that went beyond the Yahoo! directory database.

When the partnership began more than a year ago, Alta Vista was primarily a search engine. In recent months, it has -- like Yahoo! -- expanded to offer additional services, including e-mail.

Inktomi is focusing solely on becoming a better search engine, according to a press release on the deal.

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