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Gates Calls DOJ Action "A Step Backward for America"

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said the government is "interfering with the freedom to innovate" after the U.S. Department of Justice and the attorneys general of 20 states filed complaints today in U.S. District Court in Washington charging the software giant with anticompetitive practices.

"Microsoft used its monopoly power to develop a chokehold on the browser software needed to access the Internet," attorney general Janet Reno said at a press conference today in Washington, D.C., announcing the suit.

While the states involved and the federal agency filed their complaints separately, they coordinated their actions. The federal suit asks that Microsoft stop the practice of requiring manufacturers and online services to feature Microsoft products. According to the complaint, "Microsoft unlawfully required PC manufacturers to agree to license and install its browser, Internet Explorer, as a condition of obtaining licenses for the Windows 95 operating system [and] now intends to tie unlawfully its IE Internet browser software to its new Windows 98 operating system."

"This is a step backward for America," said Gates, charging that the suit "appears to benefit a single competitor at the expense of consumers."

The Department of Justice complaint asks that Microsoft give computer manufacturers the choice of including Netscape's browser with Windows 98. If Microsoft does not choose to offer both browsers, then it should "unbundle its browser and let it compete on the merits."

According to a recent survey at Internet.com's BrowserWatch, Netscape is used by 52 percent of the browser market, while Microsoft Explorer is used by 37 percent.

Reno was joined by the attorneys general of Iowa, Connecticut and New York at today's press conference. The 20 states joining in the complaint are California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.