Microsoft antitrust probe opens in Japan

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TOKYO -- The antitrust probe against Microsoft Corp. has spilled across the Pacific with the Jan. 14 announcement that Japan's Fair Trade Commission will investigate the Tokyo branch of the software giant for alleged unfair market practices.

Details of the FTC probe were not disclosed, but the move comes as Microsoft is fighting a heated battle with the U.S. Justice Department over sales of its Internet Explorer software.

"Our investigation will cover points similar to those raised regarding Microsoft's business practices in the U.S., as well as other issues specific to Japan," says FTC Secretary General Jotaro Yabe.

Japanese news reports cited FTC sources as saying Microsoft may have tried to restrict the sale of software in Japan that competes with Microsoft products such as Internet Explorer, Excel spreadsheet and Microsoft Word.

A Microsoft spokesman says the company's business practices have not infringed on Japan's antitrust laws. He adds the company does not demand computer makers install Excel and Word together when loading software into new personal computers.

U.S. Justice Department officials recently visited Tokyo to meet with FTC officials in order to seek cooperation in the Microsoft probe, Kyodo News reported.

Copyright January 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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