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TECHNOLOGY : Firms Urge No Delay in Windows 95 Release : Computers: Symantec, Corel, CompUSA and Egghead say they are banking on success of Microsoft's operating system.


Four high-technology firms have asked the Justice Department not to prevent or postpone the release of Windows 95, Microsoft Corp.'s long-awaited new operating system software that is scheduled for shipment Aug. 24.

In separate letters to Assistant Atty. Gen. Anne K. Bingaman, software developers Symantec Corp., a Cupertino, Calif., maker of utility software, and Corel Corp., a Canadian designer of graphics software, said any delay in the release of Windows 95 would have dire consequences for the software industry.

Retailers CompUSA and Egghead, which sells software exclusively, also asked Bingaman not to do anything to interfere with the release of Windows 95.

"Windows 95 is to be one of the most important product launches in the computer industry in the last 10 years," said James F. Halpin, chief executive of CompUSA, a Dallas-based computer reseller.

All four letters appeared to be part of an organized effort. Each was dated last week, and copies were also sent to Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown, Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and Microsoft chief counsel William Neukom.

The Justice Department is in the final throes of its investigation of Microsoft and the company's intention to enter the on-line information business. On-line service providers, such as America Online, Prodigy and CompuServe, have objected strongly to Microsoft's plan to include the Microsoft Network as part of Windows 95.

Industry analysts say that about 30 million copies of Windows 95 will be sold this year alone, a figure that far exceeds the number of people who subscribe to the three largest on-line services. If Microsoft has its way, each copy will include an icon allowing users to automatically access the Microsoft Network.

Members of the legal community say the Justice Department has waited too long to take action. At this late date, it is unlikely an injunction could be granted in time to stop the shipment of Windows 95.

Nonetheless, staff lawyers continue to mull over the case. Last week, U.S. Atty. Gen. Janet Reno said the investigation is continuing and that no decision had been made on whether to take action.

But many software companies have been banking on the success of Windows 95.

"I must express the strongest objection to any delay," wrote Corel Chief Executive Michael C.J. Cowpland, echoing the sentiments of the other correspondents. "The release of Windows 95 will have not only a direct impact on Corel, but also on the industry as a whole as many companies like ours have dedicated substantial research and development efforts to the creation of compatible software programs" for Windows 95.

Cowpland said his firm derives about 85% of its revenue from Windows products and has spent the majority of its research and development funds in the last year on Windows 95 software development. Symantec Chief Executive Gordon Eubanks said his company, which gets 70% of its revenue from Windows products, has spent $20 million to $30 million on Windows 95 development.

Symantec plans to have five Windows 95 packages ready the day the product is introduced. "We've probably manufactured a million disks already," he said. "The money we've spent on development and manufacturing is a drop in the bucket when you compare it to the money we've spent on sales and marketing programs.

"Any good that could come of stopping Windows 95 cannot compensate for the bad," Eubanks said. "It's just too late."

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