Microsoft posted a 48 page formal reply to the U.S. Department of Justice's charges that the software giant violated its 1995 consent decree. In the reply, which was filed at the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, Microsoft lashed out at the DOJ, saying the charges are baseless. Microsoft says the DOJ is attempting to prevent them from delivering improvements to Windows 95.

Microsoft's reply breaks down the DOJ complaint into six key areas, in which it claims that the DOJ's reading of the consent decree is "implausible."

Additionally, Microsoft presented evidence that the DOJ has been aware of the company's strategy to include Internet integration in Windows 95 since early 1994, well before the consent decree was signed. The reply attempts to show that the consent decree allows Microsoft to integrate new features and functionality into its products, even if the same software or competing software is also offered separately. Microsoft argues that integrating Web functionality is a natural and logical next step in the evolution of computer operating systems, which benefits both consumers and other software developers.

Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates led a personal attack against the DOJ as well, asking who decides what innovations go into the PC in his Wall Street Journal column. Gates asserts that innovations should come from the marketplace, not the government, and that the DOJ has no right to maliciously interfere with Microsoft's business.

"The Justice Department’s position is equivalent to the government telling personal computer manufacturers that they can’t include word processing, spreadsheet or email functionality in PCs because it would be unfair to typewriter, calculator and courier companies," Gates writes in the article. "Supporting Internet browsing in Windows is a logical, incremental step in the evolution of the operating system."

Gates explain in depth why integrating Internet Explorer into Windows is Microsoft's business, no the DOJ's and that competitors are now busy adding OS features to their browsers.

"Enhancing Windows to support Internet standards more fully is not a frill--it is critical for Windows to stay competitive. Telling Microsoft that we can’t improve Windows is telling us we can’t compete."

The Microsoft reply to the DOJ can be found on the Microsoft Web site. The Bill Gates WSJ article is also available