News and New Product Briefs (12/18/98)

Microsoft attorney continues to question government economist

On Monday, November 30, 1998, Microsoft attorney Michael Lacovara continued his meticulous questioning of the government's economics expert, Frederick Warren-Boulton, in the antitrust lawsuit. Lacovara accused the witness of selectively choosing documents to back up his thesis.

Lacovara also nit-picked over minor errors in Warren-Boulton's testimony, including the instances in which he continually confused the gender pronoun of one person cited in his testimony.

According to observers, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson appeared restless.

On Tuesday, December 1, at about 4:00 pm, Judge Jackson said to attorney Lacovara, "This has got to end. This examination has got to be brought to an end," and indicated that the attorney had to end his cross-examination of the economist within the hour.

After Microsoft's cross-examination, during the government's redirect, Warren-Boulton got the chance to outline the reasons Microsoft should be considered a monopoly. He said, "Microsoft can raise the price of its operating system without much concern of fall-off"; he also pointed to a Microsoft analysis of operating system pricing that noted that from 1990 to 1996, the cost of the operating system (compared with the total system cost) increased from 0.5 percent to 2.5 percent. And he noted that the Windows OS cost had increased to 5 percent of total in the last two years.

Microsoft spokesperson Mark Murray called this a case of lying with statistics and compared it with Intel's increasing chip costs, noting that it was unfair to compare the cost of developing hardware to an operating system.

Gosling testifies

James Gosling, the inventor of Java, submitted 35 pages of written testimony to the court.

In the written testimony, Gosling accused Microsoft of setting out to destroy Java's cross-platform compatibility in order to do away with its threat to Windows. He said, "If Microsoft successfully fragments the Java technology, the cross-platform benefits to vendors, developers, and users of the Java technology will be damaged, and any threat the Java technology poses to Microsoft's dominant Windows operating system will be neutralized."

Gosling also accused Microsoft of making an "incompatible implementation of the Java technology that is not cross-platform, but instead is dependent on the Windows operating system platform and Microsoft's proprietary technology." Gosling continued that this was like "adding to the English language words and phrases that cannot be understood by anyone else."

Gosling also noted that "Microsoft employees have acknowledged to me that unilaterally extending the Java language destroys the cross-platform compatibility of Java technology."

Some of Gosling's e-mail documents demonstrated his lack of trust in Microsoft, especially since Sun had portrayed Java as a "way to attack the evil empire." Other documents show Sun executives' plans to use Java and a Java-based chip to replace the Wintel combo.

In one message Gosling noted (to Scott McNealy) that through Microsoft acceptance, "Java would instantly become a galactic standard. But there are many problems. Personally, I just don't trust them. The planet is littered with companies that did deals with Microsoft expecting to win big but ended up getting totally screwed." He also wrote that a deal with Microsoft would reduce credibility with Java licensees that had been informed that Java was a way to level the play field with Microsoft.

In the case, Microsoft attorney Tom Burt used the documents to attempt to show that Sun (with a Java-base OS and chip) intended to trample the Wintel combine, including a note from McNealy (after a Java demo) in which he said, "Charge! Kill HP, IBM, Microsoft, and Apple all at once." And he introduced a memo from then-Sun CTO Eric Schmidt that a "Java market wedge" could "attack Novell, Lotus, Borland, and Microsoft franchises."

On Thursday, December 3, Gosling admitted that there were problems with Sun's claim that Java is a "write once, run anywhere" developer's tool (especially with the earlier versions of the JDK), under Burt's introduction of articles and studies critical of Sun's Java claims. Burt called the article relevant because Sun and Microsoft were in competition "for the hearts and minds of developers."

Burt also tried to echo Java claims with those of C from 1978, but Gosling countered by noting that C was an "incredibly powerful example of how standards get twisted." He noted that Java was, in fact, conceived partly because of "scars that I acquired in doing C porting. One of my goals in building Java was not to live through that fragmentation again."

When Burt asked Gosling whether there were Java disadvantages to writing across platforms for users, he replied, "There are certain tasks for which Java is not appropriate. That's why there are multiple languages in this world."

Choosing a different approach during the questioning, Burt alleged Sun dropped development of its HotJava Java-based browser so it would not to compete with Netscape. He introduced a memo from Sun manager Karen Oliphant that laid out Sun's goals; these included "unify browser efforts; stop competing."

Gosling dismissed this claim, saying that after Microsoft dropped its browser prices to nothing, it "hardly seemed the sensible thing" to continue to develop a browser. He also noted Netscape's nervousness over Sun's browser development efforts.

Later, Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said the talks between Sun and Netscape illuminated a real-world fact: "That throughout the software industry, companies meet together, they plan together." In reference to this, Murray characterized the government's efforts as "pursuing unfair double standards."

Boies responded to Murray, saying, "You had a monopolist threatening to use his monopoly power to exclude competition unless that competitor agreed not to compete."

Gosling returns to the stand

After computer expert David Farber's testimony, James Gosling returned to the stand (on Wednesday, December 10), commenting that the reason Sun rejected Microsoft's repeated attempts to develop a common interface for Java was because Microsoft only wanted to use the interfaces that worked best with Windows. Gosling said, "Microsoft said they weren't interested in doing anything with cross-platform design. We [at Sun] have no interest in locking out other platforms. Where we drew the line was where that work blocked our work on other platforms."

Microsoft's lawyers had introduced e-mails showing that after the Sun rebuff, Sun went on to recruit 11 other companies to work with it on those interfaces.

Microsoft attorney Tom Burt also displayed agreements among Sun, Netscape, and IBM to jointly develop Java projects, using them to draw a picture of Sun as holding Microsoft to a different set of standards than its competitors.

One of Burt's points was that Sun viewed Microsoft as violating its Java licensing agreement when it didn't include the Java Native Interface (JNI) in its products, while Netscape also didn't include the JNI (and still hasn't). He used an e-mail from Sun's Jon Kannegaard to the company's CTO Eric Schmidt in September 1996, that berates Netscape for not integrating JNI. The e-mail stated, "No agreement with Netscape is worth the ink it's written with. Go sign a deal with Saddam Hussein. It has a better chance of being honored."

Gosling attempted to explain this away by saying, "They [Netscape] were having engineering and financial setbacks. Their business was troubled. They kept promising and we were being forgiving of their difficulties."

Outside court, Microsoft spokesperson Mark Murray commented, "For months, we attempted to work cooperatively with Sun, but they blew us off."

More Gates TV

On Wednesday, December 2, government lawyers showed some more of Gates' August 28 video testimony, testimony that attempted to focus on his views of Java and the Sun lawsuit.

In the tape, Gates feigned ignorance about the details of the lawsuit. He said he didn't remember being told that Netscape's browser was a major distribution vehicle for Java foundation classes, even though U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) lead attorney David Boies had introduced a July 1997 e-mail to Gates senior VP Paul Maritz that said, "If we look further at Java/JFC being our major threat, then Netscape is the major distribution vehicle."

Gates then claimed that Maritz didn't really mean Java in that memo, but that he was referring to runtime APIs.

When Boies asked, "Did you believe in July 1997 that JFC was a major threat to Microsoft?," Gates replied, "In the form that it existed as of that day maybe not. But if we looked at how it might be evolved in the future, we did think of it as something that competed with us for the attention of ISVs in terms of whether or not they would take advantage of the advanced features of Windows."

In another e-mail from a Microsoft programmer to Gates from May 1997, the author stated, ""JDK 1.2 has JFC, which we're going to be pissing on at every opportunity." Gates responded that he didn't "know if he's referring to pissing on JDK or JFC, nor do I specifically know what he means by pissing on."

In yet another e-mail from August 25, 1997, Microsoft's developer relations group general manager Tod Nielsen noted, "So we are just proactively trying to put obstacles in Sun's path, and get anyone that wants to write in Java to use Jdirect and target Windows directly." Gates claimed that he didn't know what that meant.

Judge Jackson agreed to allow the government to use video clips from depositions in the Sun lawsuit to impeach witnesses, but disallowed depositions from two Caldera executives in its trial against Microsoft.

Gates speaks out against antitrust lawsuit

On Wednesday, December 2, Bill Gates attacked the government's antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft in an address (and Q&A session) at the Manhattan Institute think tank.

Gates called the lawsuit a mistake because the Windows operating system's dominance in the PC market is not assured. He said, "The current operating system we're selling won't be adequate for the demands of the future."

Gates went on to paint a picture of changes coming in the Windows OS, including speech recognition and more understandable formats for computer-generated error messages.

He trumpeted the AOL/Netscape deal as a demonstration that competitors can still create value for their companies.

As for giving away Internet Explorer (which caused Netscape to have to do the same with Navigator), Gates said, "Our decision that browsers would have a revenue stream from advertisers meant that we didn't have to raise the price of Windows." He continued: "That was bringing competition to the browser market."

Gates also commented: "Clearly the government has a role. There are issues that are essentially political issues," such as privacy. "Should your employer be allowed to see your criminal record?" But he also noted that "the government does not need to set standards -- that is one thing for sure. Internet standards are moving so fast I dare any government to keep up with them."

South Carolina withdraws antitrust trial

South Carolina announced on Monday, December 7, 1998, its intention to withdraw from the Microsoft antitrust lawsuit. South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon cited the planned merger of America Online and Netscape, as well as and their partnership with Sun Microsystems, as an example that "competition is alive and well."

According to Condon, "Recent events have proven that the Internet is a segment of our economy where innovation is thriving. The merger of America Online with Netscape and the alliance by those two companies with Sun Microsystems proves that the forces of competition are working. Further government intervention or regulation is unnecessary and, in my judgment, unwise." He added that he can "no longer justify our continued involvement or the expenditure of state resources on a trial that has been made moot by the actions of the competitive marketplace."

Farber testifies

On Monday, December 7, the government's computer expert David Farber, a University of Pennsylvania professor of telecommunications systems, said that Microsoft is making a misleading claim when it says it creates efficiencies by bundling the operating system with a Web browser. His written testimony pushed the view that combining applications with an OS injures performance.

Farber stated that integrating applications with operating systems usually results in such technical inefficiencies as redundancy, performance degradation, and increased risks of bugs.

Farber also added that if Microsoft's reasoning were taken a few steps further, the company could "bundle together all its existing and future applications with its current product sold as Windows 98."

Microsoft's responded, "Mr. Farber's views should be taken with a huge grain of salt because he has testified at his deposition that he knows absolutely nothing about the internal workings of Windows 95 or Windows 98. Mr. Farber's opinions are at odds with the facts."

On Tuesday, December 8, when cross-examined by Microsoft attorney Steven Holley, Farber managed to keep things light, injecting touches of humor.

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