News and New Product Briefs (12/2/98)

Microsoft lawyer grills Intel witness

On November 10, 1998, Microsoft attorney Steven Holley initiated cross-examination of Intel VP Steven McGeady, the person who claimed Microsoft pressured OEMs to stop adopting Intel's multimedia-enhancing native signal processing technology (NSP).

McGeady claimed the NSP technology would increase the speed and reliability of multimedia applications on NSP-equipped PCs. He noted that Intel prepped NSP for Windows 3.1, and when the lawyer produced a memo from Grove to Gates claiming that preparing NSP for Windows 3.1 was a mistake, McGeady explained the tact by the fact that at the time, Windows 95 was already late, with no clear delivery date.

McGeady also quoted Intel Chairman Andrew Grove on the matter: "We caved . . . under pressure from Microsoft."

When the lawyer asked why Intel didn't inform Microsoft of NSP early in its development, McGeady responded that the company was afraid Microsoft would start to discredit it before it even had a chance, which is what, according to McGeady, it ended up doing: "It was the fear that was ultimately realized . . . that Microsoft would stomp it out of existence."

Questioning by DOJ lawyer David Boies brought out several of McGeady's points about the pressure tactics Microsoft was allegedly using to stop NSP, including the introduction of a portion of Gates's testimony. In it, the lawyer asked Gates, "Did Microsoft make any effort to convince Intel not to help Sun and Java?" Gates replied, "Not that I know of." Boies then introduced a June 1996 memo by Gates to Microsoft VP Paul Maritz that contradicted Gates's testimony. After referring to this exchange, Boies asked McGeady the same question, to which the response was, "Repeatedly and on multiple occasions."

McGeady testified that a Microsoft official had told Intel Microsoft "owned software to the metal," and when Intel attempted to develop OS-independent device drivers, that Microsoft told Intel that it had no business writing software at that level.

McGeady noted also that Microsoft pressured Intel not to develop a Java implementation modeled on Sun's version. In an April 1996 memo from Maritz to Gates, Maritz wrote, "We need Intel to realize that ActiveX is [the] best antidote to Sun/Java." Maritz also wrote, "In general... [Intel] see[s] Sun/Java as their big issue since Sun is not only trying to hijack the OS but the chip as well. I explained our strategy of 'optimizing' Java for ActiveX and Windows, and how we should be working together on this, but I fear that McGeady will try to obviate this (unfortunately he has more IQ than most there)."

Court quote of the week

During the November 10 questioning of Intel VP Steven McGeady by DOJ lawyer David Boies, the courtroom burst into laughter when McGeady recounted notes he took in a July 1995 meeting with Bill Gates (and others). According to McGeady, Gates allegedly said, "This antitrust thing will blow over."

Then, he added, "We may change our e-mail retention policy."

Netscape's next-generation client to be more modular

Netscape unveiled its next-generation technology, code-named NGT, that will be at the core of all Netscape products after Communicator 4.5. According to the company, NGT will make it easier to develop smaller, faster, and more portable modular applications designed for multiple computing platforms and devices.

According to Netscape Client Product Marketing Director Chris Saito, the central part of NGT is a browser layout engine that interprets data from Internet sites and quickly displays the content on a user's screen. Features of NGT are:

  • Support for such standards as HTML 4.0, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS1 and CSS2), Document Object Model (DOM), Resource Description Framework (RDF), and Extensible Markup Language (XML)

  • Extensive modularity and a small footprint

  • The ability to build platform-independent Web-standard application interfaces

  • A table layout speed four to five times faster than any product that currently exists

  • Open source code, developed with

Find the source code for NGT technologies (as well as the opportunity to contribute to its direction) at the Web site. More on NGT should be available from Netscape before the end of 1998.

DirectDraw foundation classes have crash bug

Italian programmer Fabio Ciucci discovered a computer-crashing bug in Microsoft's DirectDraw foundation classes for Java.

DirectDraw classes are found in Internet Explorer, Windows 95/98/NT, and Microsoft's Java SDK. (However, Microsoft officials note the possibility of having the bug crash your system is slim, since very few Java applets are created with DirectDraw.)

According to Microsoft Product Manager Joe Herman, "There is a bug in some of the Java classes we ship for DirectDraw functionality. You're drawing graphics, and in that it's similar to DirectX . . . the route most people take." He added that Microsoft will probably offer a fix for the bug in its next service pack (for Windows 98 or IE).

Ciucci wrote and posted a demonstration applet that exploits the bug.


Gates says Microsoft put no pressure on Intel

In a 15-minute segment of the videotaped testimony by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates played on Monday, November 9, 1998, Gates denied trying to pressure Intel to stop planning and developing Internet software.

Gates also denied that Microsoft tried to keep Intel from helping Sun and Netscape, then went on to describe Intel's software as being of "low quality" and "incompatible" with Windows.

When DOJ attorney David Boies asked Gates during the deposition, "Did you or, to your knowledge, anyone at Microsoft try to convince Intel that it should not engage in any software activity unless Microsoft was involved in that activity?," Gates answered, "I'm sure we pointed out sometimes how sometimes a lack of communications between the two companies on various subjects including software development led to unfortunate unreliability and mismatch, which led to bad customer experiences."

Vendors complain about Sun's embedded Java standards process

At the recent Embedded Systems Conference West, as Sun announced its intent to develop realtime extensions for Java for embedded systems, a group of 15 vendors poured cold water on the announcement by touting the formation of a group to open up Sun's allegedly exclusive standards process for embedded Java devices and systems.

The group's chief complaint was that Sun is excluding nonlicensees from the standards process. The group also believes the use of embedded systems Java will be accelerated by the contributions of more parties to the evolution of Java standards.

With that in mind, the Real Time Java Working Group, spearheaded by Hewlett-Packard and affiliated with the National Institute of Standards and Technologies, announced it has formed a more open, vendor-independent embedded Java standards process to create Java realtime extensions.

The group includes Access, Aonix, Cyberonix, Enea OSE Systems AB, HP, Intermetrics, Lynx Real-Time Systems, Microsoft, NewMonics, OMRON, Plum Hall, Rockwell Collins, Siemens AG, TeleMedia Devices, and Yokogawa Electric.

The vendors involved claim that embedded Java extensions for their JVM implementations don't show up in the specification and cannot be tested for compliance, since they are not licensees. In addition, the vendors claim that their industry needs (for smart rings, factory robotics, and automobiles) are different from those for workstations and servers.

Soon after the announcement, Sun, in an effort to quell the dissent, allegedly offered an embedded Java participation agreement, but the group chose to reject it. HP Embedded Software Standards Manager Wendy Fong said, "Sun is strongly encouraging their own process for specifications. HP has not signed up to the Sun process." She added, "In discussions with Sun, it is still apparent Sun retains significant control and veto power over their entire process. In addition, Sun's role and everyone else's is asymmetrical in the participation and contribution of intellectual property."

IBM and Rockwell didn't quite follow HP's version. According to IBM Java Software Director Jan Jackman, "We haven't seen HP announce a process, and we continue to work to make sure the industry can come to an agreement on a common, open, standard API. Sun has a lot more meat to what they're doing," And from Rockwell Collins engineer Christopher Legan "You [HP] speak of choice, but give no details on your definition of process. Misdirection, ambiguity, and division of effort are your enemy, not Sun. You need developers in your camp ASAP...they don't care what process you use to generate the spec. They want something that is not a moving target."

By November 9, 1998, Sun agreed to soon announce a new process that gives nonlicensees a place in defining the embedded APIs throughout the range of Java classes. According to Sun VP Jim Mitchell, "We're making it possible for anyone who wants to be involved in early development to get in. They just need to sign a participation agreement that they will work in Java's best interests, and pay an annual fee."

The new process would make it impossible to incorporate patented technology into Java (so developers won't have to consider royalty fees when deciding to use Java). Mitchell also noted that "there will be more opening around JVM implementations," indicating that Sun will redefine how licensed partners can create and test JVMs. The process may be enabled by December, with annual fees to climb to no more than ,000 (discounts for nonprofits).

These concessions by Sun do have the effect of making Java more open, but they don't make it open source code. And with the open source Linux OS making big waves (and possibly even bigger headlines) in today's technology sector, Sun may see more pressure to further open Java.

The Real Time Java Working Group's goal is to create its own specifications for integrating Java in embedded systems or devices. It plans to have this completed sometime within the next six months.

More on this story as it unfolds.

Info on the RTJW group:

XML Extractor learns and accesses databases

News Internet Services announced the XML Extractor, a Java applet that studies the basic structure of the data contained in a user's database, then outputs specific data with XML-based syntax.

This gives developers the ability to use the features of XML without rebuilding existing systems (databases, servers, protocols, and so on).

The Extractor supports the Java Database Connectivity protocol (JDBC) for accessing and extracting information. The open nature of Java allows the applet to learn and extract data from SQL, Access, or other relational databases. The applet uses templates that let developers build their own tag names (which can differ from the database's field names).

The product will be distributed as open source software; developers who make changes to it must publish their source online for others to use.

News Internet Services CTO Laird Popkin said the company plans to expand the Extractor's focus to the filesystem, but the delivery date is undetermined.

IBM's Soyring cross-examined

On Wednesday, November 18, 1998, Microsoft attorney Steven Holley launched into his cross-examination of IBM Network and Computer Services director John Soyring by introducing an e-mail correspondence from IBM VP John Thompson to Sun CEO Scott McNealy.

In the e-mail, also copied to Netscape CEO James Barksdale, Thompson suggested the companies cooperate to "minimize the performance gap" between Microsoft's Java and the Navigator version (Sun's version). He also mentioned that the companies should open a performance optimizing center to make the pure version of Java more competitive with the Microsoft version.

Thompson also noted that, "We must engage our other partners to bundle the [JVM] with their products. We should start with Oracle and Novell." He added, "Perhaps Ellison [at Oracle] can help us with Apple." Holley then asked Soyring, "Do you think it is appropriate for six of the largest software companies in the world to agree with each other to collude with one another against Microsoft?" Soyring was saved by a sustained objection.

On Tuesday, November 17, 1998, Soyring testified that agreements with Microsoft made it difficult for application developers to port and adapt Windows applications to IBM's OS/2 operating system.

Microsoft on injunction: Won't hurt us, and we don't have to keep using Java

Microsoft reps' first official comments on the injunction ruling by Judge Ronald Whyte indicate company officials are reviewing their options to see what the ruling will potentially mean to the company's marketing and distribution plans.

According to a lawyer for Microsoft, Tom Burt, "We'll be reviewing our options over the next several days and will be making a decision over which legal options to pursue sometime in the near future." Burt characterized the judge's order as highly technical and narrow. He added that he didn't think the ruling would have any effect on the antitrust case against the company.

Microsoft Group VP Paul Maritz said the injunction would have no impact on software that had already shipped. He added that required changes wouldn't be noticed by the typical user: "We don't anticipate any disruption to any of our products, especially Windows 98."

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