Allchin: Integration good for consumers

Summary:In his testimony, Microsoft exec reiterates that removing the Web browser would essentially break Windows.

Microsoft executive Jim Allchin claimed his company was interested in the Internet long before Netscape existed and sought to integrate Web features into the operating system for the benefit of consumers and developers.

In written testimony submitted in the antitrust trial in Washington, D.C., Allchin, Microsoft's (Nasdaq:MSFT) senior VP for personal and business systems, said all modern operating systems contain Web-browsing capabilities, including platforms developed by Apple Computer Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPL), IBM Corp. (NYSE:IBM), Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq:SUNW) and Novell Inc. (Nasdaq:NOVL)

In the 139-page document, Allchin also sought to debunk testimony by government witness Franklin Fisher that Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser could be removed from Windows 98. Allchin said doing so would prohibit users from running certain programs, such as Lotus Notes.

The U.S. Department of Justice and 19 state attorneys general have sued Microsoft, accusing it of anti-competitive practices including unnecessarily tying the browser to the OS.

In his testimony, Allchin repeated claims that removing the Web browser from Windows would result in an OS that did not function.

"The foregoing statement is not a matter of opinion, nor is it subject to debate," Allchin wrote. "It is an objectively verifiable fact, rooted in software engineering, about the design of Windows 98."

Same claims, same judge
The company made similar claims in a separate case involving Windows 95 in 1997, when U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson -- who's also presiding over this trial -- ordered the company to remove the browser from the OS.

The company did eventually remove browsing functions from Windows 95, but an appeals court ruled later that it didn't have to.

In his written testimony, Allchin said trustbusters shouldn't be concerned about whether the browser and OS can be separated, but whether their integration benefits consumers.

"My hand can be surgically removed from my body, but it was certainly a well-integrated part of my body before the surgery," Allchin said by way of analogy. He also said the inclusion of a browser or other software with the OS doesn't preclude consumers from choosing other software, a claim the DOJ denies.

He repeated warnings by Microsoft senior executive Paul Maritz, who's currently on the witness stand, that the government has no place regulating software.

'Recipe for disaster'
"Placing artificial restraints on product development in a fast-moving and intensely competitive industry like software is a recipe for disaster," Allchin wrote.

In a press release accompanying the testimony, Microsoft claims Allchin pushed Internet technologies long before they were popular by encouraging the company's Redmond, Wash., campus to adopt the TCP/IP standard for its own wiring, and by suggesting in 1994 that executives include Internet technology in upcoming versions of Windows.

However, according to internal e-mails already submitted into evidence by the DOJ, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates was still worried about the Internet a year later.

In an e-mail Gates sent to another executive in April 1995, he said: "I admit I find it hard to focus lots of resources on trials and things when the Internet is taking away our power every day and will have eroded it irretrievably by the time broadband is pervasive."

Timing is everything
The timing of Microsoft's integration of the browser is important to the DOJ's case. Trustbusters claim that Microsoft created a browser and tied it to the OS to thwart Netscape's rise to power.

But Microsoft executives, including Allchin, say they embraced the Internet because they thought it would become a popular feature of the OS.

Allchin is scheduled to take the stand following the conclusion of Maritz's testimony. As he has in the past, DOJ attorney David Boies will probably roll out a string of internal e-mail messages in an attempt to refute Allchin's claims.

Topics: Microsoft, Apple, Browser, IBM, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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