Microsoft on Trial: DOJ testimony centres on browser integration

The Microsoft Corp. antitrust battle returned for the time being to the original core issue of the case Tuesday -- the integration of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser into the Windows 95 and Windows 98 operating systems.

The government used testimony from its technical witness, Glenn Weadock, as well as segments of videotaped depositions from major PC makers and Boeing Co., to illustrate the impact the integration has had on the marketplace and customer purchasing decisions.

Scott Vesey, Boeing's Windows Web browser product manager, explained in his deposition that Boeing views a Web browser as an application much like a word processor. He said it would be better for Boeing if a decision could be made on the merits of the browser outside of any decision made regarding operating systems.

Vesey also walked through a presentation he prepared for internal use at Boeing regarding the integration of Internet Explorer (IE) into Windows -- particularly IE version 5.0 -- that would make it impossible for Boeing to look elsewhere for a browser. "We do not have a choice," Vesey claimed, adding that due to the integration of Microsoft's IE 5.0 into Office 2000 and the Windows operating system, Boeing will have to discontinue using Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator browser and will have to support IE 5.0 instead.

Questioning Weadock, the government laid down a foundation that it hopes proved that browsers are in fact applications, and that there is a difference between a Transport Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) stack or other system software and an application such as a browser. It also tried to show that updating operating system files is not unique to IE, but rather it is a practice done by all applications. The government also used its redirect questioning of Weadock, president of Independent Software Inc., to introduce the taped depositions of Gateway Inc.'s James Von Holle and Packard Bell NEC Inc.'s Jon Kies. In their depositions, both parties spoke about trying to support both IE and Navigator on a single machine. They cited increased support costs due to customer confusion as the key reason that they would not bundle both browsers on their machines.

In addition, the government introduced an e-mail message sent by Von Holle to Microsoft on April 10 that stated: "We want flexibility on anything associated with the Internet. We want Microsoft to provide us with technology and not to make decisions of choices for us or our customers."

Similarly, a Compaq Computer Corp. survey conducted in January and February of this year was introduced as evidence. The survey queried 283 corporate PC decision-makers, and found that, in 1997, Windows 95 was used by 95 percent of the corporate market. The survey also found that 70 percent of those surveyed used a browser. However, according to the survey, of those that used a browser, an even split existed between users that would like a future operating system to provide Navigator or IE.

The survey also found that 80 percent of corporate users wiped the hard drive clean once the PC arrived at their location; the majority of the systems then had either the retail version of Windows 95 or OEM Service Release 2.0 reinstalled.

Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said, after the court recessed for lunch, that the information is "legally irrelevant to the case," adding that Microsoft provides customers and PC makers with choices. The U.S. Department of Justice is expected to show more of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates' videotaped deposition once court reconvenes this afternoon. If there is time, the DOJ will call IBM Corp.'s John Soyring to the stand. Earlier Tuesday, his direct testimony was released.

In his testimony, Soyring claimed one of the reasons that Microsoft was able to drive down the success of IBM's OS/2 operating system was its practice of creating Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and tools that were contractually usable only by developers creating Windows-specific applications. Soyring also wrote in his direct testimony that the impact of Microsoft's bundling of its browser into Windows encouraged developers to favour Microsoft's version of the Java development language.

Outside the courthouse, DOJ lead litigator David Boies said the DOJ has evidence from internal Microsoft documents as well as outside evidence that Microsoft has a practice of giving its application developers that build such products early access to APIs. He also said that Microsoft's "favoured" independent software vendors get access earlier than others to APIs -- pointing to the testimony given earlier in the case by Netscape.

The total effect, Boies said, "stacks the deck in Microsoft's favour."

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