Government investigators preparing to interview Microsoft's CEO in advance of September's landmark antitrust trial have a message for Bill Gates: We want to know everything. Microsoft is only willing to let Gates testify for eight hours, but on Friday, the Justice Department filed a motion to compel Gates to submit to two days of deposition.
However that sparring match gets resolved, sources say the Justice Department plans to quiz Gates about a range of topics that extend far beyond allegations that his company illegally leveraged its monopoly over desktop operating systems to crush competition in the Internet browser market.
Taking a cue from the Senate Judiciary Committee's recent hearings on competition in the software business, the Justice Department wants to know about Microsoft's activities in the streaming-media market. Testifying before the committee two weeks ago, RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser said Microsoft's competing streaming product had been designed so as to disable the newest version of RealNetworks' application when they are installed on the same system. Microsoft denied the charge and said the problem is with RealNetworks' software.
But investigators also want to know more about Microsoft's strategies for marketing Windows NT and the company's BackOffice suite of applications, sources said. What's more, they plan to follow up on charges that Microsoft attempted to fracture -- and thus undercut -- the burgeoning business that's grown up around Java, the programming language developed by Sun Microsystems. "The last one really gets their attention," said one knowledgeable source, who requested anonymity.
The two sides are slated to go to trial on Sept. 8. But sources have indicated the Justice Department is widening its probe and weighing the possibility of filing another -- and broader -- lawsuit against the software maker. A spokesman for Microsoft was not immediately available for comment. The Justice Department said its policy is not to comment on ongoing investigations. "Now it's up to the court," said a DOJ spokeswoman.
Microsoft has resisted making Gates available for a second day of questioning, saying the government's demand was not fair. But in its Friday filing, the DOJ said Marc Andreessen, vice president of Netscape, was questioned by Microsoft lawyers for "over 12 hours." "They're going to ask him (Gates) about a lot of stuff -- and it's not going to be just about browsers," said another source familiar with the DOJ's thinking. "You can bet your bottom dollar on that."
The Justice Department filed its lawsuit on May along with 20 state attorneys general. Microsoft, which has rejected all the charges, has counter-sued the 20 state AGs, saying the lawsuits unconstitutionally undermine the company's intellectual property rights under federal law.
The company plans to file a more complete restatement of its position by August 10, when it responds to the governments' motions for a preliminary injunction. In the meantime, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson on Monday ordered a status hearing in the lawsuit to consider whether to compel Microsoft to provide key documents and make available top