US Report: Gates, Boies in 'pissing' match

Bill Gates stole the show again Thursday morning at Microsoft's antitrust trial with evasive answers to questions about Java.

The screening of more than a half-hour of the Microsoft chairman's taped deposition, taken Aug. 28, was the government's lead-in to its next witness -- James Gosling, a Sun Microsystems Inc. fellow and co-creator of Java. Unlike previously released portions of his deposition, where Gates assiduously dodged questions, today's excerpts proved at times amusing.

For example, at one point, David Boies, lead prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice, and Gates danced through a series of eight questions about the meaning of the phrase "pissing on," which was used in a Microsoft e-mail sent to Gates regarding the company's plans to discredit forthcoming Java technologies from Sun. "Now, Mr. Slivka [a Microsoft project leader] here says that Microsoft is going to be saying uncomplimentary things about JDK [Java Development Kit] 1.2 at every opportunity," said Boies. "Do you see that?"

"Where's that?" responded Gates.

"'JDK 1.2 has JFC [Java Foundation Class], which we're going to be pissing on at every opportunity,'" Boies read.

"I don't know if he is referring to pissing on JFC, or pissing on JDK 1.2, nor do I know what he specifically means by 'pissing on,'" retorted Gates.

Frustrated with Gates' refusal to say whether the phrase meant that Microsoft intended to discredit Java, Boies eventually asked Gates if it was actually a code word inside Microsoft for saying nice things about something.

While the exchange drew laughs within the courtroom -- even from District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson -- the majority of the video consisted of Gates claiming he had little or no knowledge about the reasons that Sun sued Microsoft over Java or what Java development activities were under way at Microsoft. Gates responded to many of the questions with "I don't know," "I don't remember" or "I'm not sure." At one point, Assistant Attorney General Joel Klein could be seen with a wide grin as the tape was being played.

Gosling's cross-examination proved to be a reunion of sorts with Tom Burt, Microsoft's associate general counsel. Burt cross-examined Gosling earlier this year in San Jose, California., when Microsoft and Sun squared off in the breach-of-contract preliminary injunction hearing.

Gosling's cross-examination, which is expected to last several days, had only just begun before the court broke for lunch. During his hour on the stand, Gosling answered numerous questions about the background of Java, how the technology works and the various pieces that make up Java. Just before the break, Burt appeared to be setting up the next piece of his cross-examination by trying to get Gosling to confirm that Java has some weaknesses and that it has never lived up to its promise of "write once. run anywhere."

Outside the courtroom during the break, Microsoft officials said the presentation of Gates' deposition may have been amusing, but it was irrelevant. But Boies quickly countered, saying the purpose behind showing the tape was to show Gates being evasive and to prove him wrong. "That shows that someone has something to hide or knows that they have done something wrong," Boies said.

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