A Year Ago: Microsoft on trial: Intel's McGeady refuses the bait

First published: Wed, 11 Nov 1998 11:18:02 GMT

Microsoft is having trouble rattling the Intel witness it promised in the beginning to discredit.

At yesterday afternoon's proceedings in the landmark antitrust trial, Microsoft attorney Steven Holley tried to get Intel vice president Steve McGeady to admit that his company dropped a multimedia project because it wouldn't work with Windows 95, but McGeady wouldn't bite.

McGeady testified earlier that Intel killed the so-called Native Signal Processing (NSP) project under pressure from Microsoft. Under cross-examination he said Microsoft badmouthed the project to computer makers. "This was the beginning of the end [for NSP]," he said.

In nearly three hours of often rapid-fire exchanges with Holley, McGeady told Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson that it was Microsoft's pressure, not technical incompatibilities, that killed NSP, the company's name for multimedia technology that McGeady had earlier said would make PCs "dance and sing."

To make their case, Microsoft attorneys introduced videotaped testimony from McGeady's superior, Ron Whittier. Whittier told Microsoft attorneys then that Intel pulled NSP from its sales plans after it became apparent the technology would not work with Windows 95 as it was written.

"We were looking out for our own best interest," Whittier said in his taped deposition, adding: "Windows 95 required certain processor resources [that NSP could not deliver]."

Since court rules require both sides to sign off on any tape played as evidence, Microsoft was forced to play a section of the government's choosing immediately after.

This time, Whittier seemed to support McGeady's contention that Microsoft pressured computer makers interested in NSP to not accept the technology. "They just made it clear through their (manufacturing) channels that they were not going to support the program," he said.

Whittier's seemingly contradictory statements, McGeady said, could be explained in two words: "PR spin."

Because Intel is a close partner of Microsoft, McGeady's testimony has been especially damaging.

In the morning, he testified that Microsoft said it owns software "down to the metal," that is, anything above the processor -- and that the company believed Intel had no business moving into its space.

DOJ attorneys continued their assault on Microsoft's plans to thwart Java, showing internal emails in which Microsoft officials tried to stop Intel from working on Sun's version of the technology, as well as Microsoft's plans to kill Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML.

McGeady said Intel was in the process of developing a multimedia Java technology that was "faster and more compatible" with Windows than any other version.

"They wanted us to stop. They considered it competition," he said. The DOJ also showed more of Microsoft CEO Bill Gates' deposition tape, in which he denies trying to steer Intel away from Sun's version of Java.

There's no doubt McGeady has been on Microsoft's radar screen for a while. Microsoft executive Paul Maritz wrote to Gates in 1996 that "Steve McGeady remains an issue for us. He is a champion of Java, and a believer that the day of bloatware [i.e., our apps] is over."

The executive also lamented that McGeady "has more IQ than most there."

The testimony paints a picture of the unravelling relationship between the companies during 1995 and 1996 -- a rift so extreme that an internal Intel document on the subject stated "divorce will be bad for the kids."

During a lighter moment in the trial, the courthouse erupted in laughter when the DOJ produced notes of a meeting in which Gates told Intel executives "this antitrust thing will blow over."

Microsoft said that statement referred to concerns over the Microsoft Network icon appearing on the Windows 95 screen. The same notes, taken by McGeady in 1995, indicate that Gates said the company planned to change its email retention policies. Internal Microsoft email has played a prominent role in the trial.

A Microsoft spokesman said the company made no such moves, and that its attorneys planned to portray McGeady as an unreliable witness, frustrated because many of his projects were killed. McGeady now works on Intel's Internet health initiative.