Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates to take the stand in Novell-Microsoft trial

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates may take the stand this week in an ongoing Novell vs. Microsoft antitrust case involving events that happened in the mid-1990s. Yawn.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

This week, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is slated to take the stand as a witness for Microsoft in the ongoing Novell Microsoft antitrust trial.


The reason I haven't been glued to the proceedings this time around -- as opposed to when I was covering over a decade ago the U.S. Department of Justice vs. Microsoft antitrust trial?  It's ancient history. Novell may or may not get money, depending on the ultimate ruling, but will any policies or products change as a result? No.

This is a trial about events that occurred in the mid-1990s when Microsoft was developing Windows 95. It centers around WordPerfect -- a product Novell sold to Corel 12 years ago. Novell itself was purchased recently by Attachmate.

What's the back story behind Novell's beef? In 2004, Novell settled one potential antitrust suit with Microsoft involving NetWare for $536 million. But Novell refused to settle with Microsoft over antitrust claims around its WordPerfect and Quattro Pro products at that time.

Novell claimed Microsoft withheld interoperability information it needed to enable those products to run well on Windows. Microsoft tried to get Novell’s complaint dismissed, claiming that it was Novell’s “own mismanagement and poor business decisions” that tanked WordPerfect and Quattro Pro. Plus, Microsoft argued, since Novell sold WordPerfect to Corel over a decade ago, their claims should be barred under the Statute of Limitations.

The majority of Novell’s claims in this matter had previously been dismissed. A federal appeals court judge agreed earlier this year to allow the remaining unsettled claims to proceed.

As reported last week by The Salt Lake Tribune:

"An email Gates wrote in October 1994, 11 months before the launch of Windows 95, is at the heart of Novell’s case. In it, Gates, who was CEO at the time, decided to not include several software code features in Windows 95, the highly successful personal computer operating system released in August 1995."

I am one who believes Microsoft officials engaged in a number of practices that abused the company's monopoly power in the 1990s. But Microsoft already has been on trial for those activities and was required to adjust some of its policies as a result. Whether or not one believes the company was judged justly, the industry has moved on at a rapid pace since then.

Novell is claiming it lost $1 billion because of Microsoft's alleged anticompetitive actions and is said to be seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages from Microsoft. The Novell-Microsoft trial, which has been going on for three-plus weeks, is at its projected half-way mark.

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