Microsoft on trial: Intel exec a 'prima donna' with a grudge

Microsoft Corp. attorney Steven Holley went all out to dent the credibility of government witness Steve McGeady Thursday -- portraying the Intel Corp.
Written by Lisa M. Bowman, Contributor

Microsoft Corp. attorney Steven Holley went all out to dent the credibility of government witness Steve McGeady Thursday -- portraying the Intel Corp. executive as a disgruntled employee and "prima donna" who blamed Microsoft for being shipped off to MIT after his pet project was killed.

With the landmark MS-Department of Justice antitrust trial reconvening after a one-day recess, proceedings heated up Thursday. At one stage, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson stepped in and asked Holley whether he was seeking only to embarrass McGeady.

After more than two hours of questions, McGeady admitted he leaked a confidential memo to the New York Times, had been criticised by other Intel executives and, in a Sept. 19, 1995, e-mail to Netscape Communications Corp. Chairman Jim Clark, called Intel Chairman Andy Grove a "mad dog."

"What is the point of this?" asked Jackson during an exchange over the use of the "mad dog" description. "What are you trying to demonstrate? Are you just trying to embarrass him?" Holley also introduced e-mail correspondence between McGeady and Netscape's Clark in an attempt to show that he had been fraternising with Microsoft's archenemy.

Earlier this week, McGeady testified that he heard Microsoft executive Paul Maritz declare at a September 1995 meeting that his company's goal was to "embrace, extend and extinguish" the opposition. Thursday afternoon, Holley presented McGeady's handwritten notes of the meeting in which McGeady wrote the words: "embrace/extend/change the nature of the Internet." "You don't see the word 'extinguish' anywhere in your notes, do you?" asked Holley. "There is no danger I would have forgotten," replied McGeady. "You didn't need to add it to your notes because you made them up later, isn't that true?" asked Holley. "That is absolutely untrue, and I resent the implication," replied McGeady.

McGeady testified earlier this week that Microsoft would "embrace" the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) for the Web and add special proprietary extensions to make it incompatible with Netscape. Software developers would thus follow Microsoft's lead, and the resulting software would run on Microsoft browsers but not on Netscape's -- "extinguishing" the smaller company, he intimated.

McGeady had also testified that Maritz said his company would "extinguish Netscape's air supply" -- meaning income from its Navigator Web browser -- by giving away the Microsoft browser. "Where do you see anything about the air supply?" asked Holley, looking at McGeady's notes. "That phrase does not appear in my notes," admitted McGeady.

Earlier Thursday, Holley presented notes of a 1995 meeting between McGeady and his boss, in which McGeady wrote that Intel Architecture Labs' demise was "a response to IAL having f***ed up." McGeady had testified earlier that Microsoft saw the group's multimedia project as a threat and bullied Intel to kill it. McGeady responded that: "The screw-up was one of marketing and strategy, not one of technology" -- referring to Intel's plans to develop the technology for Windows 3.1 rather than the upcoming Windows 95. "While the language may seem harsh, it's more common than you might expect," McGeady said.

McGeady, who's back at Intel in charge of the company's Internet health alliance, spent time at MIT after his IAL group was cut.

Holley also showed memos in which Microsoft agreed to speed up support for Intel's upcoming Merced processor. McGeady had testified that Microsoft had threatened to withhold support for some MMX chips, which were set to be released shortly, unless Intel killed IAL.

Holley also played portions of the deposition of McGeady's boss, Ron Whittier, in which he said he couldn't recall Microsoft threatening Intel or considering it a competitor. McGeady accused Whittier of lapses in memory and said much of the testimony was "incorrect."

The Microsoft attorney tried to paint McGeady as a disgruntled employee by showing documents that called him "belligerent toward Microsoft" and a "prima donna." To which, McGeady replied, "I've been called worse." Holley also alleged that on several occasions, McGeady had run to executives at Netscape after strategic meetings with Microsoft. "I would be happy to [confidentially] share with you my various experiences with your 'number one competitor,' within the bounds of propriety," McGeady wrote Clark in an e-mail."

The attorney called into question McGeady's claims that Microsoft executives had threatened to cut off Netscape's air supply and "embrace, extend, extinguish" Internet technology, saying that those phrases failed to show up in McGeady's handwritten notes.

McGeady countered that the statements were so striking that they stuck in his mind instead.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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