Microsoft on trial: NSP not only multimedia technology MS killed

Not only did Microsoft force Intel to back down over Native Signal Processing, claims Intel, but it put the bullet in another multimedia technology that it saw as a threat.
Written by Will Rodger, Contributor

Intel vice president Steve McGeady is the latest witness in Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's antitrust trial against Microsoft. In a three hour morning session with Microsoft attorney Steven Holley, McGeady claimed it was Microsoft pressure, not technical incompatibilities, that killed off Native Signal Processing.

After lunch, Holley continued his questioning, and opened a can of worms when he asked if there was any other instance in which Microsoft had bullied Intel into not releasing a product.

There was, McGeady replied.

In the early 1990s, Intel had plans for something called the Video Display Interface, a technology that would have run video far better than was then possible. That, too, McGeady said, was a threat to Microsoft's dominance of multimedia. As a result, "Microsoft called each and every one" of the video hardware makers who had expressed interest in Intel's technology and told them not to support it, presumably on pain of exclusion from information they would need to make their devices work with Windows.

In tones almost preternaturally calm, McGeady explained that Microsoft feared technologies like NSP would improve older versions of Windows so much that computer manufacturers would use those older versions of Windows together with NSP rather than pay for the still-emerging Windows 95 operating system.

"I think there was serious and heartfelt concern that [computer makers] would pick up NSP and ship it with Windows 3.11 and use that as an excuse not to ship Windows 95," he told the court.

The day continued with more unanswered allegations, even as Microsoft spokesmen had billed the day as an opportunity to land some blows of their own after a particularly damaging Monday. By the time Tuesday's session was over, McGeady had dodged almost every punch the software giant threw.

At one time, Holley zeroed in on NSP's 'scheduler', in essence an electronic traffic cop that keeps the many tasks a computer must perform running in harmony so things get done when they are supposed to. Though most computers have only one scheduler included with their operating systems, NSP would have added a second scheduler -- one "with unknown and untested implications," Microsoft executives wrote.

"Windows itself has a task scheduler, is that not true?" Holley asked.

"That's correct," McGeady said.

So didn't that mean the schedulers were redundant? Holley asked. No, McGeady said, since Intel's scheduler coordinated audio, video and other tasks that weren't handled by Windows in the same way.

"But they were both schedulers, weren't they?" Holley asked.

"We're using a term of art in computer science I'm not sure you understand," McGeady said.

But wasn't that scheduler "unknown and untested?" Holley asked.

"They were known and tested by us," the Intel executive said simply.

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