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EDITIONS
Monday, 14 December, 1998, 17:55 GMT
USA versus Microsoft: the eighth week
Bill Gates
How worried is Bill Gates about other application platforms
By independent computer industry analyst Graham Lea

The eighth week in the Microsoft trial was equally split between the conclusion of evidence by Canadian Dr James Gosling, the inventor of Java and testimony by Professor David Farber of the University of Pennsylvania, a Unix pioneer.

Microsoft
Both described how Microsoft allegedly used anticompetitive practices, in one case in an attempt to stop Java running on platforms other than Windows, and in the other case, to make it difficult for other browsers to compete with Internet Explorer.

Tom Burt, associate general counsel at Microsoft, endlessly cross-examined Dr Gosling on the minutiae of Java, so that at times it seemed as though Microsoft was conducting a dry run of the forthcoming Sun versus Microsoft trial to be held next year in San Jose, California.

Microsoft had tried to convince Sun to support its communications protocol in exchange for Microsoft's support of JavaBeans, the re-usable components of Java programmes, but Sun was firm that it would not do anything to compromise the cross-platform capabilities of Java.

Although Microsoft had told Sun that it wanted to make Java applications work better with Windows, Dr Gosling said there was no problem with "Microsoft adding ways to access the underlying platform facilities . . . [but] there never was any intention . . . to allow Microsoft to change the language and violate the specifications."
Dr Gosling added that Microsoft could have achieved its objective without violating the Java specification. "We generally assumed people were being honourable," Dr Gosling testified pointedly.

Dr Gosling noted that Microsoft appeared to be holding out its hand to Sun, but often "there was a knife in their hand, and they were expecting us to grab the blade". He continued: "Microsoft was saying, 'here, adopt this technology' and we were saying, 'but this technology, while it solves the problem for the Microsoft VM [Java virtual machine] on the Microsoft operating system, doesn't solve the problem for any of our other licensees, and . . . fails the test of interoperability and cross-platform portability'."

Dr Gosling pointed out that the necessary steps to make the Microsoft's Java implementations standard, as ordered by the San Jose court, had only taken Microsoft a few weeks. This enraged Mr Burt who said that Dr Gosling did not know how many man hours of work it had taken.

The redirect examination of Dr Gosling was by David Boies, the special trial counsel for the Department of Justice. He noted that Mr Burt had not asked Dr Gosling to comment on a passage in a Microsoft exhibit that said: "Java gives Sun a chance to break away from Microsoft monopoly".
Netscape sign
Netscape: Distribution vehicle for Microsoft's biggest threat, according to e-mail.
An extract from a Microsoft document introduced by Mr Boies showed Microsoft's concern for the threat to its Windows monopoly by Java: "NC and Java are platform challenges" and continued to discuss "possible emergence" of a set programme interfaces and "underlying system software that lead to lesser or no role for Windows."

An e-mail from Microsoft Vice President Paul Maritz to Bill Gates in July 1997 showed Microsoft's concern about Netscape: "If we look further at Java . . . being our major threat, then Netscape is the major distribution vehicle." This was another reason for Microsoft's attack on Netscape: to inhibit the distribution of the Java Virtual Machine.

Microsoft's policy towards Java could not be clearer: "Strategic objective: kill cross-platform [100 percent pure] Java by growing the polluted Java market." Dr Gosling wryly noted that the pollution took the form of making things easy for Microsoft, and difficult for everybody else.

Windows '98 packages
Windows '98: difficult to remove Internet Explorer from package
Mr Boies asked Dr Gosling if there was any plausible technical reason to design Windows 98 in a way that makes it difficult to remove IE. Dr Gosling replied: "I sure can't think of one."

Judge Jackson asked Dr Gosling whether it was the case that Microsoft produced more quickly a better version of what Sun was doing. He replied that it was not better because it was tied to the Windows platform, and deliberately prevented interoperability.

Professor Farber's written testimony discussed the inefficiencies in designing "so-called" operating systems which include inappropriate functions, such as applications like web browsers.
Steven Holley, counsel for Microsoft, repeatedly asked Professor Farber if he knew the function of a particular file in Windows 98 until he was stopped by Judge Jackson and told he had made the point.
Professor Farber said he had declined opportunities to look at Windows 98 source code because he found that Microsoft's required non-disclosure agreement created a conflict of interest with his teaching responsibilities to impart information. He said it was not necessary to understand the details of Windows 98 to reach his views.

Professor Farber complained that when he tried to use Netscape with Windows 98, IE kept appearing. Mr Holley quickly changed the subject.

The redirect examination was conducted by Denise de Mory for the DoJ. She revealed that one of Microsoft's intended witnesses, Professor Michael Dertouzos of MIT, when asked if a browser was an application had testified that "Historically and today, it is the case that browsers are treated as applications." [Microsoft subsequently announced a substitute witness.]
She then produced the Microsoft Press computer dictionary, where IE was described as a web browser, and web browsers were defined as "a client application . . . ". It was a powerful point.

So far as separating the Operating System from the browser was concerned, Professor Farber said there were a lot of benefits. His opinion was that Microsoft could have designed Windows 98 so that IE was separate, with users having the same benefits.

The most worrying outcome for Microsoft may well be that after Professor Farber had completed the installation of Microsoft software on a PC to test Windows 98, the machine was immediately reclaimed by his students for running Linux.


Graham Lea is a leading computer industry analyst specialising in Microsoft and who will be following the case for News Online - his views do not represent those of the BBC.

Links to more Microsoft stories are at the foot of the page.


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