States Hammer Microsoft Defense

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2002-04-18 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The software giant had lots of ground to cover in its third day of its defense against amended remedies proposed by non-settling states in its landmark antitrust trial

WASHINGTON—In an eventful day in court, Microsoft Corp. refuted evidence that its Java policies and product plans upset a close partner, defended itself against claims it put words in a witness mouth, and demonstrated the accessibility functionality of its operating system. The software giant had lots of ground to cover in its third day of its defense against amended remedies proposed by non-settling states in its landmark antitrust trial.
Under cross-examination by Kevin Hodges, an attorney for the states, Scott Borduin, CTO of Autodesk Inc., of San Rafael, Calif., said he was "displeased" upon learning that Microsoft planned not to support Java in the latest version of its operating system.
In fact, upon learning that Microsoft did not intend to distribute a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) with Windows XP, Borduin fired off an e-mail to a Microsoft executive complaining about Microsofts attempt to move developers away from Java and to its own .NET platform. "You believed this was Microsofts attempt to strong-arm the developer community and move them from Java to .NET?" Hodges asked. "I did not know the plans when I wrote this e-mail," Borduin said.
In the e-mail, dated Aug. 20, 2001, Borduin told Kelly Malone, a Microsoft partner manager assigned to Autodesk, that one Autodesk engineer said: "Our whole-hearted support of Microsoft is grossly misplaced. This is a company that will screw anybody at the drop of a hat, golden partner or otherwise." "In other words," Borduin continued in the e-mail, "this decision [to stop supporting Java] seems to have reinforced the most negative perceptions about Microsoft in some of our engineering community." At issue, Borduin said, was Autodesks interest in Java support for some of its products, primarily its Architectural Studio product, which is written almost exclusively In Java, he said. "You said this was a heavy-handed way to move developers to the .NET platform," Hodges asked. "That is a false reading of that particular e-mail," Borduin replied. Hodges also asked Borduin why he complained at the time that Microsofts move relegated Autodesk users to "a painful download." Borduin said that he thought at the time users might be required to download their own JVM. However, on redirect examination by Microsoft Attorney Michael Lacovara, Borduin said he had a subsequent conversation with Microsoft that eased many of his concerns about Microsoft and Java. In an e-mail Microsoft introduced into evidence, dated Sept. 7, 2001 and sent by Borduin to several Autodesk executives, Borduin wrote: "It turns out that there are quite a few factors which might mitigate the impact on the end user in the short term." These factors include keeping the existing JVM if an end user upgrades his operating system, Microsoft negotiating with OEMs to bundle the JVM and making the JVM part of Windows critical updates. "The net impact of this is that the only way the user will not have a JVM is if they completely clean their hard drive, install a generic Windows XP, then fail to download the critical updates," Borduin wrote. However, he also offers a caveat: "Whether Microsofts version of this story rings true probably depends on your point of view, but it is clear that they dont seem to be trying to get the JVM off of user machines in the short term." Upon questioning by Lacovara, Borduin said, "I have no reason to believe" that Autodesk enterprise customers have had any trouble obtaining the JVM. Earlier, Hodges suggested that another method for Autodesk to ensure users got the JVM was to distribute it itself. However, when questioned by Lacovara, Borduin said Autodesk does not like to redistribute platform-level code. "With the states proposal [to deliver a modular version of Windows], would Autodesk have to distribute more Microsoft code?" Lacovara asked. "That would essentially be the most likely outcome," Borduin said. He added that Autodesk would either have to "dumb down" its products or create multiple versions of its products to support various middleware. Combating the states implication that Autodesk felt compelled to move to .NET., Borduin told Lacovara, ".NET has almost had a kind of viral effect in our company. It rapidly spread through the engineering community by word of mouth." Hodges weighed in heavily with Borduin over the issue of Windows fragmentation, which, Borduin said in his written testimony, would be the outcome of the states proposal and would hurt the industry. "Our concern is that Windows will no longer exist as it does today and that will make it difficult to write to," Borduin told Hodges. Hodges asked Borduin if software was "malleable" to which Borduin said it is but not in all cases easily so. "Software is more malleable than, say, changing a building," he said. Hodges asked if having multiple versions of Windows was in Autodesks interest, to which Borduin said it was not. In fact, Hodges got Borduin to admit he said "in a perfect world there would only be one operating system." Hodges then introduced evidence that Autodesk recommends its users run its products only on Windows XP Professional version and not the Home version, which he said was fragmentation in itself. Hodges also showed that despite its claims of hardship in having to support different middleware, the company already does so in its support for products such as Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer, and Real Networks RealPlayer and Microsoft Media Player. In addition, Hodges pointed to Autodesks current support of, and emerging plans for, Web services, which can be accessed via handheld devices, cell phones and other clients as evidence that the companys interests lie beyond the desktop. Meanwhile, Brent Frei, chairman and CEO of Onyx Software Corp., of Bellevue, Wash., took the stand in Microsofts defense, and Laurie Fulton, an attorney for the states, wasted no time in painting him as sympathetic with Microsoft after having been a former employee who left the company with Microsofts "blessing." Fulton accused outgoing Microsoft General Counsel William Neukom of putting words in Freis mouth. Displaying hand-written notes Frei took during a phone call in which Neukom asked him to testify for Microsoft, Frei wrote he should testify to the "balkanization" of Windows. Neukom kept a stolid presence as Fulton asked Frei if he even knew what balkanization meant, he admitted he did not at first until Neukom told him. She then challenged him on his knowledge of the states proposals. He said he had not read the states filing. "You didnt write the first draft of your direct testimony did you," she asked Frei. "I did not," he responded. Fulton also characterized Frei as a worried potential competitor to Microsoft in the CRM business. As Microsoft launched its own CRM offering MS-CRM in February, Onyx issued a press release highlighting the fact it did not expect to compete with Microsoft because Microsoft was going after small and midsize companies. Fulton also pointed out that Frei might have been looking for a favor from Microsoft as a reason to testify, to which he said he had considered it. She pointed out that Onyxs stock price has fallen from $30 two years ago to $4. When Fulton asked Frei if he thought Onyx might be acquired by Microsoft, he replied: "Anything is possible." Also Thursday, Chris Hofstader, vice president of engineering for Freedom Scientific Inc., which develops the JAWS screen reader software for blind and low-vision users, said in his written testimony that "JAWS would break if the middleware on which it relies were removed." Hofstader gave the court a 10-minute demonstration of the software.
 
 
 
 
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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