Whom Do You Believe Today?

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2000-12-11 Print this article Print

Microsoft blames this newspaper for the district Court ruling that the company must be broken up.

Microsoft blames this newspaper for the district Court ruling that the company must be broken up. Thats right, kill the messenger. In March, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson reportedly said, "I am not at all comfortable with restructuring the company." Three months later, thats just what he ordered, apparently attributing his change of heart to "statements of Gates and Ballmer" that the judge said showed "intransigence."

Jackson questioned the parties to the case on May 24 about a statement attributed to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer here in these pages. I guess that makes eWeek the industrys journal of record, but it wasnt part of the trial record; hence, Microsofts objection on appeal.

Microsofts appellate "brief" (59,000 words!) also decries Jacksons reliance on summary witnesses, few in number, as a decision that "virtually ensured extensive reliance on hearsay"—that is, on testimony to facts not personally known to a witness. Jackson did this to limit the number of witnesses, a laudable goal but a somewhat daring execution.

Further, Microsoft strikes a telling blow when it asserts that "[Jacksons] most inculpatory findings consist of sweeping, conclusory assertions, unfounded inferences and speculative predictions." Ive previously pointed out such trial court "findings" as "It is unlikely ... that a sufficient number of open-source developers will commit to ... the large variety of applications that an operating system would need to [present] a viable alternative to Windows." No one could call that a statement of fact.

The Internets flood of data forces all of us to develop aggressive strategies for making sense of it all. But due process must be protected, and theres the dilemma for the Court of Appeals. Well all be watching to see if the judicial process can run at Internet speed.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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