Microsoft Challenges Novell Claims

 
 
By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2002-03-27
 
 
 
WASHINGTON – An attorney for Microsoft Corp. today attempted to show that testimony by a Novell Inc. executive in the case against the Redmond, Wash., software makers is biased and reflects Novells own business strategy rather than the matters of the anti-trust case.

Novell Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Carl Ledbetter took the stand this morning here in the anti-trust case brought by the District of Columbia and nine states.

Ledbetter testified that Microsoft acted in an anti-competitive manner to prevent Novells server software from working smoothly with Windows. He said that the proposed settlement would have no effect on Microsofts behavior because it would not require disclosure of all the technical information that rival software makers need to ensure interoperability among products. He said that the proposal put forth by the plaintiffs (the District of Columbia and the nine states that dissented from a settlement proposal previously accepted in November by Microsoft, the U.S. Department of Justice and nine other states) would largely prevent Microsoft from being able to maintain its monopoly in the desktop operating system market.

In a cross-examination of Ledbetters written testimony, Microsoft attorney Michael Lacovara grilled the Novell CTO about Novells purpose in making the assertions. He held up an email sent by a lawyer with the Utah attorney generals office, in which the lawyer tells Novell, of Provo, Utah, that "products in the classification of middleware would receive protection from certain practices of a certain operating system company."

Lacovara spent much of the cross-examination challenging Ledbetters inclusion of the Novell NetWare operating system in the definition of middleware. The term middleware is particularly key to two provisions in the dissenting states remedy proposal, requiring the unbinding of Microsoft middleware from Windows products and the disclosure of APIs enabling interoperability.

"Was network operating system included in the definition of middleware [in the states proposal] at the request of Novell?" Lacovara asked. Ledbetter answered that he had long considered the definition to include network operating systems.

Challenging Ledbetters claim that Novells products do not interoperate fully with Windows, Lacovara highlighted Novell marketing material that claimed widespread interoperability of its products. Ledbetter characterized the interoperability assertion as "a high-level marketing claim." Lacovara questioned whether a lack of interoperability would make it harder for Novell to sell server software and asked Ledbetter whether he was concerned that Microsoft would be able to leverage its position on the desktop to the server market.

Lacovara produced a December 2001 email exchange between Ledbetter and Novell CEO Jack Messman, in which Messman noted that a consultant suggested that Novell needed to infiltrate the Microsoft strategy. "After we get in, we can proliferate," Messman said in the email. "Could the directory or some other product be our Trojan horse?"

Responding to Messmans question, Ledbetter wrote: "Getting Microsoft to adopt [Novells] eDirectory is clearly the best way to do this and weve talked about it in the past. If what we are doing in the states anti-trust case creates a crack in Microsofts resistance, we may have a way to renew the offer."

Rocket Fuel