States, Witness Battle Over Definitions

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2002-05-01
 
 
 

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A lawyer for the states Wednesday tried to paint an MIT professor as being too friendly to Microsoft Corp., saying the witnesss definition of such technology terms as "interoperability" and "commingling" were too broad.

In his cross-examination of Stuart Madnick, a professor of IT at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologys Sloane School of Management and a professor of engineering at MIT, Kevin Hodges went back and forth with Madnick over the definitions of various terms.

In written testimony, Madnick said the issue of interoperability among computers in a network was not covered by the U.S. Court of Appeals decision in this case or in the trial regarding this case.

Hodges, representing the nine states and the District of Columbia that did not sign onto the agreement last year between the U.S. Justice Department and Microsoft, challenged Madnick on the terminology in hopes of getting the witness to discuss Microsofts intentions around interoperability in its settlement with the Justice Department. "Interoperability is not a precisely defined term," Madnick said. "The IEEE [Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers] defines interoperability as the ability for two systems to exchange information."

He later said the issue of interoperability "is in the eye of the beholder. … Interoperability is a matter of degree; there are many ways to interoperate." He also said interoperability is "a continuum, not an absolute."

Hodges continually tried to get Madnick to address the degree to which Microsoft should be required to disclose information about its software and allow for competing products to interoperate with Microsoft technology. However, Madnick successfully evaded head-on or direct responses. Instead, he read larger portions of documents or said he had not studied specifics or relied on his interpretation if the IEEE definition.

Hodges scored one blow to Madnicks testimony when he cited Madnicks reference to the Notepad text editor in Windows as being easily removable.

"Are you aware that Mr. [Robert] Short [Microsoft vice president of Windows Core Technologies] testified there are cross dependencies between Notepad and Internet Explorer?" Hodges asked.

"I believe he knows more about this than I do," Madnick said. "I believe that removal of Notepad does not affect other parts of the system … but that removing other parts of the system may cause Notepad to fail."

Earlier, Hodges noted that Madnick has supported Microsoft in three other cases, including the Bristol Technologies lawsuit against Microsoft and a suit pending before the European Commission.

Hodges also noted that Madnick worked closely with the National Economics Research Association, which has been commissioned to do work for Microsoft and which also produced another witness in the related district court case—Professor Richard Schmalensee, also of MITs Sloane school.

And Hodges noted that the Gates Foundation had donated $20 million to MIT toward the construction of a new school of engineering. Madnick pointed out that the engineering school does not pay him and that the total cost for the new facility is about $200 million.

Also, during Madnicks time on the stand, Hodges tried to admit into evidence two documents that Microsoft objected to. Microsoft attorney Michael Lacovara said one of the documents "is the European Union equivalent to a complaint to initiate proceedings." The objection came even though Madnick had cited them in his testimony.

"If they want to try the European Union proceeding in this courtroom, Microsoft would be happy to do that," Lacovara said.

Related stories:

  • States Strategist: ISVs Must Adapt
  • Microsoft, States Clash Over Witness
  • Special Report: Microsoft vs. DOJ
  • Rocket Fuel