Red Hat CTO: Microsoft Quashed Interest in Linux

Red Hat CTO Michael Tiemann testified that pressure from Microsoft Corp. kept computer makers from bundling Linux on their desktops and serves.

WASHINGTON—To what extent did alleged pressures from Microsoft Corp. deter PC makers from bundling Linux on desktops and servers?

According to Michael Tiemann, chief technology officer at Red Hat Inc., the pressure had a lot to do with the lack of Linux penetration among OEMs.

"It was as if a skunk had come into the room" when Red Hat tried to talk about desktop Linux with Dell Computer Corp. in the summer of 2000, Tiemann said Thursday, testifying in the fourth day of the antitrust remedy trial between Microsoft and the states that had not signed onto the settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Tiemann said he toured Dell, Compaq Computer Corp. and Intel Corp., and met with similar results at each company. While Dell struck a deal with Red Hat to preload Red Hat Linux on its servers and desktops in June of 2000, Dell subsequently canceled the deal a couple of months later, he said. The other OEMs showed "a distinct and abrupt lack of interest," Tiemann said. His conclusion? The topic is "taboo" among OEMs, "based on their fear of retaliation of Microsoft."

At that point, Microsoft lawyer Stephanie Wheeler objected. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly struck the "retaliation" part of Tiemanns testimony, but allowed the rest.

Tiemann spent the bulk of the afternoon answering questions on the extent to which the settlement agreement proposed by the Department of Justice and nine non-litigating states will level the computing playing field. Nine other states, plus the District of Columbia, have chosen not to settle with Microsoft and are pursuing their antitrust case against the Redmond, Wash., software maker.

In his written testimony, Tiemann argued that Microsoft had withheld necessary technical information and had failed to provide the protocols and specifications needed by vendors working to provide products that can work with Windows. He also was slated to address Microsofts claims that removing middleware, such as Microsofts Windows Media Player, from Windows would result in the fragmentation of Windows.

Wheeler said the proposed settlement would address any concerns around interoperability and lack of technical disclosure. She claimed Microsoft had begun complying voluntarily by disclosing more APIs and other information late last year. Microsoft last week agreed to open up its SMB (Server Message Block) and CIFS (Common Internet File System) protocols.

As she did earlier this week, Kollar-Kotelly took the states to task for taking a "very broad view" of appropriate remedies and testimony. She questioned how client/server interoperability could be tied directly to a finding of Microsoft liability. She also criticized the states for sending her supplementary Tiemann testimony on Wednesday, only a day before he testified. State lawyer Howard Gutman conceded the judge had valid concerns, but said they were not expecting Tiemann to take the stand until Monday.

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