Microsoft Exec: "It ain't done..."

R. A. Hettinga rah@shipwright.com
Fri, 26 Apr 2002 14:48:29 -0400


http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/26/technology/26SOFT.html?todaysheadlines=&pagewanted=print



April 26, 2002


Executive Testifies Microsoft Must Be Able to Alter Windows


By AMY HARMON


ASHINGTON, April 25 - A Microsoft executive told a federal judge today that
the company should be allowed to make changes in its Windows operating
system that impair the performance of other programs so long as the company
believes it is acting in the best interest of Windows users.

Christopher Jones, a Microsoft vice president in charge of Windows,
testified against penalties that a coalition of states want the court to
impose on Microsoft to redress the company's antitrust violations. Among
the states' proposals is a requirement that Microsoft refrain from
interfering with the way rival software works on its operating system
without "good cause."

Mr. Jones said the restriction would prevent Microsoft from improving
Windows, because competitors would argue about that definition. Under
questioning by a lawyer for the states, he defended one such instance -
integrating the Internet Explorer browser with Windows - that became the
basis for the government's long-running antitrust case against the company.

In November 1995, Mr. Jones wrote a memo to Microsoft's chairman, Bill
Gates, that proposed binding Windows to Explorer "so that running any other
browser is a jolting experience." A federal appeals court ruled that
Microsoft's adoption of the plan was one of the illegal acts the company
used to undermine the Netscape Navigator browser, a potential competitor.

But today, Mr. Jones told the states' lawyer, Kevin Hodges, that "the
jolting experience would be for good cause if it happened because great
innovations" in the user's overall use of Windows came about as a result.

The argument reflects the fundamental - and still unresolved - dispute that
fueled the four-year antitrust proceeding. Microsoft has long maintained
that to innovate it must have the freedom to design its software as it
chooses. The government and nine of the original states that sued the
company have agreed on a settlement that does not specifically address that
question.

The nine states challenging the settlement argue that Microsoft should be
required to produce a "modular" version of Windows that would enable
computer makers to substitute programs produced by rival developers.

The proposed Justice Department settlement is also intended to give
computer makers more freedom to feature rival software, like Real Network's
Real Player. But the settlement would require only that Microsoft allow
manufacturers to hide programs like Windows Media Player, rather than
remove them.

Mr. Jones and Mr. Hodges sparred over a number of differences between the
states' proposals and the more lenient settlement proposals. Ultimately,
Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the Federal District Court will decide what
restrictions to impose on Microsoft.

Mr. Jones acknowledged that under the settlement, Microsoft would still
control which programs automatically open up when users turn on their
machines. Computer makers could configure their machines to have them start
a competitor's software, but only if Microsoft first opted to do the same
with its own equivalent feature.

"So Microsoft retains the discretion to determine which get automatically
launched?" Mr. Hodges asked. Mr. Jones replied, "Yes, we do."

Microsoft can also continue to require computer makers to display the icon
for MSN Explorer, the browser for the Microsoft Network online service, Mr.
Jones said.

Mr. Hodges said that under the settlement proposal, Microsoft would be
allowed to activate Internet Explorer automatically while barring computer
makers from substituting rival Netscape Navigator as the opening browser
when the computer is turned on.

Mr. Jones said that since Internet Explorer was part of Windows, the
settlement did not require Microsoft to let computer makers automatically
turn on Netscape.

In his written testimony, Mr. Jones said the states' proposals would
confuse consumers, enabling competitors to cover up icons like the "Start"
button on the Windows desktop screen that consumers use to navigate and
even allowing a competing operating system like Linux to start up instead
of Windows.

"You don't think people buy Windows because Microsoft has a monopoly?" Mr.
Hodges asked.

Mr. Jones answered: "I don't think people buy Windows because Microsoft is
a monopoly. I go to work every day to build great products that people are
going to love."

The nine states challenging the settlement are California, Connecticut,
Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Utah and West Virginia.
The District of Columbia is also supporting tougher remedies against
Microsoft.
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R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah@ibuc.com>
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"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
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