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December 2, 1998

NOTES FROM THE MICROSOFT TRIAL

By CBR Staff Writer

– As a fair proportion of his email messages have been finding their way into the media as a result of the antitrust trial, Bill Gates now appears to be bowing to the inevitable and has started issuing them as press releases. In a message supposedly addressed to top Microsoft executives Tuesday, but also issued to journalists, Gates said that the Justice Department was trying to raise the price of browsers above the competitive price, which is zero. Gates said that by offering Internet Explorer for free and forcing Netscape Communications Corp to do likewise, Microsoft had benefited consumers. He also accused the Justice Department of having cozy relations with some Microsoft competitors, saying that America Online Inc’s acquisition of CompuServe led to immediate price rises, but prompted no action from the DoJ. Referring to the recent AOL/Netscape merger, Gates said The DOJ must be very dismayed at this merger.

– Microsoft defense appears to be taking two somewhat conflicting directions in its cross examination of government witness James Gosling. On the one hand, it is trying to prove that Sun is building a major alternative to Windows technologies with Java, and that therefore the government’s contention that Microsoft has no competitors is false. But it is also trying to establish that the core cross-platform development aspect of Java does not work, and that Sun overpromised on Java hype. This, it says, rather than an effort to protect a monopoly position, is why Microsoft is emphasizing native platform development using Java instead of cross-platform development. Microsoft lawyer Tom Burt put it to Java author James Gosling that Java was too slow when used to write cross-platform applications. In earlier versions performance was not good admitted Gosling, but more recently performance has got much better. He said raw performance was not always the central issue. You don’t always buy the fastest car. You might choose the most reliable or the one with the most comfortable seats.

– Gosling admitted that running Java with Windows 3.1 acceptably had been a difficult challenge – many people impaled themselves on that sword. Even Microsoft failed on that one. Microsoft lawyer Tom Burt asked him whether cross-platform developers had to take account of the installed base. Yes, always, replied Gosling.

– Microsoft lawyer Tom Burt challenged Gosling over reports that Sun’s recent acquisition, NetDynamics Inc, had opted to make pragmatic technology decisions and would not conform to Sun’s 100% Java rule. Its web server products have critical code written in C++ for performance reasons. We’re not interested in forcing anyone to use Java, said Gosling, NetDynamics has been around for a few years. They made the correct choice at the time. If they were starting afresh, would they make the same decisions? I doubt it. Defending Java against the accusation that it does not support everything developers need to write commercial applications, Gosling said It’s not a finished product. It has to have time to grow and develop. Has Microsoft stopped developing Windows 98?

– The Microsoft side claimed yesterday that Gosling was running away from Sun’s Write Once Run AnyWhere claim. Gosling said it was only one of the high level goals of Java, and if you’re very careful you can run one program on many platforms. The slogan, he said often doesn’t refer to an entire program, but as much of the program as is reasonably possible. Gosling admitted that trade-offs had to be made in order to write cross-platform applications, but denied that it led to a lowest common denominator approach to development.

– Citing a focus group study carried out by Microsoft itself, economist Frederick Warren-Boulton said that Microsoft had considered three prices for the upgrade from Windows 95 to Windows 98: $49, $89 or $129. A study concluded that a near doubling of the price from $49 to $89 would only result in a 30% decline in sales, providing the most profits. Meanwhile, Microsoft defended its pricing strategy, saying the OS/2 upgrade is $110, BeOS $100 (no upgrade) and Sun’s Solaris 2.6 on Intel $430. It believes all three are direct substitutes for Windows.

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