25-Apr-02
Bill Gates Testifies

Microsoft lawyers are greatly relieved that his Billness kept himself under control, mostly.

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In what was considered a high risk strategy, Microsoft called it's chairman and "Chief Software Architect", Bill Gates, to the witness stand for three successive days' testimony against the antitrust settlement proposed by the 9 states that have taken exception to the Department of Justice agreement.

In keeping with the rules set down by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, his testimony was submitted in written form and the verbal phase began with cross examination by States' attorneys, followed by "redirect" by Microsoft's attorneys.

Mr. Gates only occasionally reverted to the arrogant style of his taped testimony for the original antitrust trial.

Analysis

Mr. Gates' testimony amounts to a massive PR document. aimed more at the public press than the court. This is not surprising, since Mr. Gates has maintained that if only he'd taken the stand in person and explained how wonderful Microsoft's contributions were, the original antitrust case would not have been lost.

The testimony document is quite long, but contains only a very few actual points, which are:

  1. Microsoft is solely responsible for the prosperity of the technology industry, thus the prosperity of the entire U.S. economy.
  2. Windows consistent, "high quality" (repeated over and over) and open platform for developers is responsible for the growth of the entire software industry.
  3. Microsoft cannot comply with any of the terms of the proposed settlement and would have to withdraw Windows from the market if it were imposed. A modular Windows cannot be created, and demanding removal of any "middleware" functions would cause "degradation" of the entire product.
  4. If Microsoft could comply (which it can't), the result would be chaos. Users would be unable to use Windows, programmers would be unable to write software for it, and it's security and stability would be destroyed.
  5. By implication of point 1, any meaningful antitrust remedies imposed on Microsoft would cause the company to cease functioning and would bring down the entire U.S. economy.

Every one of these points is baseless and without merit..

  1. Microsoft started with a monopoly handed to it by IBM (which had to avoid another monopoly of its own due to ongoing antitrust problems). Microsoft leveraged that monopoly to co-opt the work of just about everyone else in the industry, generally putting the innovator out of business (see Microsoft the Company).

    As soon as Microsoft establishes a monopoly in any area, all significant development and further innovation in that area ceases. The current decline in the technology industry is caused directly by the Microsoft monopoly. There has been no significant innovation in the Personal Computer market for a decade (see No Rebound for Tech Stocks).

    So bad is the current state of the industry, venture capital has dried up and Microsoft no longer has anyone to steal new ideas from, so they are trying to force everyone to accept subscription licenses so they can continue collecting money without producing anything really new (see The Next Microsoft Office, Microsoft Screws Schools, and License 6.0, Microsoft's new corporate license).

  2. Microsoft's lack of product quality and consistency is legendary. The company single handedly taught the world that computers should be expected to crash frequently (other operating systems stay up for years, literally). No other operating system is so susceptible to virus attack and invasion.

    That the industry needs Microsoft to set "standards" is discredited by the Internet, entirely based on standards Microsoft had no hand in - in fact Microsoft is increasingly forced to comply with these standards itself.

    Consistency is also pure mythology. Microsoft continuously changes APIs (Application Programming Interface) and internal workings to suit their own needs and to cause competitor's products to fail. This results in continuous pain in the Windows software industry (what's left of it).

  3. Microsoft has already created a modular Windows (XP Embedded) which Gates characterized as a "set of tools" rather than an operating system. On cross examination Mr. Gates admitted XP Embedded could easily be assembled into a full PC operating system, but that it would be useless because it did not have a program installer (as if Microsoft could not easily create this one missing part).

    All the "middleware" portions of Windows were, until recently, completely independent products. Their incorporation into Windows was by deliberate "commingling of code", with no particular benefit to the consumer, as upheld by the Court of Appeals. They could be returned to their former independent status with only minor difficulty.

  4. If a modular Windows were created, it would not likely be more chaotic than the current situation, which includes DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows95, Windows 98/SE, Windows Me, Windows NT 4, Windows 2000 server, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP Professional, Windows XP Home, Windows 2000 Enterprise, Windows XP Embedded, Windows CE, Pocket PC, Windows .NET, and several other distinct versions, all still in use and most still sold (with the exception of Windows .NET which hasn't been released yet). The security and stability of Microsoft products are a joke now, so that's likely to improve, rather than degrade.

  5. Microsoft is an aggressive manipulator - getting around laws, contracts, ethical restraints and competitors is the one area where Microsoft is truly innovative. The remedies proposed by the States are unlikely to have a very great impact on the company.

    As for the U.S. economy - if Microsoft were to disappear completely tomorrow afternoon, there would be little impact except on the portfolios of a few wealthy "investors". Current Microsoft products would not stop functioning, and other products would fill the gap within months. OS/2 and/or Linux could easily fill the gap left by Windows and provide everyone with a more stable and secure computing platform. The main result would be vastly increased opportunities for innovative new and smaller companies to contribute to a revived economy.

On other points of the proceeding, Judge Kollar-Kotelly was noted to display an increasingly pro-Microsoft bias. Most Microsoft objections were sustained and few requests by the States' attorneys were allowed. Given how careful and deliberate Judge CKK has been, this could be interpreted as very bad news for Microsoft - that the judge is making sure Microsoft has no grounds for complaint when her final judgment comes down.

- Andrew Grygus

Links

  • Microsoft - Direct Testimony of Bill Gates
  • eWeek - Another Look at Bill Gates' View of the Computer Industry
  • eWeek - Gates to Court: States' Remedy Would 'Ban' Windows
  • eWeek - Gates Paints Doomsday Scenario
  • eWeek - Gates, States' Attorney Spar to the End
  • The Register - Gates pitches Armageddon scenario to court
  • The Register - Gates testimony a PR jewel
  • The Register - Judge betraying pro-MS bias?
  • InfoWorld - States to MS: "Commingling" must end

©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access - www.aaxnet.com - aax@aaxnet.com
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