Of girlfriends, dosses and consent decrees

Tangled Microsoft tail seems to have no ending

The two Bills -- Gates and Neukom (Microsoft's general counsel) -- both had the same girlfriend at one time, but His Billness was first, of course. This news was revealed by Wendy Goldman Rohm in her book The Microsoft File which has, in just a few days, become the number one bestseller at amazon.com. The girlfriend is Stefanie Reichel, who spent 12 years in Germany before attending the University of Pennsylvania and emerging as a feminist. In an interview, she admitted that one of her favourite CDs was "Fumbling with ecstasy". She now works with the marketing team for the San Francisco Yacht Club's entry in the next Americas cup race in 2000. She went on to work for Microsoft in Redmond and Germany, where her job was to persuade German OEMs such as Vobis (who thought DR-DOS was a better DOS than MS-DOS, which nearly all the reviews were saying at the time) to stop pre-loading the Digital Research product. Any OEM that wanted to have some MS-DOS PCs at the time had to pay for MS-DOS even if they had DR-DOS inside -- until this was belatedly stopped by the 1994 consent decree. Microsoft's concern was of course to protect its cash cow, MS-DOS, but it became very concerned when Novell bought Digital Research with the concomitant threat of some real marketing clout. However, the FTC fumbled and the DoJ was too slow, so Novell sold DR-DOS to Caldera, which has a private antitrust action against Microsoft in the Salt Lake City district court. Its allegation is that Microsoft used a variety of illegal anti-competitive practices to spoil the market for DR-DOS. Reichel was recently deposed by Steve Hill, a lawyer acting for Caldera. He said he was unable to give any detail about her responses to questions because of a protective order that Microsoft has obtained. According to Rohm, Reichel has direct knowledge of the alleged destruction of emails between Microsoft Germany and OEMs which licensed DR DOS, which could exocet Microsoft's defence. Microsoft is now slated to meet Caldera in court in June next year, and is very unhappy that the jury trial won't be moved away from Salt Lake City, where there is considerable sympathy for Caldera which was funded initially by Ray Noorda, previously the CEO of Novell (a major employer in the state), and called by Gates "the grandfather from hell". ®

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