DoJ learns tricks from Microsoft spinmeisters

Monday night is Gates TV night for the foreseeable future, apparently...

With the mainstream US press starting to doubt the credibility of Gates' deposition (it "cast doubt on Gates credibility": NYT; "a deep divide between what Gates and prosecution witnesses recalled of crucial events": San Jose Mercury; "a rumpled and slouching Gates repeatedly denying threatening Intel": Washington Post), maybe the DoJ is learning a few PR tricks. The best day for most computer industry announcements is generally reckoned to be Monday, in order to feed the weekly trade press. So what is the DoJ doing? Showing extracts from the Gates videotaped testimony each Monday. Microsoft's PR has been getting very shrill, claiming that Gates' public image was being "distorted", and that the trial shouldn't be about "Gates' posture... haircut... the kind of soda pop he drinks, or whether he pauses for ten seconds or 15 seconds before answering a question in his deposition [actually 25 or 30 seconds would have been a better metric]". Perhaps if Gates had been less evasive in his answering of questions, there would not have been so much of a story, but his general demeanour during his deposition (and during his earlier deposition in Caldera versus Microsoft) has electrified the courtroom and created a serious problem for both his lawyers and PR handlers. Microsoft PR accuses poor Glenn Weadock of having no "expertise related to... computer programming" which means that either Microsoft or Weadock is lying. Microsoft became apoplectic when it heard that "Weadock's report [sworn testimony, actually] "purports to show that some PC customers would prefer not to have Internet explorer technologies [Microsoft means a browser] incorporated in Windows 98." Microsoft went into sales-pitch mode, conceding only that "a few customers might prefer a different product design... " by which was meant a choice of browsers, and not one welded-on. The usual exit line was there: it was ridiculous that "government bureaucrats and attorneys should tell software companies how to design products for consumers." This line echoes general Silicon Valley concerns about any government interference -- generally a Republican stance - whereas Microsoft also likes to play a Democratic line to its staff and Microsoft developers. Microsoft's courthouse steps attack on OS/2 for its size is particularly cheeky, since it was Microsoft that made the first version of the product so large. IBM was horrified when Steve Ballmer told IBM how large it would be. The general Microsoft line about OS/2 is that it struggled because of self-inflicted wounds, and there is some truth in that. Of course, IBM's greatest mistake was to entrust its software development to Microsoft, but Soyring was probably instructed to keep off that embarrassing topic, which could reflect adversely on IBM's management. It was a little unfortunate for Microsoft that its press release opposing IBMer John Soyring's testimony was issued just before the preliminary result of the Sun v Microsoft case became known. Microsoft says: "Microsoft is the largest distributor of Java technology..." This statement should be of interest to Sun's lawyers, since Microsoft is not allowed to claim that its offerings are "Java" technology. Microsoft had been requiring ISVs that wanted to use the "Designed for Windows 95/NT" logo to ship only Microsoft's version of Java, but a report by Dow Jones yesterday mentioned that Microsoft "says it has done away with the licensing practice and intends to abandon its logo program." That's new, and not without a reason - presumably Microsoft is concerned about the legal issues. The Sun preliminary injunction is more relevant to the present case than Microsoft would like to admit, with the Microsoft spin being to admit, as Microsoft associate general counsel Thomas Burt did yesterday, that: "We may have gone beyond our contractual rights, but it does not create an antitrust violation." That is strictly true considered in isolation, but it is the whole pattern of Microsoft's behaviour that created the alleged violation, and Microsoft's actions towards Java are unhelpful to its defence. The relevance of the Sun case was underscored yesterday when Holley raised issues connected with it with Soyring. ® Complete Register trial coverage

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