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Microsoft attacks ‘ivory tower’ expert

Antitrust guy don't know about software, says software outfit that don't know about antitrust

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Microsoft yesterday produced a long press release attacking Frederick Warren-Boulton's testimony. But it was notable that there was no attempt to defend the company against the charge of monopolisation, beyond a blanket denial and a vague gesture towards the need to innovate to stay alive. Microsoft instead described W-B as an "ivory tower consultant" with no direct experience in the day-to-day business and competitiveness of the US software industry. It is rather like questioning why Bill Neukom should be chief lawyer at Microsoft if he is not an ace C++ programmer. Microsoft tries to make an argument that "market entry costs are very low and profit opportunities vast in software platform technology" but conveniently forgets to explain why, if this were true, Microsoft has no serious competitor. Microsoft pointed to Netscape and Linux as examples of real threats, which was naive, and at a range of operating systems that are mainly part of history thanks to Microsoft's success. Curiously, the list of 17 OSes excluded Symbian EPOC and Geos, which suggests that at least the former is a real threat (hence Microsoft's Qualcomm deal) and that Microsoft's PR does not wish to give it credibility. The story that Microsoft tells about Netscape's ability to compete are far-fetched: is it really a level playing field if one browser is distributed essentially by default with new PCs and Navigator has to be downloaded and set up? Microsoft claims that Netscape has defaulted on delivering a componentized browser, but in fact AOL agreed that in the then circumstances of AOL abandoning Netscape, there was no requirement for this (although who knows what will transpire from the current talks between AOL and Netscape, which may result in one of a number of realignments as the case progresses). Microsoft makes an interesting claim in its defence, not backed up by a reference to the source, that of 11 US ISP's, only 44 percent used "IE technologies" (as Microsoft is calling its browser). Microsoft also claimed that the ISPs could distribute another browser, but this claim does not tally with the evidence that AOL presented. W-B is castigated for not realising that Microsoft was withdrawing the Channel Bar feature "because customers generally have not preferred it". Microsoft claims, without any convincing evidence, that the Windows "first screen" benefits consumers signing on for the first time by creating "a consistent user experience" - but this could only have relevance if these consumers went from new PC to new PC all the time. So far as the tying issue is concerned, Microsoft is saying that it "has not" tied IE to Windows - they are integrated. The use of the past tense will be its downfall here - because clearly there were two products until Windows 98. A strange letter to the DoJ from Netscape's counsel, and quoted by Microsoft, says (in response to a request from the DoJ for examples of files that could be deleted from Windows 98) that "it is our understanding that it is simply impossible to delete any portion of IE... from Windows 98". If this is really true, it is good evidence that Microsoft has very deliberately and unnecessarily made this the case, to frustrate attempts to delete unnecessary files, if another browser is preferred. ® Complete Register trial coverage

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