OEMs toe Microsoft line

PB, HP and Dell have their say in MS depositions

PACKARD BELL NEC Mal Ransom of Packard Bell NEC was subpoenaed in August by the DoJ and cheerfully admitted in his deposition that PBN pre-installs 100 per cent of its PCs with Windows 98, but just occasionally it slips out a few PCs with Navigator instead of IE. He subsequently said that PBN could sometimes ship "a proprietary operating system" with Unix (Windows is not seen to be a Microsoft proprietary OS). The cardinal sin was evidently to ship a PC without any OS. This demonstrates very well Microsoft's fear that home users at least might prefer to acquire a naked PC and transfer software from their existing machine. Jon Kies, a senior product manager of Packard Bell NEC gave a deposition under subpoena to Karma Giulianelli of the DoJ in September. PBN took advantage of Microsoft's relaxation in licensing regime to delete the IE icon, and IE in the start menu, for its versa LX and SX lines. Kies mentioned that PBN had found that customers preferred to make their own choice of browser, and that it was better not to pre-install both browsers since some customers were wary about removing anything. Attorney Stephanie Wheeler for Microsoft pursued an aggressive line with her objections, claiming fault with any question that contained a poke against Microsoft. Kies agreed that PBN would like an option to remove IE in Windows 98. Hewlett-Packard John Romano of HP was subpoenaed by the DoJ and deposed in August. He confirmed that component prices for PCs had been decreasing, but the price of Windows 95 had gone up. Romano detailed how Microsoft prevented HP from offering any choices to customers as to which interface they wished to use. HP was also prevented by Microsoft from offering a tour of features to new users. Microsoft even required HP to submit pre-releases of its PCs to Microsoft so that Microsoft could decide if they would approve them or not. HP gave in. At one point, HP wanted to run another operating system prior to booting Windows 95, but time constraints prevented the realisation of such a plan. HP also found its support calls increased by 10 per cent as a result of Windows 95. Microsoft did give HP permission to change the look of two required screens, but not the functionality. Just goes to show Microsoft's power over its OEMs? DELL Extracts from the deposition of Joseph Kanicki of Dell were admitted, but his deposition was not made available by the DoJ. He admitted that some Dell customers wanted PCs without browsers. Kanicki thought that removing the modem would do the trick, but did not evidently understand much about denying access to a proxy server. Microsoft pointed out that Dell was a good friend and had the freedom to put whatever browser it wanted on its PCs. It sounded as though Dell was a trusty OEM on day release, rather than behind bars, and was very anxious to please its jailor.

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