Maritz on… Intel
Did MS see Intel's NSP as a potential platform competitor?
David Boies for the DoJ roughed Microsoft VP Paul Maritz up about Intel's abortive multimedia system software, NSP, suggesting that Microsoft wanted it squashed because it was a potential platform competitor. Microsoft's Paul Osborne had said in an email dated 15 May 1995 that "Microsoft doesn't want Intel in the system software business because Microsoft doesn't want the operating system to become a commodity". Judge Jackson asked what was meant by "commodity", to which Maritz replied: "In the software business, when you have lots of competitors, each with roughly the same product, then the value of your software is diminished. So by "commodity", we mean here where the operating system wouldn't have the same value because--" The judge finished his sentence: "--there are reasonable alternatives." Microsoft clearly tried hard to discourage Intel from developing NSP, using arguments like: NSP was insufficiently tested; it only worked with Windows 3.1; and migration to Win32 would be difficult. But Bill Gates had another problem, according to notes of a meeting taken by Ron Whittier, who was running Intel's Architecture Labs (and whom Maritz confirmed as "a person of competence and integrity"): "Gates' issue: Fundamental problem with 'free' software from IAL, cross-subsidised by processor revenues." It emerged that Microsoft's real concern was that it was readying Windows 95 and did not want Intel developing 16-bit software, or indeed any software at all. Intel VP Steven McGeady had testified earlier that it was far from clear when Microsoft would be shipping Windows 95, and that the industry expected a further delay, hence the 16-bit development. Microsoft also saw it discouraging some users from migrating to Windows 95 until Intel had a 32-bit version of NSP. Maritz said he was concerned that Intel did not appreciate how much work Microsoft was doing on Internet technologies, but presumably Microsoft had not thought to keep its Wintel partner informed. Relations became very cool, with Gates emailing Maritz on 18 October 1995 that "Intel feels we have all the OEMs on hold with or NSP chill [Microsoft allegedly suggesting to OEMs that they do not take Intel's NSP]. For example, Intel feels Hewlett-Packard is unwilling to do anything relative to MMX exploitation or the new audio software Intel is doing, using Windows 95, unless we say it's okay". Boies went on a fishing expedition about a remark by Gates that Andy Grove "believes Intel is living up to its part of the bargain" but he failed to find any evidence of a bargain in any formal sense. It turned out to be that Intel would drop NSP if Microsoft would support MMX. This was unpopular at Intel so that Intel's software groups wanted to hide what they were doing from Microsoft, according to Grove. Maritz, conveniently, could not remember if Microsoft had attempted to get Intel to agree not to endorse Netscape's browser, despite Gates having told Grove "NOT" ever to say that Intel was standardising on Netscape's browser. In his recross-examination, Boies put it to Maritz that on 20 February 1997, Gates wrote in an email that if Intel had a problem supporting a collaboration between AMD and Microsoft over 24 new op codes, Intel would have to give up supporting Java Multimedia. ® Complete Register trial coverage