MS exec recants over video ‘inconsistency’

The Register reckons MS wouldn't have got into this pooh if it documented the Windows registry...

Microsoft VP Jim Allchin has 'explained' the inconsistency in the videotape he showed on Monday, and which yesterday the DoJ claimed as a fraud. Well, apparently, anyway. In a press release dated yesterday, but posted at 9am Pacific Time today, Microsoft puts forward the answers that Allchin had a little trouble with yesterday morning. According to the release, the "inconsistency... does nothing to invalidate either the tests on which the demonstration was based or the substance of [Allchin's] testimony." The net effect of yesterday's events, of course, was a massive PR own-goal for Microsoft which largely destroyed the value of Allchin's testimony, but you can see why Redmond might not want to put it quite like that. Says the explanation: "Allchin conducted thorough tests of Felten's program [Edward Felten's IE uninstaller], using new machines under strict laboratory conditions. He discovered that Felten's program not only fails to remove IE from Windows 98, leaving virtually all of the code intact so that users can still browse the Internet, but it also degrades the performance of the operating system." This test was, says Microsoft, replicated by a technical team using different machines. "When the videotape was played in court to demonstrate problems in the Felten program, a title on one screen showed 'Internet Explorer' where it should have said 'Windows 98' whenever the Felten program was running. Allchin agreed that there was an inconsistency between the taped demonstration and the standard screen profile that should have been displayed while the Felten program was running on the computer. After telephoning members of the technical team at Microsoft during the lunch recess, however, Allchin was able to explain the discrepancy when court resumed in the afternoon." The reason was, he says, that "one small entry in the Windows registry on the machine that was used - an entry that allows users to choose or change the title for a particular screen - had apparently been deleted or left blank by another program that had been run previously on that computer, causing it to default to the title, 'Internet Explorer,' even though the Felten program was running on the machine." Got that? So Felten's program was running on it, even though it looked like it wasn't, so the demo was still valid. Now we'll cut to the transcript of yesterday's ambush of Allchin by the DoJ. Boies plays the video, and the voiceover says: "It's taking a very long time, however. Unusually long to access that Web site." Boies then asks: "This is the portion of the clip where you are saying that after the Felten program has been run, that the performance of Windows is degraded, right?" Allchin concurs, but adds: "But from what I'm seeing here right now, I believe that that was done on a pre-Felten system, although the point still stands. He has performance problems and the Windows Update doesn't work, but I believe, from what I'm seeing here, they filmed the wrong system." Boies: "And when they were filming the wrong system and they were purporting to show the degradation and how long it took, they were showing how long it took on a Windows machine without the Felten program being run, correct?" Allchin is now clearly rattled, and says he can't be 100 per cent sure, he'll have to check. Boies rams it home: "Well sir, if you look up here, it says 'Microsoft Internet Explorer,' correct, sir?" Allchin agrees. Boies: "And you've already testified that you know that that means that the Felten program has not been run, correct?" Allchin: "That's right. I believe that to be true." Allchin's beliefs, you will note, have changed somewhat dramatically between yesterday morning's court appearance and 9am today Pacific Time. But yesterday, before he could phone the techies, the torture continued. Boies: "This video that you brought in here and vouched for and told the court how much you'd checked it, is a video that purports to show right here on the screen a performance degradation, and talks about how slow that is and how it's due to the Felten program, and that's just wrong, right? It's not slow due to the Felten program. If it's slow at all, it's because that's the way Windows 98 is, right?" Allchin's response is meanderingly tragic. "In this particular case, it's... I did not think the Felten program had been run. The performance problem exists... I'm not sure that they obviously would do anything like that. So that's not what happened. I'm going to go back and understand. We'll pull all the videos." Now folks, one of the most fascinating aspects of the transcript is that Boies then launches into a long and involved series of questioning concerning changes in Windows registry entries made on the video machines. These changes, according to Allchin yesterday morning, were of no relevance to the running of the test. But yesterday morning you'll note that his conclusion was that the machine showing poor performance on the video had not had Felten's uninstall program applied. Today/yesterday (depends on whether you go for date on release or publication date) he says the explanation is that there had been minor edits in the registry. Now you might reckon, if he thinks this now, Boies line of questioning yesterday morning would have prompted the same explanation - yesterday morning. ® Related stories: Slow machine in test was running MS Office DoJ skewers MS exec over falsified video Complete Register trial coverage

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