MS exec caught fibbing about Netscape code
And the art of threatening lies in how you tell them, doesn't it?
MS on Trial Did Microsoft threaten Netscape at the fateful meeting of 21 June 1995, and did it offer a carve-up of the browser market between the two companies? Microsoft witness Dan Rosen has this week been engaged in a mission to prove that it did neither, but from yesterday's court proceedings it seems it's the way you tell them. In his written testimony Rosen says there was no attempt to divide the market at the meeting, and that no threats were directed at Netscape. Jim Barksdale's claim to the contrary is "one of the falsehoods uttered by Netscape with regard to dealings between Netscape and Microsoft in June 1995." But under further pressure from DoJ attorney David Boies in court yesterday Rosen said that part of the purpose of the meeting had been to ensure the companies did not compete, and that: "We offered several inducements if they would adopt our platform technology." It would seem reasonable to suppose some linkage between these two matters, and it might also seem reasonable that the inducements would be perceived either as carrot- or stick-shaped, depending on your perspective. The accuracy of the notes taken at the meeting by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen are disputed by Microsoft, but they say: "Threat that [Microsoft] will own the Win95 client market and that Netscape should stay away." That's a strange way to interpret offers of co-operation and sundry inducements, but Microsoft does tend to make such offers in a rather robust way. Rosen himself had been badly discredited earlier in the week , but yesterday's session got worse, when his own recollections of the meeting were seriously undermined. Boies asked him when he first had access to Netscape's browser for Windows 95, and he responded that it was in July 1995. Boies then showed him one of his own emails from May saying: "Can I borrow/copy the Netscape Win95 new client they gave us?" (We trust this was in accordance with any licensing agreements and NDAs.) At this point Rosen said he'd never received it anyway, and that it was a version that didn't work which had been obtained by a colleague at another Netscape meeting. Boies: "You don't remember that, do you sir? You're just making that up right now." Rosen said he did remember. Boies: "You're sure it was May and not April?" Rosen: "Yes." Then the trap sprang shut. Rosen had sent an email on 27 April saying: "Do you remember who took the Netscape Win95 browser they gave us during our last meeting? I'd like to get a copy." He then had to withdraw his claims, and concede he'd been at the meeting when the software was given out. It's not immediately obvious why Rosen's memory should be faulty at this juncture. If Netscape was showing Microsoft beta software as early as April 1995, then this is surely evidence that there was a possibility of mutual co-operation between the companies at this stage. Microsoft had been courted by Netscape to use Navigator in Windows 95, but had opted for a deal with Spyglass instead, but it's currently in Microsoft's interest to show that there was a relationship. On the other hand, if Microsoft had access to Netscape technology this early, but went with other technology and its own browser development programme, one might wonder what it was that the MS people were doing with the Navigator code. Microsoft certainly aimed to match Navigator's features, and was certainly engaged in a catch-up programme, so access to the code may have been exceedingly useful. Is that why July might have been a less dangerous date than April? ® Complete Register trial coverage