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Gates: Novell are sore losers, Word trounced WordPerfect

Microsoft supremo testifies at antitrust hearing

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Hard work and the competition's ineptitude saw Microsoft Word thump WordPerfect, Bill Gates told a US court hearing the $1bn anti-competition case brought by Novell.

Gates told a court in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Monday that his Redmond minions "worked super-hard" on Word. He added: "It was a ground-breaking piece of work, and it was very well received when we got it done."

Gates argued that Novell had simply been unable to deliver a version of word processor WordPerfect that was better than Microsoft's Word in time for the launch of Windows 95. Novell claims that Microsoft refused to support WordPerfect for Win 95.

Microsoft's co-founder, who'd been closely involved in development of Word in the late 1980s and early 1990s, testified that the Windows team dumped a technical feature that would have supported WordPerfect because he was worried it might crash the operating system.

"We were making trade-offs," Gates told the court.

WordPerfect had been the leader in the field of Word processing software on IBM-compatible PCs. In 1986, the WordPerfect was the US's best-selling word processing software, used by more than 300 major companies and with nearly a third of the IBM-compatible word processing market.

Microsoft came from behind, releasing Windows in 1985 and Word for Windows in 1989. By the early 1990s, WordPerfect's sales were falling as sales of Windows PCs grew; the company went through through management shakeups and before became a Novell subsidiary in 1994 via a merger.

Novell later sold WordPerfect at a $1.2bn loss to Corel.

Gates said that by 1994 Word was ranked number one, finally beating WordPerfect, while reviewers put the features and functionality of Word above WordPerfect. Novell contends, in its antitrust case, that the reversal of fortune came because Microsoft withheld vital technical information that would have allowed, at the time, WordPerfect to work properly on Microsoft's latest platform.

The company lodged the case against Microsoft in 2004 and it was considered complete thanks to a lower court's summary judgment - but the ruling was overturned in May this year, opening the way for the current appeal. ®

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