31st > October > 1998 Archive

The Register breaking news

Trial focus shifts to Gates

Bill Gates will be appearing on videotape next week in the Washington DC Federal courthouse, effectively as a witness for the government. The edited videotape of his deposition will be made available to the media shortly afterwards. For many Americans, there will be immediate parallels with the videotapes of President Clinton being questioned in front of the grand jury. Both men were ill at ease, and both were parsimonious with the facts. Clinton is certainly the better actor, but Gates is much admired in the US because of his wealth, which has been unaffected by the current case as Microsoft's share price has crept up to $107, with investors not expecting any negative effects on the company in the near future. The DoJ has much to learn about media and public relations -- and there could hardly be a better tutor than Microsoft -- but it now seems probable that the timing may be chosen with a view to achieving the maximum impact on television and in the press. Gates does not have a good record as a witness: his performance in the Stac Electronics vs Microsoft case, which Microsoft lost and had to pay $120 million to Stac, was regarded as a disaster. The DoJ could have called him as a witness, as could Microsoft, but evidently the DoJ thinks its case is helped more by the videotape than a public appearance, especially as Gates would behave better in court than in a conference room for three days last August at Microsoft's Redmond headquarters. There, he seems to have been arrogant and suddenly unable to remember even the most basic things. Microsoft had said Gates could only be available for one day, but Judge Jackson said he should be available for as long as the DoJ required. Microsoft's legal team will have weighed his failure to appear in person as a witness for Microsoft, as would be normal in such cases, with the possibility that his performance would be detrimental to the case. Microsoft has been allowed to choose one hour of the first three hours of extracts to be played. The screening had been promised for several days last week, but the slowness of Microsoft attorney John Warden's cross-examination prevented this. Microsoft successfully argued that as the videotape is effectively the same as a witness, the DoJ should be obliged to forego calling one of its twelve witnesses. Judge Jackson ruled that Microsoft would be allowed to have another witness, or introduce an additional deposition, although Jackson said he could not think of anyone as important to the case as Gates. In addition, the DoJ could show all 20 hours of videotape if it wished, Jackson decided, although Boies said the DoJ would try to cut the tape down to six or seven hours. This will make it more difficult for Microsoft to claim convincingly that the tape has been edited out of context. On Monday, Avadis Tevanian of Apple will be the first witness, but DoJ attorney David Boies has said he will no longer try to forecast when the tape would be shown. On Thursday, Warden teased the TV crews who had been waiting for the Gates' tape by showing some videotape of Gates with Steve Case, AOL's CEO, during the announcement of the deal between Microsoft and AOL. It was not the tape for which they had been waiting for outside the courthouse for four days. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories Click for story index
The Register breaking news

Microsoft sabotaged QuickTime, says Apple exec

Microsoft deliberately sabotaged Apple's QuickTime for Windows as part of a campaign to drive the company out of the multimedia playback business, according to testimony released by the DoJ last night. Apple senior VP Avadis (aka Avie, appropriately enough) Tevanian said Microsoft programmers introduced misleading error messages and "technical bypasses" which stopped QuickTime playing some files. Tevanian, who is due to be cross-examined on his testimony next week, says that Microsoft had threatened to overwhelm Apple by putting 150 engineers on development of its own player. Microsoft's Eric Engstrom led the charge, saying in a phone call: "We're going to compete fiercely on multimedia playback, and we won't let anybody [else] have playback in Windows. We consider that part of the operating system, so you're going to have to give up multimedia playback on Windows." If this constitutes an accurate statement of Microsoft policy, it provides belated support for the claims of RealNetworks' boss, Rob Glaser, back in July that Microsoft deliberately 'broke' his player. Tevanian also claims that Microsoft further put the squeeze on QuickTime by using threats and exclusionary contracts against OEM customers, including Compaq. Again, if Microsoft defines multimedia playback as part of the OS, then it becomes part of the 'integrity' of the product which Microsoft is so keen to defend in its OEM contracts. Some might say this is exclusionary; Microsoft says this is just legitimate defence of its intellectual property. Humorously, the question of intellectual property with respect to Quicktime reared its head in the trial earlier in the week (see Microsoft paid Apple $150m to settle QuickTime suit). Tevanian's testimony also beefs-up the DoJ's case as far as the 'peace treaty' between Apple and Microsoft last year is concerned. Bill Gates, said Tevanian, was "very upset" that Apple standardised on Navigator as its browser, and in May 1997 Microsoft said it would cease application development for the Mac if Apple didn't switch to Internet Explorer and settle intellectual property disputes (including, no doubt, the QuickTime problem) "on terms acceptable to Microsoft". In Tevanian's view, Apple had no choice but to give in. He also claims that at the time of this threat development of Microsoft Office 98 for the Mac was well advanced -- if this is true (it could be substantiated) then it's a measure of how far Microsoft was prepared to go to achieve its aims. Microsoft reacted to Tevanian's testimony last night by claiming that the allegation that it used threats withdrawal of support for Office to force Apple to use IE was a deliberate distortion. The company added that problems with QuickTime for Windows were all of Apple's making, not Microsoft's. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories Click for story index
The Register breaking news

Hayes loses its main visionary

Struggling modem manufacturer Hayes Microcomputer Products has asked its main visionary, Bill Pechey, to leave the company. The move comes only ten days after the company's founder, Dennis Hayes, stepped down as chairman to be replaced by Ron Howard as CEO and chairman. Hayes was forced to file for protection against its creditors, under the US Chapter 11 laws, for the second time in its history only three weeks ago. According to Nigel Croisdale, director for Hayes in Europe, the parting is by mutual consent. He claimed that "what [Bill] has been working on for past two years is not an area we're focusing on in terms of going forward". He added: "Only Bill and a colleague are leaving, we decided running their R&D programme in Europe wasn't justified since it wasn't part of our core technology for the future. Bill was part of the original Hayes Europe team established back in 1986." Although based in Britain, Pechey was chief engineering officer for the entire Hayes organisation and has been a close associate of Denis Hayes for many years. He has sat in on numerous technical committees for Hayes and played a major role in formulating the ITU-T (International Telecommunications Union -- Telecommunications) standards for modems and ISDN adaptors. Although less widely known than Bob Jones (ex-Dowty and Sonix), Pechey is viewed by many as a key figure in the modem industry. Hayes has traditionally prided itself as leading rather than following the industry in technological terms. The last time Hayes lost key technical people, they founded Ascend. ® Click for more stories Click for story index