MS emails reveal PR spin plans on integration
Series covers how the issue should be presented to the public
MS on Trial One of the most secretive parts of Microsoft, and the company's greatest strength, is its PR department. An interesting email chain has entered the public domain because of the Microsoft trial. The issue discussed in the email was the problem of explaining to the public the IE/Windows "integration" in so-called contempt case in December 1997, shortly after the temporary injunction was issued by Judge Jackson (provisionally overturned on appeal) to prevent Microsoft requiring Windows 95 and IE3 to be distributed together. John Warden, Microsoft's lead attorney, argued furiously against the admission of the email chain centred on Microsoft vp and recent witness Brad Chase, but he was overruled by Judge Jackson. David Boies for the DoJ was successful in his argument that the emails cast doubt on four parts of Microsoft vp Brad Chase's direct testimony. The chain was labelled "attorney client mail" in the hope that it could not be demanded in court, but copying the emails to a Microsoft lawyer (David Heiner) was evidently insufficient to prevent disclosure. It was revealed that Dean Katz, a low-key but powerful figure in Microsoft PR matters, was asked by Mich Mathews, the manager of Microsoft corporate PR and Gates' principal PR minder, to work up the press releases for top-level press briefings that were to take place during the first week of 1998 in Redmond. Katz' affiliation is given as "Katz Communications Group" which suggests some independence from Microsoft, although he certainly is/has been a Microsoft spokesman for matters involving Gates, and politically sensitive issues. Chase was relying on Katz to turn the poorly-phrased email chain "into elegant prose". It is possible that Katz may be Gates' ghost writer for his NYT syndicated column, unless this is done by a NYT journalist. Katz emailed Chase and others on 31 December 1997, after the temporary injunction had been imposed, asking for simple but detailed answers to two questions: "What breaks if you remove IE3 retail version. What breaks if you just run the uninstall as the DoJ asks?" David Cole suggested that it would be "very dangerous of us to define integration as technical dependancy ... since there may not be technical dependancies to fall back on". He favoured pushing the line that "having IE integrated into Windows provides all kinds of end user and developer benefits". There were some difficult problems for Microsoft. Removing the files specified by the DoJ (in fact the 26 files that are removed by Uninstall) could break Windows with MSN and third party applications, but many third parties distributed new or updated components of Windows because of uncertainty as to the version of Windows being used, and these could mend a partially broken Windows 9x. The consequence was that it was truly hard to state with certainty what third party applications would and would not work. Ironically, Microsoft produced strong arguments an attachment to the emails: "Retail Windows 95 has about 9.5 million lines of code, IE4.0 has about 8.5 [million] lines of code. If they were separate products, you would assume that the full product would have 18 million lines of code. However, the full Windows 95 product, which includes IE, has 14 million lines of code." There is some missing information of course: whether it is IE4 that is included, rather than IE3; and the size of files that are common to Windows and IE as a separate product. It is strange that Microsoft has not been pushing this argument, if it is true. ® Complete Register trial coverage
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