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Gates testifies in antitrust trial; warns Windows may fragment

With the future of his company as the dominant desktop OS and application provider clearly on the line, Microsoft founder Bill Gates took the stand this week in the penalty phase of Microsoft’s long-running antitrust trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Gates, in his testimony, painted a picture of a software company potentially imperiled if penalties requested by state attorneys general are allowed. He also raised the specter of a fragmented Windows operating system if the court mandates changes in established Microsoft business practices.

In the course of its multi-year legal battle with the Dept. of Justice and several state attorneys general, Microsoft was found to have forged an illegal monopoly around its Windows operating systems.

Gates, chairman and chief software architect at Microsoft, took the stand as nine states continued to push an anti-trust trial despite a settlement reached last fall by Microsoft, the U.S. Dept. of Justice and several other state attorneys general.

In direct written testimony submitted just before this week’s court appearance, Gates asserted the states attorneys’ challenge imperiled Microsoft’s efforts “to promote the development of a broad range of hardware and software products that interoperate well with one another.”

He also suggested that a ruling unfavorable to Microsoft would threaten the “central role played by intellectual property protection in providing an incentive to invest capital, time and energy in software development.”

In his direct testimony Gates warned that customers would soon be faced with “the prospect of finding and distinguishing among, for example, Corel WordPerfect for Compaq Windows, Corel WordPerfect for Dell Windows and Corel WordPerfect for Gateway Windows.” He also raised the possibility of “Sun Windows” and “AOL Windows,” each with varying capabilities.

Microsoft attorneys have recently asserted that major industry players like Sun and AOL are colluding to end Windows’ dominance through courtroom tactics.

In his first day of testimony, Gates was said to be direct and amicable. This contrasts with his appearance in a videotaped deposition in the early stages of the trial, when he appeared both vague and combative.

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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