By Jonathan Collins Microsoft Corp attorneys presented an elaborate at the antitrust trail in Washington Thursday in an attempt to prove that Dr Edward Felten, the government’s key technical expert, had failed to show that Internet Explorer web browser software could be removed from the Windows 98 operating system. Felten, a Princeton University professor, first […]
By Jonathan Collins
Microsoft Corp attorneys presented an elaborate at the antitrust trail in Washington Thursday in an attempt to prove that Dr Edward Felten, the government’s key technical expert, had failed to show that Internet Explorer web browser software could be removed from the Windows 98 operating system. Felten, a Princeton University professor, first took the stand for just one day last December. He returned yesterday as the DoJ’s final rebuttal witness to see Microsoft lawyers run his Internet Explorer (IE) removal program in front of the court the Judge and the rest of the Court.
Whether Internet Explorer is an essential part of the Windows 98 operating system is central to the government’s case. It maintains that Microsoft added IE, previously a separate product, into Windows 98 as a way to use its dominance in the operating system market to protect that position from the potential threat of Netscape Communications Corp’s rival browser software providing the platform for a rival PC operating system. Felten’s program aimed to prove that Microsoft’s decision to add IE to Windows 98 had been a commercial not technical one, and one that could easily be reversed.
In a demonstration using a new laptop PC resting on the witness stand, Microsoft attorney Steven Holley, led Dr Felten to run his program, which pertains to remove the web browser functionality from Windows 98. Holley then asked him to visit a series of web sites. If Felten managed to reach the web sites, Microsoft hoped to prove its case that web browsing functionality remained because it is integral to Windows 98. However, the test was not the success that Microsoft had hoped. Before it had even been run, its results had already been questioned. As soon as the purpose of running the test became clear to Felten, he pointed out the results would mean nothing. The results are irrelevant, he said, because the test was designed only to work on a machine with no other applications loaded just the Windows 98 operating system. The demonstration machine had numerous applications pre- installed. Besides, Felten pointed out, there is another browser on there already.
At this point, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who alone will decide the outcome of the case, suggested that there seemed little point in continuing with the demonstration and asked if the DoJ wanted the demonstration stopped. It made no indication that it did. So the demo continued, briefly. When Holley asked Felten to enter www.microsoft.com into the browser bar at the top of the My Computer windows, the DOJ objected. But by now the Judge was clearly intrigued by the demonstration and left the decision whether to continue with Felten. Are you telling me the test doesn’t prove anything? the Judge Jackson asked Felten. I can’t verify it because the test was supposed to be run on a virgin machine. I don’t know the effect of running it with all this other software, said Felten. Microsoft Attorney Holley than interjected adding the fact that the removal program was so fragile was a statement in itself. Holley then continued to press the Judge to allow the test to continue. The Judge allowed the demonstration to continue because, he said, Mr Holley really wants to run his program.
During the demonstration, Felten was directed to visit a number of web sites and testify that the IE logo had appeared on the desktop of the computer proving that IE was still present. At each of Holley’s questions regarding whether browsing was still possible and whether it proved IE could not be removed from Windows 98, Felten listed three objections. First, that the program was not designed to run on a machine with more than one browser and other software; second, that the ability to still browse the internet after running the removal program may be evidence of a bug in the software not that it was not possible to remove IE; and third, that it remains a proof of concept that Microsoft could, if it wanted, remove IE from Windows 98. After listing these conditions several times the Judge stopped the demonstration. I think you have both made your points clear and continuing any further will not change each other’s minds, said Judge Jackson, who then called a recess.
The removal program had caused problems for Microsoft when it ran videotaped testimony in court in February. Microsoft had set out to show that an earlier version of Felten’s program harmed the performance of Windows 98. The videos showed two PC’s running Windows 98 – one after having the Felten program remove IE another with IE included. However examination of the tapes showed that the two machines were not identical and that the tapes had not been recorded in one uninterrupted recording as Microsoft had claimed. This time the demonstration in court was faced with a series of questions from Holtzman why Microsoft chose to use a computer that did not match the clearly defined demands of Felten’s program.
In one final moment of chutzpa, Microsoft lawyer Steven Holley asked the Judge to direct Dr Felten to see a demonstration on any machine with any software on it at any time in order to show his IE removal program did not work. Holley had barely finished before government lawyer Steven Holzman had objected saying that Microsoft had had months to prepare for the test and knew in advance about the PC specification required for the test, yet still chose to use the machine they did. Holzman had also barely finished before Judge Jackson quickly denied the Microsoft request.