- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2002

A group of states asked a judge yesterday to force Microsoft Corp. to market a stripped-down version of its Windows operating system to punish the company for antitrust violations.
But Microsoft lawyers countered in a new phase of the hearing that the nine states and the District are proposing draconian measures that will cripple the Redmond, Wash., software company.
In a two-hour-long opening statement, attorneys for the states said tougher new penalties must be imposed on Microsoft to overcome loopholes in the settlement proposed by the Justice Department.
"We say a remedy must be strong because it must control one of the most powerful companies in America," Brendan V. Sullivan, the lead attorney for the states, told U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.
Attorneys for the states presented several e-mails yesterday in an attempt to show that Microsoft uses coercion to deal with threats from potential competitors. One example included a series of e-mails about Dell Computer Corp. of Texas.
Microsoft President Steve Ballmer met with a Dell executive in April 2000 about Dell's plans to use an operating system by Linux, a Microsoft rival. Mr. Ballmer wrote in a subsequent e-mail that "it is untenable for [Dell] … to be doing aggressive market development for another operating system."
Later that year, Dell abandoned its plans to include Linux on personal computers and laid off the head of its Linux team. Those developments were a result of pressure from Microsoft, states' attorney Steven Kuney said.
Mr. Kuney also said he will show evidence during the trial to prove that Microsoft has tried to stifle competition from RealNetworks Inc., whose RealPlayer software can play digital music files, by withholding technical information needed for RealPlayer to work on the Windows platform.
Microsoft's conduct can only be prevented by stricter penalties, Mr. Kuney said.
In his opening statement, Microsoft attorney Dan Webb lambasted the states' proposals and claimed the software company would be forced to stop marketing Windows if it must offer a stripped-down version of the operating system, which runs more than 90 percent of the world's personal computers.
Microsoft can't produce an unbundled version of Windows and ensure that it will work properly because it includes "tens of millions" of lines of computer code with applications that depend on each other, Mr. Webb said. The states also want Microsoft to market a so-called modular version of Windows with applications that computer manufacturers can remove and replace with software made by competitors.
Mr. Webb also claimed that granting the states' proposal forcing Microsoft to disclose technical information about Windows will lead rivals to clone the operating system.
"If Windows is cloned by Sun [Microsystems], or by anyone else, the value of Windows to Microsoft is zero. It will be economically and technically impossible to keep Windows on the market," he said.
Microsoft's rivals want to snuff the life out of the company, Mr. Webb argued.
"Microsoft's competitors would like to have a handcuff on it. [They] would destroy it as a competitor … . That is not what should happen in this case," he said.
Mr. Sullivan rejected Microsoft's "doomsday defense."
"I think Microsoft is acting like [nursery rhyme character Chicken Little]. I ask the court to scrutinize what they say because they are engaging in hyperbole," he said.
Mr. Sullivan said Microsoft must also be required to divulge the software code of the Internet Explorer browser. Mr. Sullivan described Internet Explorer as the fruit of Microsoft's ill-gotten gains and said its source code should be revealed so it doesn't gain market share owing to the Windows monopoly. Microsoft's browser, once less popular than Netscape Navigator, is tied to the Windows operating system.
Mr. Webb said he plans to call Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates to testify once the states are done questioning their witnesses.
The hearing could last up to two months.


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