Microsoft: States' witness defendsopen source model

The Microsoft antitrust remedy phase entered its fifth week yesterday, with the last witness for the non-settling states...

The Microsoft antitrust remedy phase entered its fifth week yesterday, with the last witness for the non-settling states defending a plan to make Internet Explorer open source, while also acknowledging that Netscape Communication's decision to open source Navigator did not work out very well.

Carl Shapiro, a professor of business strategy at the University of California at Berkeley's Haas School of Business and the state's economic witness, was forced to defend his support for open sourcing against the troubled experience of Netscape's 1998 decision to open source its browser.

Facing more cross-examination from Microsoft attorney Michael Lacovara, Shapiro had to square his support for the open source remedy for Internet Explorer - sought by the nine non-settling states that have refused to sign the Bush administration-backed settlement - against the record.

Shapiro, along with a co-author, praised Netscape's decision in a 1998 op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal entitled "A Judo Blow Against Microsoft", as a decision that would lead to more browser innovation. As an open source product, developers had the ability to improve the browser's basic operation and functionality.

Lacovara used the experience of the Navigator open source effort, called Mozilla, to underscore his point that by making IE open source there was a risk the browser could be fragmented, leading to incompatibilities with the Windows operating systems. Mozilla is expected to release Version 1.0 of its browser in the next few weeks.

Shapiro, however, insisted that Microsoft is in a better position to prevent that from happening, although he acknowledged that there is some risk for problems. He said the court could reduce that risk by requiring Microsoft to license the source code only for its existing version of IE, and not future ones as required under the state remedy.

Shapiro, the last witness for the states, is outlining the economic case for several remedies, including making Office available for other operating systems such as Linux; requiring complete disclosure of Windows interfaces to third-party developers; and giving PC makers more leeway to configure desktops.

Under this proposal, Microsoft would be forced to auction Office licences to vendors for the right to port the suite of applications to other operating systems. An official at Linux vendor Red Hat testified earlier in the hearing that the company would likely bid for an Office licence.

Shapiro said such remedies are needed to restore competition.

Microsoft is expected to call as its first witness WJ Sanders, the chairman and chief executive officer of microprocessor manufacturer Advanced Micro Devices. Sanders is expected to testify about the benefits of Windows as a stable and consistent platform that has contributed to the industry's growth. He is also expected to warn that any "balkanisation" of Windows would harm consumers and a variety of companies.

Other possible Microsoft witnesses this week include Kevin Murphy, an economics professor at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.

Microsoft also intends to call a string of company officials to testify in its defence, including its chairman, Bill Gates. The company has not said when Gates will testify.

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