Microsoft: Witness claims unbundledWindows would harm users

A Microsoft executive has claimed that consumers would suffer hardware and software incompatibilities if third-party Windows...

A Microsoft executive has claimed that consumers would suffer hardware and software incompatibilities if third-party Windows licensees were allowed to remove pieces of the operating system.

At the Microsoft remedy hearing yesterday, Robert Short, vice-president for Windows core technology, explained that Windows licensees could leave out key pieces of software, such as device drivers, and make them work with Windows.

"Consumers have grown to expect and demand that they can go into any computer store and purchase hardware that will just work on the Windows system," Short said in his written direct testimony prepared before his appearance in court.

Lawyer for the states Laurie Fulton asked why Short interpreted the states' remedies to mean that licensees could pull device drivers from Windows.

Short replied that the states' broad definition of middleware - any software that exposes application programming interfaces - was at fault because it would make device drivers susceptible to removal. Drivers would come under the states' middleware definition.

In his written testimony, Short said that in an unbundled world, Hewlett-Packard, for example, could license Windows and remove drivers for all non-HP printers on the PCs that it sells. If a customer purchased an HP PC and a Canon printer, the two would not work together.

Fulton asked if Short objected to giving PC makers such flexibility. "My objection would be that my team would be expected to support that," he said.

If, as Short maintained, consumers like the "plug and play" abilities of Windows that let them use a wide variety of hardware with the operating system, then would they not continue to buy the complete version of Windows that the states' remedy said could also be sold, Fulton asked.

"I think they'll buy the cheapest," Short replied.

Fulton asked whether, under the states' remedy, Windows licensees could also remove Internet access software from the operating system, to which Short answered yes.

She then asked whether a PC maker would advertise the fact that it was selling a version of Windows without Internet access. Short said his concern was that most PC customers would not understand the explanation.

When asked if he was against giving customers such choice, Short answered that there should be choice, but that under the states' remedy customers would be unable to buy the same wide range of software and devices that work with Windows today.

One of the remedies proposed by the states suing Microsoft would force the company to allow PC vendors and other Windows licensees to omit portions of the OS from the final product they deliver to customers.

Microsoft also played for the court a videotape of excerpts of an interview that Microsoft lawyers had conducted with Tom Greene, California senior assistant attorney general, who is co-ordinating the Microsoft case for the states. California is one of the states pursuing litigation.

In the tape, Microsoft attorney Steven Holley asked Greene whether, under the states' provisions, Microsoft would be forced to treat a small PC company in the same way it treats Compaq, for example.

Greene answered that the status of the two companies would be the same, but that Compaq would need more information from Microsoft because it sells more PCs.

Holley asked whether Microsoft could deny the small company access to the same information that it provides to Compaq under the proposed remedy. Microsoft could not, Greene said.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is hearing proposed remedies to Microsoft's anticompetitive behaviour from both the company and from nine states plus the District of Columbia. Last November the US Department of Justice and nine other states reached a settlement with Microsoft; the holdout states are seeking tougher restrictions on the company's business practices.

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