Microsoft: Witness dubious of 'unbound'Windows

A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology claimed yesterday that it is "probably impossible" for Microsoft to...

A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology claimed yesterday that it is "probably impossible" for Microsoft to provide an 'unbound' version of Windows.

Stuart Madnick, who appeared at the Microsoft remedy trial as an expert technical witness for Microsoft, discussed the potential ramifications of a states' proposed remedy that would force Microsoft to sell versions of Windows free from additional software, such as a browser or media player. These pieces of additional software are referred to as middleware in these proceedings.

Attorney for the holdout states Kevin Hodges questioned Madnick about Microsoft's Windows XP Embedded, a modular version of the operating system designed for use in machines such as cash registers.

In an attempt to show that Microsoft has already developed a version of Windows from which middleware pieces could be easily removed, Hodges asked if licensees of Windows XP Embedded could create an operating system running the same applications as Windows XP.

Madnick answered that if all of the binary files of Windows XP Embedded were put together, the result would be "essentially Windows XP". There would be a few items missing, he added, such as the operating system's program that installs new applications.

Hodges questioned why Madnick said in his written testimony that it would be impossible for Microsoft to comply with the states' remedy to sell an unbound version of Windows if it can already be done.

Windows XP Embedded actually highlights the interdependencies found among the various components of Windows without offering a solution to untangle them, Madnick answered.

When licensees of the embedded OS pick from a list of components - including middleware such as Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player - to be included in their system, the OS automatically includes other pieces of software necessary for those components to run, Madnick said.

His point was designed to illustrate how pieces of the operating system are dependent upon each other in order to work, and how pulling them apart would hobble the OS.

Later in the day, attorney for Microsoft Rick Lacovara asked if the fact that Windows XP Embedded is "100% componentised" - as Microsoft's marketing material states - had any significance in assessing Microsoft's ability to comply with the states' remedy. "It has no bearing," Madnick answered.

Madnick stressed that Windows XP Embedded does not remove the interdependencies of Microsoft's middleware and operating system code, but magnifies them instead.

The argument that the company should not be forced to "unbind" middleware from the operating system is a key point in Microsoft's case.

On Tuesday, Microsoft submitted a document to the court that stressed that neither Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson - who issued findings of fact and a remedy ruling after the first, trial phase of the case last year - nor the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which reviewed his decisions, "contemplated the destruction of Windows as a stable and consistent development platform".

The appeals court upheld Jackson's finding that Microsoft used a monopoly in the desktop operating systems market to thwart competition. However, it overturned his remedies, a ruling that led to the remedy hearing going on now.

The document that Microsoft issued Tuesday was part of a flurry of briefs and motions from the company and the states arguing, among other things, whether Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly should immediately make a ruling on remedies in favour of Microsoft.

Microsoft's arguments included the charge that the states' remedy proposal goes beyond the scope of the anticompetitive actions found by Jackson and upheld by the Appeals Court.

The states pointed out Tuesday that the Appeals Court said that a "district court is afforded broad discretion to enter that relief it calculates will best remedy the conduct it has found to be unlawful."

Kollar-Kotelly is being presented with proposed remedies from states suing Microsoft and from the company. The US Department of Justice and nine states agreed upon a settlement with Microsoft in the antitrust case last November, but nine other states and the District of Columbia are holding out for tougher restrictions on the company's business practices.

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