Microsoft: RealNetworks' media playerwas perceived as a threat

A lawyer for the US states suing Microsoft questioned a company executive's testimony that Microsoft does not view RealNetworks'...

A lawyer for the US states suing Microsoft questioned a company executive's testimony that Microsoft does not view RealNetworks' media player technology as a threat to Windows.

In his written direct testimony prepared before his appearance at the Microsoft remedy hearing Thursday, Will Poole, vice-president of Microsoft's Windows New Media Platforms Division, said RealNetworks' media players "are not potential substitutes for the full platform capabilities of the Windows operating system".

John Schmidtlein, an attorney for the litigating states, asked Poole if he thought RealNetworks presents a platform threat to Microsoft. The executive answered that he did not. Schmidtlein went on to display evidence that showed internal Microsoft discussions about RealNetworks' threat.

Schmidtlein asked Poole if he was aware of Microsoft executives comparing the company's battle with RealNetworks with its battle with Netscape.

"I think at least one executive said that in an e-mail somewhere," Poole answered, adding that Microsoft views the battles as similar in some ways, but different in others.

Schmidtlein showed the court an e-mail message sent in 1999 from one of Poole's staffers to Microsoft top executives - including chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates and chief executive officer Steve Ballmer - pointing out a sentence that referred to the "platform battle between Microsoft and RealNetworks."

After displaying another internal document regarding Microsoft's media player strategy, Schmidtlein asked if the company wanted to integrate its media player deeper into Windows.

"It's already pretty deep," Poole answered. He then asked if Microsoft wanted to broaden its competition with RealNetworks from a narrow part of Windows - meaning the media player - to Windows in general. Poole responded that was correct.

Schmidtlein then showed the court an e-mail message written in 2000 by a Microsoft employee regarding IBM's decision to include RealNetworks' media player with its version of Unix.

The message, addressed to Microsoft's European country managers, urged them to convince their employees to view RealNetworks as a "major threat" and to consider Microsoft's media player as an "ice pick" into Sun's customer base.

When asked what was meant by an ice pick, Poole responded that Windows Media Player was a way to "chip away" at the large market share that companies such as Sun and IBM have in the enterprise.

Poole's testimony will continue on Monday.

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