Microsoft: Stripped-down Windows isunfeasible, scientist claims

A computer scientist claimed it was technically unfeasible for Microsoft to produce a stripped-down version of Windows.

A computer scientist claimed it was technically unfeasible for Microsoft to produce a stripped-down version of Windows.

Microsoft's last witness, John Bennett, a computer science professor at the University of Colorado, said producing a Windows version with stripped-out components would add four to six months of testing for each variant of the opportunity system. The number of versions to test "grows exponentially" with the number of removable components, he argued.

That was a conclusion based on a telephone interview Bennett conducted with Microsoft employees and his experience with servers.

But states' attorney Steven Kuney wanted to know what Bennett did to verify that conclusion. Bennett acknowledged that he had made no attempt to determine the specifics of what would happen.

The states want to force Microsoft to make it possible to remove Web browser code from the operating system. Bennett acknowledged that it is "not a technically impossible job to remove the code" but that the functionality would have to be replaced.

But after 32 days of evidentiary hearings, it will soon be up to US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to determine the remedies the company should face for its antitrust violations.

Kollar-Kotelly faces tough choices. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has warned the judge that if Microsoft is forced to produce a stripped version of Windows, it will mean the end of the operating system.

But the heart of the nonsettling states' case is the provision that allows PC makers to substitute rival software such as the browser or media player for Microsoft applications. The nine nonsettling states see that as critical to restoring competition.

Kollar-Kotelly has favoured Microsoft in many of her procedural rulings, according to legal experts and people close to the case. What is unclear is whether the judge is signalling sympathy for the software giant, or merely acting carefully and closing off Microsoft's potential avenues of appeal.

The job ahead for Kollar-Kotelly is to decide whether to accept or reject the settlement reached with Microsoft by the Bush administration and nine of the 18 states. That settlement is the baseline, and the states seeking more restrictive remedies faced the tougher task in this proceeding.

Despite a lack of clear signals from the judge, legal experts doubt Kollar-Kotelly will go as far as ordering the porting of Microsoft Office and other sweeping remedies.

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