Tavanian ‘Microsoft attempted to nuke QuickTime’ line continues

But hard evidence seems thin on the ground

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When cornered, many animals counterattack, and so it was with Microsoft yesterday. Apple was the aggressor, and Microsoft squealed because the Mac maker was threatening to sue Microsoft for $1.2 billion over some patent issues. Avadis Tevanian, senior VP for software engineering at Apple, denied this, claiming that the $1.2 billion was just the value of Apple's patent portfolio. Microsoft spin doctor Mark Murray said if anyone was wielding a club, it was Apple not Microsoft. Although Apple's [possible] suit was groundless, "it could tie Microsoft up in legal knots for years". But how could that be? Surely any court would throw out a groundless claim? It seems as though there are revelations yet to come. Tevanian has a PhD in computer science -- his thesis being on the design of operating systems -- from Carnegie Mellon University, from whence cometh the Mach kernel. He was offered a job at Microsoft, but turned it down in favour of going to NeXT for nine years, where he was the primary architect for Steve Jobs. One abuse of the Windows monopoly being discussed in court is Tevanian's claim that Microsoft deliberately sabotaged Apple's code so that it would not run on Windows properly. Tevanian said that the incompatibilities that Microsoft introduced were not present in an earlier version of Internet Explorer, but were present in IE3 with Windows 95. Internal dissent at Apple was picked up by Microsoft, and Tim Schaaff, who worked for Tevanian, clouded the issue by saying in a deposition that he "didn't know what [to] think" as to whether Microsoft intentionally sabotaged QuickTime. Tevanian dismissed Schaaff's concerns by saying that they were not relevant because bugs in Microsoft code were Microsoft's responsibility. The reason for Microsoft's heavy breathing is that it sees Apple's QuickTime as not just an alternative to its own Netshow and Media Player, but the beginnings of an alternative platform that would work on Windows as well as in Windows-free zones. For a time, Apple thought the bugs were in its own code, but it became clear that this was not the case. Tevanian believes that his team should have been more aggressive about sorting out the problems caused to QuickTime by Microsoft but he did not think "they would get good answers". He had emailed Bill Gates, who arranged for a file format to be fixed quickly, but not the other problems. Microsoft decided to put up the aggressive Theodore Edelman as its attorney to cross-examine Tevanian. Some time was spent by Edelman gloating over Tevanian's corrected written testimony, but the reward was not worth the journey. Edelman's put-down came when he asked: "Don't you think the use of the word 'sabotage' is a bit of an exaggeration?" Tevanian snapped back: "It sounds fine to me." Edelman was unable to break Tevanian's testimony, but he did reduce the damage by getting him to admit that it was his personal opinion that Microsoft intentionally introduced incompatibility and misleading error messages (something Microsoft has allegedly done several times before, most notably with DR-DOS). One false error message in Windows 95 said that QuickTime could not be used to view video or listen to audio clips. Microsoft also made technical changes to cause QuickTime to fail in some circumstances, Tevanian claimed, and there was "solid evidence" to support this view, but it was not introduced yesterday. Tevanian also suggested that Microsoft had "a higher-order" strategy... "to disable or to prevent someone else from establishing a new platform" to threaten Windows, and that this "was a perfectly rational explanation" as to why Microsoft would introduce a bug. Unfortunately, Tevanian did not substantiate this claim. The key area being examined yesterday was whether QuickTime encountered ordinary bugs with Microsoft software, or whether Microsoft deliberately sabotaged the running of QuickTime by including code to create problems. Tevanian was asked whether he had any personal knowledge of Microsoft's motivations, and replied: "What other goal could there have been except to injure QuickTime in favour of Microsoft technologies?" However, he did not have any hard evidence on hand, it seemed. Unfortunately, Apple does not seem to have reverse-engineered the Microsoft code to prove what was happening. It did not help Apple that it would not sign a NDA with Microsoft (based on advice from Apple's legal department, because it could have inhibited the development of future products) and therefore Apple did not get betas of Microsoft's MediaPlayer, for example. Tevanian did give as his opinion that he had "a problem with [Microsoft] using [the threat to withdraw Microsoft Office for the Mac] to get us to do things we didn't want to do. It was a matter of using extreme power in the market to affect the terms of another business deal". Microsoft decided to liven up the afternoon with a demo of how easy it was to move from IE to Navigator. The demo worked for once, but Judge Jackson appeared to form the view, after looking at the complex instructions, that it was not easy to do this, and the demo ended up having the opposite effect to what Microsoft wanted. Legally speaking, the DoJ must show beyond doubt that Microsoft had a monopoly and had the intent to abuse it on a systematic basis. It is too early to assess whether the DoJ has the evidence, but Microsoft's adamant refusal to admit to a monopoly flies in the face of marketshare data and is clearly unsustainable. It therefore looks as though Microsoft is denying it has a monopoly as a last ditch defence, to drag things out as much as possible. The evidence that Microsoft has abused its Windows monopoly is getting stronger day by day. The DoJ is also trying to establish that Rhapsody, Apple's intended next-generation OS, failed because of Microsoft's market power: developers are not attracted to a platform that becomes largely over-shadowed by Windows. It looks as though Tevanian may be assisting Microsoft with its enquiries for a few days yet: Microsoft seems determined to ensure that the trial gets as boring as possible (and off the front pages), but it need not fear: each day brings new revelations about Microsoft's business practices. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories Click for story index


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