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MS exec in shock Windows is great white whale claim
And how come kindly Kempin was paying OEMs to stick to their contracts?
MS on Trial Confidential Microsoft documents referred to in court yesterday show that in 1996 the company offered OEMs financial inducements in exchange for their agreeing to use the standard Windows interface, rather than alternative shells. But bizarrely OEM chief Joachim Kempin claimed that the OEMs were already legally obliged to stick to the standard interface. Kempin had initially said OEMs hadn't been offered extra discounts, but changed his mind when DoJ attorney David Boies produced the documents, which were admitted under seal (ie. we can't have them -- yet). "Yes," he said. "I believe we incented the OEMs to go back to the normal standard licence agreements because... we had a lot of third-party shells which these OEMs were using, and they booted into these shells, basically covering up our product totally. I would call this tampering, as I said yesterday." Kempin's view of tampering has been made fairly clear this week, and yesterday he compared Windows to a great novel, saying that messing with it was akin to tearing out chapters or changing the ending because you don't like it. Specifically, the great novel he cited was Moby Dick -- so, friends, Windows is a great white whale. But how come Microsoft was paying the OEMs to return to the licensing conditions they should have -- in Kempin's view -- been adhering to all along? "I think what we did here is we said, 'This might take you some work to do that.' So instead of just writing it to their licence agreement and demanding it, we basically tried to give them some additional dollars to basically do the R&D work and change." Kempin's misphrasing here is key -- did he mean writing it into the licence agreement, or writing to them drawing the licence agreement to their attention? He quickly stresses that he meant is "that was already written in the licence agreement... they had no right to do this, and we never granted them this right." Historians will however note that one of the software categories the launch of Windows 95, which had launched the previous autumn, broke was third party alternative shell software. But clearly Kempin is saying that, aside from making it technically difficult to re-engineer third party shells, Microsoft had outlawed them in its OEM contracts. This is possibly a matter for interpretation, however, as what OEMs can and cannot interfere with depends on how far out Microsoft decides to place the boundaries of its 'great novel.' Kempin may say that these boundaries have not changed, but that isn't the perception of Microsoft's big OEM customers. A Hewlett-Packard memo of early 1997 for example says: "We strongly protested the changes [our italics, and these changes are precisely what Kempin was saying weren't changes yesterday] last fall and were flatly refused any leeway." In a September 1996 paper Kempin himself says: "The current Windows experience guidelines are being implemented and by January 1997, at least 65 per cent of all systems will follow them." Again, he's talking about what he's now saying OEMs were always required to do, but is pretty relaxed about so few of them doing it. And then of course there's Microsoft's old trusty, Dell (remember Mikey Dell spoke up for Bill at the senate hearings last year). A document headed "Dell's response to Microsoft's Windows User Experience Amendment Proposal" stems from a Dell-Microsoft meeting in Redmond in December 1996. Dell would appear to be under the impression, as HP was, that these are changes, and the document covers "the Windows User Experience (WUE) amendment which has been proposed by Microsoft as an amendment to Dell's contract with Microsoft." It does look a bit like Joachim isn't telling the pure, unvarnished truth, doesn't it? Maybe, maybe not. One of the things he stressed yesterday was that Microsoft did a lot of business verbally. Strange as it may seem, considering the detail the OEM contracts go into, there are surely plenty of permissions, restrictions, advisories and Compaq-style side licences that either don't go down on paper immediately, or don't go down on paper at all. ® Complete Register trial coverage