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Did MS break QuickTime? It didn't help fix it…
Eric 'no mail' Engstrom downplays key meeting as 'preliminary and exploratory'
MS on Trial Eric Engstrom, Microsoft's witness about its relationship with Apple, wiped key email from his hard disk, he claimed, which meant there was less documentary evidence to contradict his account what had happened at the meetings with Apple - and very little to support it of course. So whatever actually happened, this gross stupidity has lost Microsoft most of its credibility in its Apple relationship. Microsoft is also trying a new excuse to minimise the importance of meetings. Unless "senior executives" are present at meetings with competitors, everything is informal: "All of the communications were preliminary and exploratory, undertaken to determine whether there was any basis for Microsoft and Apple to work together on multimedia technologies for the benefit of both parties and of computer users". Microsoft claims that only a meeting on 15 June 1998 meeting with Apple could be counted. It sounded like an argument to provide a future excuse for the Court of Appeals to cite in reversing the District Court's decision. The issue of Microsoft's alleged technical sabotage of QuickTime rumbles on. Before Engstrom was tendered as a witness for cross-examination by Microsoft lawyer Theodore Edelman, Microsoft was at pains to stress that Microsoft had provided a patch to fix the "problems" reported by Apple, although there were still some minor problems with the patch, Engstrom admitted in court. The core of the argument was that Microsoft did not get its own way, and persuade Apple to dump QuickTime. There was a counter-proposal from Steve Jobs for Microsoft to use QuickTime, but this was "rejected out of hand". Engstrom's premise for collaboration was that "currently-available multimedia technology is characterised by a mass of divergent and incompatible formats and protocols that inevitably result in consumer confusion and frustration." Avie Tevanian complained to Gates on 8 August 1997 about Microsoft-induced problems with QuickTime: "I've learned that IE4 on Windows disables QuickTime and QuickTime VR. My understanding is that IE4 sets the default for .MOV files to be ActiveMovie instead of QuickTime. As you know, .MOV files have long been QuickTime files. Can you look into this and get it reversed? There seems to be a lot of ill-will generated as a result and there is a perception tat Microsoft is trying to lock-out QuickTime from Windows. This is the last thing we need as it could sour our now good relationship." Gates emailed the same day to Maritz and others at Microsoft: "I want to get as much mileage as possible out of our browser and JAVA relationship here. In other words a real advantage against SUN and Netscape. Who should Avie be working with? Do we have a clear plan what we want Apple to do to undermine SUN." The capitalisation of Sun and Java shows the extent to which Gates was obsessed at the time. In the event, nothing happened for a year about Tevanian's request, and Microsoft took no action. Engstrom claimed that Apple had provided Microsoft with insufficient data to analyse the problem, but strangely Microsoft had not thought to call Apple to ask for more. Microsoft also did not tell Microsoft about a flag that could be set that would help in overcoming the problem. Engstrom admitted that Microsoft had found two bugs in its software and fixed these. Microsoft wanted Apple to use an ActiveX control for QuickTime, which would of course have forced Apple to write a new interface for QuickTime. Tim Schaaff, senior director of Apple's interactive media group, emailed Engstrom on 21 July 1998 asking about fixes that Microsoft had said it had for problems that Apple was experiencing with QuickTime on Microsoft's Media Player. The fixes had not worked. Schaaff included considerable detail about the problems, and it would seem unlikely that it is just an Apple problem, much as Microsoft would like to characterise it that way. Engstrom had a confession, although it sounded like a sales message: Malone: Are you saying now that there essentially is no practical difference, no qualitative difference, between the multimedia runtimes, at least for audio and video content, as offered by Microsoft's DirectX media, Apple's QuickTime and RealNetworks? Engstrom: ... it has been my opinion for a very long time, that there is no substantive difference there. It's strange how experiences and interpretations of "substantive" can differ: perhaps those who had found that QuickTime and RealNetworks to be better than Microsoft's offerings were just being picky. Engstrom described one bad day he had had when Apple complained in a story in the WSJ about Microsoft sabotaging QuickTime, and he had also heard that Rob Glaser of RealNetworks ("I am friendly with his wife," Engstrom confessed) was going to testify to the Senate committee. When Malone urged Engstrom to be more precise in his answers, Judge Jackson nodded agreement, but remarked that he was "sympathetic with his bad day". In redirect examination, Edelman brought out how Microsoft had developed some code that Microsoft said should have been in Apple's installation program to make it work, and had this "verified by three organisation". The problem for Microsoft is that it has lost all credibility for the reliability of commissioned reports and market studies. Engstrom said: "It's amazing to me that Dr Tevanian could come in here with the data he had and make a claim of sabotage against Microsoft." Engstrom continued: "We built the enable plug-in flag to allow QuickTime, as it existed at the time we created the plug-in, to work. We set the flag for them so it would work. We tried to answer their questions at every point. The thing that is not probably clear here from using the word 'sabotage' in this court case -- though I, again, can't believe anyone would do that without data -- is that at Microsoft, our company would never do something like that. So, you know, this allegation reflects -- well, while it reflects on Microsoft in this court case, it reflects on me personally and my colleagues at work. I spent, you know, a fair amount of time trying to explain to my management that I had not done something, you know, this egregious, because they, you know, at first went, man, we can't believe this happened. As reports came in, you know, I believe I was vindicated, but this, you know, could have had -- it ended up it didn't, because the reports were so clear -- significant impacts to me personally and, you know, my team that worked on this project. So I have got to tell you that, you know, Microsoft doesn't do this. This would -- this was just, you know, out of our scope of understanding in this space." Well, that's his story, you know. ® Complete Register trial coverage