Jim Allchin on the WinXP component question

When the censor's scissors haven't struck...


Steve Ballmer's paranoid fantasies about how many zillions of versions of Windows there would have to be if the States got their way were one way of dealing with the issue of componentisations of Windows, but the deposition of fellow MS exec Jim Allchin seems to have covered the issue in a more rational way.

We say "seems to," because material in the deposition transcripts that is deemed to be "company confidential" has been excised, so although it's clear that Allchin was questioned in some detail about componentisation, for some reason what one surmises must have been the answers are too sensitive for general consumption. This seems to go for the generality of subjects covered; whenever it starts getting interesting, the gaps start getting bigger. Still, it takes less time to read white space.

The modularity discussion kicks in with the question, "Do the software programmers in the other groups design in modules or components then supplied to your software engineers?" To which Allchin responds, "Generally." You can see where this is leading, can't you?

The questioning proceeds as follows:

Q. Do you consider the embedded technology a Windows technology?
A. Yes.
Q. Is that also architected in components?
A. We're trying to get there.
Q. Why -- strike that. Is designing it in a component fashion something that you consider desirable?
A. Yes.

The States, you'll recall, have secured access to Windows source code, including XP Embedded source, their objective here being to show that with embedded, Microsoft can provide customisation and componentisation if it wants to. And now we're trying to get Jim to agree with them, right? Back to the show:

Q. Can you explain why?
A. In the embedded space the customization that consumers of that technology want to do is to remove pieces of functionality and/or tailor the system in a very comprehensive way, and so being able to describe components as chunks of functionality and the dependencies between them and being able to allow somebody who is going to do some custom code work to cherry pick, if you will, that technology is a good thing in that space.
Q. Can you estimate the number of components that comprise Windows XP?
A. No.
Q. Can you ballpark it?
A. We would have to define what component is. When I just answered the question earlier, I was thinking about the way components are defined in the embedded tool kit. No. I am not -- I don't know how to do that.
Q. Is Windows XP a product that you would consider componentized?
A. No.

Then, unfortunately, we're kicked out of the discussion for eight lines. But they're still on componentisation when they get back:

Q. Is the word componentized a synonym for modular when used to describe software?
A. Yes. It's not a perfect match, and of course none of these terms are without a -- as precise definition, you know, people could get confused, and people generally talk about modular software being able to have reusable components and the like. But the devil is in the details of the definitions.
Q. It's fair to describe Windows XP as modular, isn't it?
A. To a certain degree, yes.
Q. In fact you've described it that way, haven't you?
A. Well, I probably have.
Q. Can you describe what you mean when you refer to Windows XP as modular?

Apparently not. Jim launches off into a bit of marketing history (old stagers will recall Microsoft tagging NT as 'microkernel-based' when the term was fashionable, then dropping it when it wasn't), then rattles off on an unhelpful tangent:

A. Well, it depends on the context of when I used the term. You can, in fact, talk about it at an architectural level that we have a -- it was originally a micro kernel implementation but has since, I think, migrated away from that, but you can talk about having subsystems so that we can run Posix or Unix type applications, Windows type applications, oh, Win 16 type applications, and I believe there have been some other subsystems. So from that perspective it's modular.

Then it runs completely into the fog:

Q. Does the architecture for Windows XP consist of various components, code?
A. Yes. There's code in it. [ahem...]
Q. Can you identify some of the principal components in Windows XP?
A. Well, not in the sense of the way it was done in the embedded XP case. There's a very -- or even the Windows CE case. There's a more defined definition of what components mean. When I talk about -- if I say any of this stuff about Windows XP I'm just sort of -- there's not any technical basis for what I'm about to say. So I'm not sure that it's going to --

The next hundred lines or so did sound like they were going to be interesting, but sadly we're unable to read them, as they seem to be company confidential. When reception returns we're still on related matters, with "Who makes the decisions what functionality to include in the various Window platforms?" The answer is many people, Jim sometimes makes them himself, sometimes he needs approval, no light is shed at this particular point, and off the questioning goes in other directions which we won't burden you with.

A bicker of attorneys

But a little further on we get a wonderful piece of needle between the attorneys. Remember that Microsoft is of the opinion that the States' case is being puppetmastered by Sun and Oracle. And to be fair, the sharpness of the questioning on modularity indicates States' attorney Steve Houck has been briefed by somebody who knows what they're talking about. As Houck quizzes Allchin on Microsoft's responsibility to document interfaces with IE, Steve Holley, for Microsoft, seems to burst:

MR. HOLLEY: Mr. Houck, it just occurs to me to ask another question. Does your law firm represent any competitor to the Microsoft Corporation? And have you taken steps to ensure that that is not true?
MR. HOUCK: You know, if you want to write me a letter --
MR. HOLLEY: No, no, no.
MR. HOUCK: -- we're not going to take up time in this deposition.
MR. HOLLEY: We are now in a deposition where you are learning confidential information about my client, and I find your presence here bizarre, frankly, and I want to know what steps you have taken to ensure that my client's interests are not being compromised.
MR. HOUCK: I am bound by the confidentiality order.
MR. HOLLEY: That doesn't matter if you are vicariously disqualified from appearing here today. Do you represent Oracle or Sun or IBM or any other Microsoft competitor?
MR. HOUCK: Not to my knowledge.
MR. HOLLEY: Do you know? Do you know?
MR. HOUCK: Not to my knowledge, Mr. Holley.
MR. HOLLEY: Well, you better find out.
MR. HOUCK: Let me apologize on your counsel's behalf for the interruption. Let's get back to the deposition.
MR. HOLLEY: I want to know by the next break that you have run a conflict check through your firm's computer to find out whether you have a conflict with the Microsoft Corporation. Can you do that for me?
MR. HOUCK: No. I'm not going to do it.
MR. HOLLEY: Well, then, you'll take the risk of proceeding.
MR. HOUCK: That's right. Why don't we take a break because I've lost that my train of thought.
THE VIDEOGRAPHER: Going off the record. The time now is approximately 9:07 a.m.
(Recess.)

Well, that was fun, wasn't it?

Linux not a server OS

Less fun, but more intriguing, is Allchin on Office for Linux, and indeed on Linux in general:

Q. You mentioned Linux. What is Linux?
A. A freely licensed or open-sourced-based licensed -- actually composed of several different licenses in it -- operating system.
Q. Is it primarily a server operating system?
A. No.
Q. Where is it used other than on servers?
A. It's -- we've lost accounts on the client based on it. We have -- we're in constant competitive situations in the embedded space. To me that's where it's strongest, in the embedded space. Second in servers and third in client, but it's a progression that they're moving very quickly with.

Note how short, sharp and specific Allchin is here. From the Linux perspective it's frankly bizarre that he claims Linux is not primarily a server OS, but he's talking here from the Microsoft perspective, and clearly the company must see embedded Linux as the greatest threat. Conspiracy theorists may marvel about what might have been in the 200 missing line following Allchin's confirmation that Microsoft doesn't build Office for Linux (what on earth more could have there been to say, and why would it be secret?), but the large excisions surrounding discussion of Windows Media Player and RealPlayer are more significant.

Allchin on the contents of WinXP is entertaining, sometimes at the expense of the marketing department:

Q. Does it [WinXP] contain something called Intelimirror? [aka IntelliMirror]
A. Yes. That's mainly a marketing term, but yeah, we can call it.
Q. What is that?
A. Well, it's sort of a hodgepodge of different technologies. One core piece, I think, of Intelimirror that people often think about is being able to put my documents on a remote server and have it automatically synchronized with the client data, but Intelimirror, the term had been used for a lot of different things.

Q. Does it [WinXP again] include NetMeeting?
A. Yes, I think it does. That's old technology.

Right. But here's another one for the archeologists, who may recall something called Windows Lite (Jim and The Register share a dim recollection of it, but not much beyond):

Q. Did you ever hear the term Windows lite?
MR. HOLLEY: Windows leet?
MR. HOUCK: Windows lite, L-I-T-E.
A. Yes, I have heard that term. I have no idea what it was and is.
Q. Do you recall Compaq asking if Microsoft could produce a version of Windows that contained less functionality?
A. Not right now, no.

Then we have a 65 line gap. When they finally make it to the courtroom, we hope to hear more about Compaq's alleged requests. ®


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