States say Microsoft pulled Java to push .Net

Microsoft is trying to strong-arm software developers into using its .Net platform for web services by dropping support for Sun Microsystems' Java programming language, an attorney for the states suing the software giant attempted to show this week.

          Microsoft is trying to strong-arm software developers into using its .Net platform for web services by dropping support for Sun Microsystems' Java programming language, an attorney for the states suing the software giant attempted to show this week during his cross-examination of an Autodesk executive at the Microsoft remedy hearing.

          Scott Borduin, Autodesk's vice president and chief technology officer, testified for Microsoft and told attorney for the states Kevin Hodges that he and others at Autodesk were troubled to learn of Microsoft's plans to omit the Java Virtual Machine from Windows XP -- therefore dropping support for Java -- since some of his software company's products depended on Java's presence in the operating system.

          The attorney showed the court an email that Borduin sent to his Microsoft contact last August, upon learning about Microsoft's plans. In the email, Borduin summed up Autodesk's frustration with Microsoft's decision to omit Java support in Windows with a quote from an unnamed engineer at his company: "Our wholehearted support of Microsoft is grossly misplaced. This is a company that will screw anybody at the drop of a hat."

          Hodges asked if Borduin believed that Microsoft dropped Java support in Windows as a way to force developers to instead use its competing .Net technology, which is still under development.

          "I didn't actually know at the time what their intent was, but that's what it looked like," Borduin answered.

          During this hearing, which began on March 18, Microsoft and nine states plus the District of Columbia are presenting their proposed remedies for Microsoft's anticompetitive behaviour to US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who will make the final ruling.

          Last year the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a lower court's decision that Microsoft engaged in anticompetitive acts to maintain its monopoly in the PC operating system market. The US Department of Justice and nine other states reached a settlement agreement with Microsoft last November; the holdout states are looking for tougher restrictions on the software company's business practices.

          Borduin also testified that the states' proposed remedies would fragment Windows.

          "We view Windows and (its) middleware as a platform that enables us to build new products and services ... Our real concern is we would no longer be able to assume" that Windows is complete if Microsoft was forced to sell an 'unbound' version of the OS, one free of additional programs such as a browser and media player referred to as middleware, as the states' remedies suggest, he said.

          Hodges countered by asking him whether Windows hasn't been fragmented for a while, trying to show that software developers are already dealing with multiple versions of Windows. There are two versions of Windows XP, one for home users and one for professionals, that include different sets of application interfaces. The witness agreed, but added that this hasn't presented a burden to Autodesk since the vast majority of its users are professionals, not consumers, and therefore use the professional version of XP.

          Following the states' cross-examination, attorney for Microsoft Michael Lacovara attempted to point out the burden software developers would bear if forced to distribute with their products middleware that currently is included in Windows. "Does Autodesk like to distribute platform-level code?" Lacovara asked. "We do not," Borduin answered, adding that software vendors would have no choice but to take on this burden if the states' remedies are imposed. "The alternatives aren't very good," Borduin said.

          "We can dumb down our products (so they wouldn't require the presence of middleware to run), but that would be an unacceptable outcome."

          Trying to redistribute all of the Microsoft middleware that Autodesk's products rely on would raise the company's costs, Borduin added.

          The next witness to take the stand for Microsoft did not provide oral testimony, but instead offered a demonstration designed to show how Windows facilitates development of applications for the disabled. Chris Hofstader, vice president of software engineering for Freedom Scientific, which develops software for blind and low vision users, showed the court how a blind user can leverage his company's products to create documents, read web pages, and send and receive emails in Windows.

          In his written direct testimony, Hofstader said that if Microsoft were forced to sell a version of Windows without middleware, Freedom Scientific's software wouldn't function properly "and a blind or low vision user would not be able to use their computer."

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