Microsoft battles on

Microsoft is in the familiar position of multitasking in its legal woes, as the software giant's lawyers depose Netscape and Sun officials in its antitrust battle with the federal government and Caldera advances its own claims that Microsoft tried to eliminate DR-DOS as a rival to MS-DOS by illegally tying MS-DOS to Windows and misleading users into thinking DR-DOS and Windows were incompatible.

Microsoft is in the familiar position of multitasking in its legal woes, as the software giant's lawyers last week deposed Netscape and Sun officials in its antitrust battle with the federal government, while Caldera offered its own antitrust evidence.

Caldera claims that Microsoft tried to eliminate DR-DOS as a rival to MS-DOS by illegally tying MS-DOS to Windows and misleading users into thinking DR-DOS and Windows were incompatible.

Caldera also claims that Microsoft used misleading "vaporware" product announcements to dampen DR-DOS sales; made false and misleading statements about DR-DOS; and used "per-processor" and other exclusionary licensing terms to block out DR-DOS.

For example, Caldera's 188-page filing includes a Microsoft e-mail in which Phil Barrett, a senior engineer designing Windows 3.1 code writes, "Heh, heh, heh ... my proposal is to have bambi [the code name for work on Windows 3.1] refuse to run on [DR-DOS 6]. Comments? The approach we will take is to detect dr 6 and refuse to load."

The filing also shows that Windows 95 was not an "integrated operating system" as Microsoft claimed, but a combination of Windows and MS-DOS, Caldera said.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan, noting that the Department of Justice acknowledged in 1997 that Windows 95 and MS-DOS were not illegally tied, said compatibility problems with DR-DOS and Windows were widely recognised.

In the coming weeks Caldera will file responses to nine Microsoft motions for partial summary judgment, or partial dismissal of the case. The first of a series of hearings on the motions is scheduled for May 25 in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City. The case is scheduled to go to trial in January 2000.

Meanwhile, Microsoft officials grilled participants in the America Online-Netscape Communications-Sun Microsystems deal in hopes of shoring up its defense in the Justice Department's antitrust case, slated to resume May 17.

Among those deposed were Sun executive Mike Popov and Netscape's former chief financial officer Peter Currie. Microsoft hopes to undermine the government's claim that it is a monopoly.

Microsoft attorney Michael Lacovara also wanted to show that decisions regarding the merger were made with the intent of influencing the government's antitrust case.

At Currie's deposition, he testified that discussions between the companies -- begun in August 1998 -- moved on "quite a fast time frame."

But the negotiators took a monthlong "hiatus," Currie said. Meanwhile, the government's antitrust trial began in October, with Netscape CEO James Barksdale called as first witness.

Netscape was worried that AOL would back out of the deal because it feared animosity from Microsoft, Currie said. But the trial had little impact on merger talks, he said.

The U.S. Department of Justice, in Washington, is at www.usdoj.gov. Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Wash., is at www.microsoft.com. Caldera Inc., in Orem, Utah, is at www.caldera.com.

Elinor Mills is an editor at large for the IDG News Service, and Patrick Thibodeau is a senior writer at Computerworld; both are InfoWorld affiliates.

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