A senior Microsoft executive admitted in court yesterday that the retail, separate version of Internet Explorer for Windows 95 offered users most of the same benefits as the inseparable version of the browser that's now part of the Windows 98 OS.
The US government said this admission by James Allchin, senior vice president for personal and business systems, helps to support its claim that the only reason Microsoft is making Internet Explorer part of its operating system is to crush the threat posed by the company's chief browser rival, Netscape Communications.
But Allchin, throughout his cross-examination, insisted that Internet Explorer was not a separate technology. "We're taking two pieces of Windows and we're putting them together," he said.
Microsoft prepared for Allchin's cross-examination today by showing a series of videotapes -- that took up most of the morning and part of the afternoon -- outlining the benefits of Internet Explorer's integration with
But David Boies, the lead government attorney, used excerpts from the videotapes to attack Microsoft's assertions that it was necessary to combine the operating system with the browser to deliver user benefits.
Boies compared the benefits of the standalone version of Internet Explorer, offered with the retail version of Windows 95, and asked Allchin if a user would get the "same integration" with the browser that is now included with Windows 98.
Boies asked, for instance, whether users received the same Web page drag-and-drop capabilities on Windows 98 as they did on Windows 95. He also inquired whether the browsers included on each operating system offered a consistent view of files on either the hard drive or the Web.
In all, Boies poised 19 questions that asked whether the user benefits in the Internet Explorer versions on Windows 95 were similar to the ones in Windows 98.
And, in nearly every case, Allchin answered "yes."
Boies asked Allchin if Microsoft, by making Internet Explorer an inseparable part of Windows 98, was acting out of concern that a consumer might choose a competing product.
Allchin disputed that suggestion, and said the decision to combine Internet Explorer and Windows 98 was part of a "broader and more innovative" effort to improve the value of the product.
Outside of court, Boies said the cross-examination showed that Internet Explorer could be offered as a separate product. "I think there was no benefit that we did not debunk today," said Boies, of
the decision by Microsoft to combine IE with Windows 98.
But Mark Murray, Microsoft's spokesman, dismissed the government's attack and said the issue had "largely been decided" by the U.S. Court of Appeals last June. The court overturned an injunction that prevented Microsoft from requiring computer makers that use Windows 95 to also use Internet Explorer.