The federal judge overseeing the antitrust trial against Microsoft Corp. today ordered the software giant to hand over a document the U.S. government said may help prove its claim that Microsoft illegally tied its browser to the Windows operating system.
However, Microsoft officials said the document, a spreadsheet that details how much of the code in a Dynamic Link Library (DLL) file is shared by the browser and the operating system, won't help the government's case.
"Frankly we think it supports our case more than it supports their case," said Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray outside the court.
The court previously ordered Microsoft to present documents related to testing it did on a prototype program designed to remove the browser from the operating system developed by Edward Felten, a Princeton University computer scientist and witness for the government.
But Microsoft said the spreadsheet data was not part of that those tests, and it wasn't required to release the data under the earlier court order.
In court this morning, Microsoft attorney Steven Holley didn't voice strong objections to the government's request.
"I'm not trying to hide the ball here," Holley said to Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, adding that if the government wants to see the spreadsheet the company will produce it. The judge then asked Microsoft to do so.
The government used Felten's program to demonstrate how Internet Explorer could be uncoupled from the operating system. Microsoft said Felten's program merely hid the browser's functionality and didn't remove it.
Government attorneys learned of the spreadsheet through an e-mail, written by Microsoft software engineer David D'Souza, they received in the earlier discovery request. D'Souza profiled an Internet Explorer 4 file -- shdocvw.dll -- to determine which functions were shared when the user accesses the hard drive via the "My Computer" function and when accessing the home.microsoft.com web site. D'Souza found 1,061 functions that were common to both scenarios; 152 functions that were specific to accessing the hard drive; and 690 functions specific to accessing home.microsoft.com.
"Clearly the integration is good," wrote D'Souza in the Oct. 21, 1998 memorandum to James Allchin, Microsoft senior vice president who is expected to take the stand Monday. "There is a HUGE amount of sharing and commonality here."
But the part of D'Souza's e-mail that piqued the government's interest read: "Arguably, based on Felton's testimony, this list could be used to 'separate' shdocvw into two parts: Shared+shell and browser specific. So this may not be useful."
The spreadsheet may help the government on two fronts, said lead government attorney David Boies, who intends to refer directly to the spreadsheet during his cross-examination of Allchin.
First, Boies said Microsoft executives have consistently said they "don't know" when asked how much of the browser code is shared by the operating system. D'Souza's work indicates that a "very simple test" could provide the answer, he said.
Secondly, the spreadsheet data may underscore the government's claim that Microsoft "had no plausible reason to weld the entire Internet Explorer into the operating system," Boies said. The government believes that decision ultimately hurt consumers by reducing operating system performance and
choice, while Microsoft sees the integration as a consumer benefit.
Paul Maritz, Microsoft's vice president of the platforms and applications group and Microsoft's first executive witness, completed his testimony late today. He spent much of his time on the stand answering questions from Microsoft attorney John Warden related to the various competitive threats Microsoft faces in the software industry.
Hitting on themes already familiar in this case, Maritz said the company has to continue to innovate to be able to stay ahead of numerous threats to the Windows platform posed by everything from Linux, the Open Source software, to Internet handheld devices.
Outside the court, Boies said the real issue in the case has nothing to do with potential threats but with Microsoft's share of the PC operating systems market. Microsoft has controlled a monopoly in that market for 10 to 14 years, he said.