MS/DOJ: Witness says bundling is inefficient

Microsoft is making a misleading claim when it says it creates efficiencies by bundling the operating system with a Web browser, according to the US government's next expert witness in its antitrust lawsuit against the software giant. David Farber, a professor of telecommunications systems at the University of Pennsylvania, argues in a written testimony released yesterday that there are no technical barriers that prevent Microsoft from developing and selling its Windows operating system as a stand-alone product.

Microsoft is making a misleading claim when it says it creates efficiencies by bundling the operating system with a Web browser, according to the US government's next expert witness in its antitrust lawsuit against the software giant.

David Farber, a professor of telecommunications systems at the University of Pennsylvania was expected to testify overnight. He argued in a written testimony released yesterday that there are no technical barriers that prevent Microsoft from developing and selling its Windows operating system as a stand-alone product.

The "integration" of applications with operating systems does not necessarily bring benefits to users, Farber said. In fact, combining applications into one single product imposes technical inefficiencies for equipment manufactures, software developers and retail end users, including redundancy, performance degradation and increased risks of bugs, he said.

If the logic applied to bundling the browser were taken to its extreme, said Farber, it would mean that "Microsoft could bundle together all its existing and future applications with its current (already massive) product sold as Windows 98," he added.

Farber's court appearance is coming in the middle of Microsoft's cross-examination of James Gosling, the creator of Java and vice president at Sun Microsystems Inc. The US government, citing schedule problems, said it had to call Farber this week. Gosling is expected to return to the stand once Farber is finished testifying.

Microsoft, in a written response today, called Farber's testimony little more than an opinion piece that is short on facts. The company argued that the issue of bundling was made moot when the US Court of Appeals in June overturned a preliminary injunction prohibiting Microsoft from requiring computer manufacturers licensing Windows 95 to also license Internet Explorer.

"Mr. Farber's views should be taken with a huge grain of salt because he has testified at his deposition that he knows absolutely nothing about the internal workings of Windows 95 or Windows 98," said Microsoft.

The integration of Internet Explorer with the operating system has made the browser readily available, quick to load and execute, said Microsoft. "Mr.Farber's opinions are at odds with the facts."

(Patrick Thibodeau is a senior writer at Computerworld.)

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