The Microsoft-US Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit has taken on the ring of a well-worn cliche that hasn't been heard much lately -- Microsoft vs. Apple, the IT version of David vs. Goliath.
Avidas Tevanian, Apple's senior vice president for software engineering, was the government's star witness this week at the trial, which enters its fourth week tomorrow.
Tevanian testified that Microsoft officials proposed dividing the multimedia market, although Microsoft only had a small share compared to that held by Apple's QuickTime streaming technology.
"Are you really asking us to kill playback?" asked Peter Hoddie, Apple's senior QuickTime architect at an August 1997 meeting with Microsoft officials, according to Tevanian. "Do you want us to knife the baby?"
Christopher Phillips, business development manager for Microsoft multimedia APIs and DirectX, allegedly replied: "Yes, we're talking about knifing the baby."
Microsoft attorney Theodore Edelman attempted to counter Tevanian's testimony by confronting the Apple executive with an Apple document that purports to show that the company is using the US Justice Department's ongoing probe as a threat.
The slide series from an Aug. 21, 1996, meeting at Apple, entitled "What to do about Microsoft," included a category called "Why Microsoft needs us." One entry was "DOJ," which stands for Department of Justice.
Edelman asked Tevanian if Apple intended to use the threat of running to the Department of Justice to obtain concessions from Microsoft. In testimony at the trial, it was revealed that Apple was pressing a $1.2 billion patent infringement claim against Microsoft and was considering pressuring Microsoft to adopt QuickTime as a multimedia standard.
Tevanian denied the claim, but added: "If someone is going to start bullying us then we need to consider going to the DOJ."
Department of Justice attorney David Boies said Tevanian was providing important technological testimony in the case and defended Apple's right to contact the government with allegations of wrongdoing on the part of Microsoft.
"If somebody is robbing your house, you're going to call the cops," Boies said.
Microsoft company representative Mark Murray said a series of e-mails submitted into evidence, including one from Apple founder and interim CEO Steve Jobs, indicated that Apple wanted Microsoft to adopt its multimedia playback technology.
"That's exactly the same allegation the government is bringing against Microsoft," Murray said. "There is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing anti-competitive about that."
(Elizabeth Wasserman is the Washington bureau chief for The Industry Standard, and Patrick Thibodeau is a senior writer at Computerworld. Both are InfoWorld affiliates. Bob Trott also contributed to this article.)