MS/DOJ: IBM Exec Recounts OS/2 Wars

The government today turned, once again, to Microsoft Corp. Chairman and CEO Bill Gates to introduce a new witness in its antitrust case against the software giant.

John Soyring, director of network services computer services for IBM Corp., took the stand this afternoon to begin testifying on how Microsoft hurt its ability to compete against Windows operating systems with its OS/2 operating system.

But before his testimony began, the government played an 8-minute segment of Gates' videotaped deposition that dealt with IBM.

The videotape excerpt was intended to lend support to Soyring's testimony about how Microsoft used its own implementation of Java to limit competition. The government wanted to show that Gates was worried about Java.

In an internal memo to a Microsoft executive in October 1997, Gates said "The Java religion coming out of the software group is a big problem," referring to IBM.

Gates, in the deposition, said that IBM was making some "extreme statements we didn't think were true" about Java and IBM's network computer, and he wanted rhetoric "lowered on both sides."

David Boies, the lead government attorney, asked Gates a series of questions about Java.

"Did you believe," Boies asked Gates, "it was hurting Microsoft, or were you just doing this as sort of a public-spirited company to try to help IBM from hurting itself?"

"I can't point to any particular damage, but we certainly would have preferred if the more extreme statements we didn't think were true, if they weren't pushing those forward," responded Gates.

After court was over today, Boies said that Gates' real concern was the threat IBM and Java posed to his business.

Mark Murray, Microsoft spokesman, said today's videotaped took the government's use of the Gates' deposition to "an absurd level." Citing portions of the deposition in which Gates talked about an "improved relationship" with IBM, he said Gates' interest was for better ties with the company.

Soyring took the witness stand late this afternoon, to begin his cross-examination by Microsoft attorney Steven Holley.

Soyring, in his written testimony, said adoption of the OS/2 operating system has been hurt by lack of applications that run on it.

Microsoft agreements have made it difficult for application developers to port or adapt applications developed for Windows to OS/2, said Soyring. He said Microsoft has agreements in which it licenses application development tools to independent software vendors that restrict the use of the tools for Windows development.

Microsoft has also set restrictions on the use of some code for OS/2, said Soyring.

"These circumstances have resulted in OS/2 being caught in a vicious cycle," said Soyring. The limited number of OS/2 applications has limited demand for the operating system and, as a result, relatively few PCs are shipped with it, he testified.

Holley asked Soyring whether consumers were using Windows because it was better.

"No, no," said Soyring. "It's because of the lack of availability of shrink-wrap applications" that users went to Windows, he said.

But Soyring said that OS/2 has done better in the corporate market, where there is greater demand for the operating system.

(Patrick Thibodeau is a senior writer for Computerworld).

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