MS/DOJ: Witness Called "Prima Donna"

Microsoft has lashed back at Intel vice president Steven McGeady, painting him as "prima donna" and a disgruntled employee who saw Microsoft as "Satan" and leaked stories to the press.

Essentially, Microsoft did all it could this morning to discredit a witness that in earlier testimony had charged the company with making a "credible and fairly terrifying" threat against it.

Microsoft attorney Steven Holley accused McGeady of making things up and exaggerating facts.

Throughout his testimony, McGeady maintained much the same steady demeanor, punctuated with dry humour, that he has shown in his three days on the witness stand.

Microsoft concluded its cross-examination of McGeady early this afternoon, giving lead government attorney David Boies to begin to attempt to undo any damage wrought by Holley.

Boies focused on internal Intel and Microsoft documents, along with deposition testimony from Intel Senior Vice President Ronald Whittier to attack, in particularly, Holley's earlier allegation that McGeady had added "extinguished" to his account of Microsoft's plan to "extend, embrace and extinguish" competitors on the Internet.

Whittier said he had also heard some Microsoft official say "embrace and smother".

"It was interpreted internally that Microsoft would do what it has to do to win the browser wars," said WhittierBoies also cited, among other things, a letter by Bill Gates in which Gates felt Microsoft had created a "chill" to keep equipment manufacturers from using Intel's multimedia software.

McGeady had charged in earlier testimony that Microsoft had planned to withhold operating system support for its MMX multimedia technology and its 64-bit chip later known as Merced. He said Microsoft's pressure ultimately led the dismantling of the software unit he headed.

The court room charges were made in the fourth week of the US vs Microsoft antitrust trial. The government is using McGeady's testimony to establish a pattern of anticompetitive behaviour by Microsoft.

Holley was aided in his attempt to discredit the witness by McGeady's own notes.

In a July, 1995 meeting McGeady wrote, in notes that were displayed on a large screen in the courtroom, that Gill has described him as a "prima donna" who hasn't "been challenged or pushed."

"Didn't it make you angry to be told you were a prima donna?," asked Holley.

"I've been told much worse," responded McGeady.

McGeady ran the Intel Architecture Labs (IAL), a group of 700 engineers who were designing software until was reorganised.

In notes taken by McGeady and introduced today by Microsoft of an August, 1995 meeting with Intel senior vice president Ronald Whittier, McGeady wrote that Whittier had told him that the IAL reorganisation was a "response to IAL having fucked up."

Asked by Holley about the harsh view, McGeady said that "while the language may seem harsh it's more common than you might expect," to laughter in the courtroom.

The perception, said McGeady, was that IAL had made a mistake in targeting its native signal processing (NSP) software at Windows 3.1 and not Windows 95, which was due for release. "The screw up was one of marketing and strategy, not the technology," said McGeady.

NSP was designed to improve multimedia performance on PCs by allowing applications to interact directly with the hardware. Intel halted development, but parts of it were eventually included in the Windows operating system.

After his department was reorganised, McGeady took leave of Intel for sabbatical at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In his deposition, Holley pointed out that McGeady had cited the move as an "adverse career action."

"You blame Microsoft and especially Paul Martiz (a Microsoft senior vice president) and Bill Gates for what happened to you?" asked Holley.

"Blame isn't quite the right word," said McGeady. "We had a great time at MIT."

But Holley said McGeady's dislike toward Microsoft was evident in his writing. In particular he cited an August, 1995 memo titled "Sympathy for the Devil" -- a commentary by McGeady on the dismemberment of IAL. It said, in part, "Microsoft is said to have spent as much as $US4 million to gain access to the Rolling Stones' song 'Start Me Up' for use in their Windows '95 promotions. If Intel were to go looking for a corporate theme song from the same source, an appropriate choice might be 'Sympathy for the Devil.'""Your antipathy toward Microsoft is reflected by the fact that you equate the company with Satan," said Holley, accusingly.

McGeady laughed and said "No, it's a Rolling Stones song," and called it a "literary illusion."

McGeady said he wrote the memo to "make it interesting to read." But didn't that involve, Holley asked, substituting mundane words with "vivid adjectives?"

"My language is a product of my misspent liberal arts education," said McGeady.

Holley also sent his memo to the New York Times which cited it, in a page one story, headlined: "US Investigating Microsoft's role in Intel decisions."

Microsoft also introduced a series of e-mails between McGeady and Jim Clark, the founder and chairman of Netscape Communications including one concerning a meeting he had with Clark the day after Microsoft outlined its Internet strategy to Intel in August, 1995.

"The day after you hear Microsoft's strategy toward the Internet, you ran off to your friends at Netscape and told them what you had learned," Holley charged.

McGeady denied that he had shared any information and took exception to Holley's implication.

Another e-mail by McGeady to Clark in October, 1995, concerned a meeting with Netscape CEO James Barksdale and "Andy 'Mad Dog' Grove." At that point, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson asked Holley "What is the point ... are you just trying to embarrass the witness?"

Holley said, "No, although that may be the consequence."

McGeady was excused from the stand after the government and Microsoft fired their final question at him.

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