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New witnesses in Microsoft suit

The DOJ and the software giant each add two new witnesses as both sides make final arrangements for the sweeping antitrust suit.

Microsoft and the government each added two new witnesses today as both sides make final arrangements for the sweeping antitrust case against the software giant.

Microsoft substituted two of its own executives while the government added an executive from Apple Computer and James Gosling, vice president and fellow at Sun Microsystems. Gosling, according to Sun, was "the lead engineer and key architect" in the development of the Java programming language.

A pretrial conference is slated for 7 a.m. PT tomorrow. One of the issues that U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson could rule on is whether to delay the start of the trial by four days. The trial, one of the most closely watched antitrust cases ever, is slated to begin next Thursday. But both sides have agreed to postpone the opening until October 19 pending Judge Jackson's approval.

Sun's Gosling and Avadis Tevanian, senior vice president of software engineering for Apple, will testify on behalf of the government. They replaced David Sibley, an economics professor at the University of Texas, and Scott Vesey, an executive at Boeing.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to specify why the changes were made. Sources said the government's revisions could reflect new evidence that may have been uncovered in recent months.

As for the Microsoft switch, Jeff Raikes was added to the roster. He replaced Steve Ballmer as senior vice president for sales and support at Microsoft when Ballmer was named president in July. Thomas Reardon, a vice president at Microsoft, will also testify in place of MIT professor of computer science and electrical engineering Michael Dertouzos and Yusuf Mehdi, director of Windows marketing at Microsoft.

"These witnesses will help us disprove a couple of the government's key allegations," said Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan. He said the company felt like "we had a little bit of redundancy" in some areas of testimony.

The Justice Department and 20 states are bringing a lawsuit against Microsoft alleging the company has illegally maintained leadership in the market for desktop operating systems and that it is leveraging its ubiquitous Windows platform to gain monopolies in other markets, including Web browsers.

The government will file its evidence lists and its witnesses' written testimony in court Tuesday. Microsoft, however, is not required to file its witnesses' written testimony until five days before the government rests its case. Sources have said the trial could last anywhere from four to eight weeks.

The government's proposed witness changes, particularly the addition of Sun Java guru Gosling, may be a sign that state and federal prosecutors plan to cast a wider net in their case against Microsoft. Apple and Microsoft have a long-running battle between competing operating systems, and the whole premise of Sun's Java programming language--that applications written in the code can run on any computing platform--undermines Microsoft and its OS dominance.

In other court action today, the government filed a response to Microsoft's opposition to handing over software tools that would allow access to the company's sales databases. The government wants the information to determine pricing and revenue practices that it says are relevant to the case.

Earlier the government requested information about sales figures and other database information, which Microsoft submitted. But the government has said it cannot extract the data in a meaningful way without certain software and hardware tools.

"[The] plaintiffs believe that much of the confusion surrounding these databases could be quickly resolved if Microsoft would permit the plaintiffs to examine and work with Microsoft's revenue reporting system in its native environment," government lawyers wrote in the filing.

Microsoft contends it already offered to help the government use the software to manipulate the databases but the government declined. Now with the trial about one week away, Microsoft executives said the government is seeking its help and there is too little time.

Meanwhile, a federal judge ruled in two professors' favor today when he decided Microsoft should not be allowed access to confidential taped interviews with Netscape Communications executives for the professors' upcoming book.