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Microsoft rebuts Apple testimony

The software giant pokes holes in accusations that it tried to "sabotage" Apple's software, but a senior executive from the computer maker refuses to back down.

WASHINGTON--Microsoft today poked holes in accusations that it tried to "sabotage" Apple Computer's software, but a senior executive from the computer maker refused to back down.

On the tenth day of the antitrust trial under way here, Microsoft attorney Theodore Edelman attacked a number of accusations made by Avadis Tevanian, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering and a witness for the government.

Edelman focused many of his questions on Tevanian's allegations concerning Apple's QuickTime software for playing audio and video content. Microsoft's day in court In a series of questions, the attorney attempted to force Tevanian to admit he had no proof that Microsoft deliberately tried to "sabotage" the product by introducing "misleading error messages" and incompatibilities with Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

"We have a new emerging market here based on content," said Tevanian, who often gave expansive answers to the questions he was asked. "With QuickTime, we have engineered it so that it doesn't matter what the underlying operating system is. The higher-order goal [of Microsoft] is to prevent someone from establishing a new type of platform."

Tevanian admitted, however, that he was unable to show any proof that Microsoft deliberately had caused incompatibilities between its products and QuickTime. Edelman seized on the admission and pointed out that incompatibilities between different software are so common that MediaPlayer, Microsoft's product that competes with QuickTime, even had problems interacting with Microsoft's own Office software.

"Dr. Tevanian, don't you think the use of the word 'sabotage' is something of an exaggeration?" Edelman asked.

"It sounds fine to me," the Apple executive answered.

"Isn't it a fact, Dr. Tevanian, that you have no personal knowledge or basis to assert that a any of the incompatibilities were created to do anything to hard QuickTime?" Edelman continued.

"I don't agree," Tevanian answered. "What other goal could there have been for the error messages?"

Tevanian was referring to a message some users of Windows 95 got after they installed QuickTime. The message warned them the system might not be able to play certain types of formats and asked if a Microsoft product should be reinstalled.

Today's cross-examination is part of landmark antitrust suits filed in May by the Justice Department and 20 states. They accuse Microsoft of using its monopoly in the operating system market to shut out competitors and to build new monopolies in the market for Internet software.

In his written testimony, Tevanian accuses Microsoft of using strong-arm tactics to pressure Apple to divide the emerging See CNET Radio: 
Our Man in Washington market for multimedia software. When Apple refused, he said, Microsoft tried to "sabotage" QuickTime by causing Windows users to receive the messages when they used the product.

"In some instances, users were left with the false impression that QuickTime was not functioning properly when, in reality, Microsoft never allowed QuickTime the chance," Tevanian's testimony stated.

Microsoft's Edelman also sought to debunk other claims in Tevanian's 45-page testimony, including one that the software giant threatened to pull a new version of Microsoft Office for the Macintosh platform if the Apple didn't make Microsoft's Internet Explorer the main browser on the platform.

"Did [Microsoft] have some legal obligation not to cancel [Mac Office] or was it just not nice of them?" Edelman asked.

"It's using extreme power in the market to try to affect the terms of another deal," Tevanian answered. "To me, that seemed inappropriate."

Edelman also walked the court through a demonstration designed to show that switching from Internet Explorer to Navigator, Netscape Communications' competing browser, was simple. Tevanian called the demo "flawed" and U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson concluded that the presentation "certainly doesn't tell me how to do it."

Microsoft's Edelman also suggested that the topic of Internet Explorer was, in essence, a "late comer" to negotiations that had been going on for years over Apple's intellectual property. He introduced exhibits that showed that the negotiations dated back to 1993, and that, in the spring of 1997, Apple demanded large sums of cash and other concessions in return for a license to its patents.

The two companies ultimately resolved their differences in August 1997, when they announced that Microsoft was investing $150 million in the then-struggling company. In return, Apple agreed to make Internet Explorer the default browser on the Macintosh. Microsoft also is believed to have paid an additional $100 million to license Apple's patents. Neither company will comment on that deal.

Outside the courthouse after trial, Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray claimed that today's session proved that Tevanian was unable to back numerous assertions he made in his written testimony.

"Apple says that Microsoft deliberately sabotaged QuickTime, but, on the witness stand, the witness could not identify any fact to support that rhetorical statement," he said, noting that Tevanian also was unable to substantiate claims that Microsoft used its Office program as a threat.

But the Justice Department's lead trial attorney, David Boies, said that Tevanian appeared credible, even after admitting he had no proof that Microsoft deliberately introduced the error messages. "Given his experience as a software designer, given his experience in the industry, it simply is not credible that all these things were happening and Microsoft somehow was unaware of it," he said.

Edelman and Tevanian sparred on other issues, such as his claim that the combination of Microsoft's operating system and applications power created "significant barriers" to Apple's attempts to market its Rhapsody product, which was scrubbed last May. Edelman introduced evidence in support of that claim, including videotape of Apple chief executive Steve Jobs explaining to developers that he was backing away from Rhapsody because it would require old software to be rewritten.

Tevanian's cross-examination is expected to continue tomorrow.