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DOJ points to Microsoft dictionary

The giant's dictionary defines a browser as an "application," which a government attorney says helped bolster earlier testimony by a government witness.

    WASHINGTON--A dictionary published by Microsoft defines a Web browser as an "application," an admission a government attorney said helped bolster earlier testimony by a government witness.

    Microsoft's Computer Dictionary, published in 1997, defines a Microsoft's day in court Web browser as a "client application" used for viewing graphical pages on the Internet. What's more, the book defines Internet Explorer as Microsoft's version of a Web browser.

    Denise De Mory, an attorney for the Justice Department (DOJ), introduced the dictionary into evidence during her redirect examination of David Farber, a University of Pennsylvania Internet expert testifying for the government in the antitrust suit being heard in federal court here.

    Whether or not Internet Explorer is an application or an integral part of the Windows operating system goes to the heart of the case being pursued by the Justice Department and 19 states. They allege that the tying of Microsoft's browser to the dominant Windows operating system is an illegal attempt to eliminate competition posed by Netscape Communications' Navigator browser.

    The definition reinforces written testimony released Monday in which Farber argued that that forcing the browser on people who only want Windows is likely to create "inefficiencies" for computer manufacturers, software developers, and end users.

    Over the past two days, Microsoft attorney Steven Holley has vigorously challenged that view, contending that Internet Explorer and Windows are a single product and that the integration benefits consumers. Before Farber concluded his testimony today, Holley proposed a hypothetical that sounded straight out of a philosophy class, asking what efficiency would be achieved by breaking an AM/FM radio so that it received only FM signals.

    "If the only thing I listened to is FM, it is still a useful radio," Farber answered.

    Yesterday Microsoft attorneys tried to portray Farber as an academic who is out of touch with the realities of the business world.

    Farber claims that operating systems are typically distinct from the applications that run on top of them, and that there is no technical necessity for the bundling of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser with Windows. Under questioning today, Farber disputed Holley's claims that taking Internet Explorer code out of Windows would result in higher development and testing costs.

    Even though Microsoft puts products in Windows that compete with independent software developers, Holley also challenged Farber to show how Microsoft puts obstacles in the path of those competitors.

    Farber recounted his experience See CNET Radio: 
Our Man in Washington of installing Netscape's browser. Even after he had correctly installed it, Farber said, Microsoft IE kept "popping up" when he tried to do certain things.

    The experience "leads me to believe it ain't exactly a nice world for people who sell Netscape," Farber said.

    With Farber's testimony over, Sun vice president and Java creator James Gosling is expected to retake the stand after lunch today. He will resume his testimony that Microsoft used its dominant Windows franchise to blunt cross-platform versions of the Java programming language.