Microsoft and AOL bicker over web services

As the hearing into proposed remedies against software giant Microsoft continues, John Borthwick, vice president of advanced services at AOL, took the witness stand to argue for tougher sanctions.

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5 April 2002 As the hearing into proposed remedies against software giant Microsoft continues, John Borthwick, vice president of advanced services at Internet service provider (ISP) AOL, took the witness stand yesterday to argue for tougher sanctions.

He argued that unless the remedies proposed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) were extended, Microsoft could use its dominance in PC operating systems to help it dominate the Internet and overwhelm all-comers in web services technology with its .Net strategy. This in turn could be used to maintain its Windows operating system monopoly.

Under questioning from Microsoft attorney Richard Pepperman, Borthwick admitted that .Net is currently based on open standards. "The concern is that over time, it will be closed," he said.

Borthwick claimed that to begin with, Microsoft has an interest in keeping .Net open in order to attract more software developers to support the technology, but this would not remain the case in the long term. Furthermore, Key elements of Microsoft's web services strategy, such as the common language runtime (CLR) remain proprietary.

On the other hand, Microsoft argued that AOL was the one trying to leverage its assets to promote its rival offering, known as Magic Carpet, and lock out .Net. Pepperman produced a draft of an internal AOL report from 23 May 2001 in which an AOL employee proposed that the company withhold popular Time Warner media and entertainment content from those using .Net rather than magic Carpet.

"Microsoft has nothing to rival Time Warner assets and AOL must take advantage of this in any way it can," wrote the employee. Borthwick says the report was written by a junior official and the proposal was never considered seriously.