23 April 2002 Bill Gates finally took the stand in the Microsoft antitrust case this week and, so far, he seems to have impressed observers.
Gates was “well prepared” according to The Wall Street Journal, a sharp contrast to his 1998 videotaped deposition in which the Microsoft chairman appeared to contradict himself several times.
However, in person, Gates presented a solid defence of his company’s dealings when called to the stand by Microsoft lawyer Dan Webb and when he was subsequently cross-examined by Stephen Kuney, one of the lawyers representing the nine states.
During his testimony, Gates warned that the global economy, and that of the United States, relied heavily on the developments that Microsoft had made in personal computing. He also referred to the age of proprietary personal computers, such as Atari and Commodore, seeking to portray a new era of fragmentation if Microsoft was forced to break up, or publish its intellectual property.
Gates also attacked the court’s definition of ‘middleware’ as “defined explicitly to include Microsoft Office.”, thereby forcing the company to publish its internal application interfaces. This would effectively result in Microsoft giving its intellectual property away for free, he said.
The states’ proposed remedy was also criticised by Gates, who said the level of disclosure expected of Microsoft meant that the company’s employees would be in contempt of court for “simply having an original idea”. Gates also claimed that the remedy would “turn back the clock on Windows development by about 10 years”.
See also today’s Media Eye