Monday, November 21, 2011

Bill Gates on Direct Examination

Microsoft attorney Jim Jardine speaks to KSL-TV's JOHN DALY and Fox13's BEN WINSLOW
photo ©2011 Michael Orton for ImageProviders - All Rights Reserved

via ImageProviders
story and photo ©2011 MICHAEL ORTON 
– all rights reserved

Salt Lake City –

On the witness stand in federal court, Bill Gates presented the picture of a focused and competent CEO commander responding to direct examination with precise recollection. Email correspondence presented during today's portion of the civil trial of Utah's Novell v. Gates' Microsoft Corporation were more than fifteen years old. The suit alleges that Microsoft conspired to manipulate the development of its Windows 95 operating system shell in such a manner that Novell's position in the personal computer software marketplace would be compromised, allowing Microsoft's products an unfair advantage. Litigation between the two companies, in various forms, has been underway since the turn of the century and from all accounts, both Gates and his attorneys have become quite comfortable with it.

Presently, Baltimore's Judge Frederick Motz from the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland is hearing the arguments and overseeing witness examination in Judge Dee Benson's federal courtroom in Salt Lake City. There, a jury of seven women and five men have been empaneled since October to listen to the evidence provided by attorneys representing both companies. Even with one of the world's richest men on the witness stand, the computer visionary who has been called "the Thomas Edison of our time," jurors seemed marginally engaged in what Gates had to say.

Dressed conservatively in a light grey suit, white shirt and gold tie, Gates described his executive management decisions while being questioned about email traffic as old as 1994 between his upper level managers and himself. The emails were generated during the Windows 95 operating system "shell" development and involved programming teams in Houston, Chicago and Seattle.  There was pressure to get the software published, Gates said, because the industry believed that "hardware would get better as companies thought [Win95] would help them sell more personal computers."

His legal team was attempting to evoke Gates' testimony about the nature of the operating system and the decisions that went into its rollout. When asked if, in his 32 years as Microsoft's CEO, he felt there were management "tradeoffs" to be considered during his company's software development and subsequent publication, Gates said, "There's a 'constant tension' between the idea that 'good programmers ship,' as opposed to programmers who continually revise their efforts."  Did they plan multimedia in their design? "No." Television? "We did not." Browser capabilities within Win95? "Not at all," said Gates, "We were making tradeoffs all along."

When it came to his testimony of the email interface characteristics of Microsoft's Win95 operating system, Gates addressed the jury directly. At least two appeared disinterested and were not looking at him at all. "Were you afraid of Novell's competition?" asked Microsoft's attorney during direct examination. "No," Gates flatly and firmly replied.

Gates' testimony in Salt Lake City is expected to continue tomorrow morning, including cross-examination by Novell's attorneys. The lawsuit seeks more than $1 billion dollars in damages alleged by Novell. When it merged with WordPerfect and purchased Quattro Pro from Borland in 1994, Novell's valuation was near $1 billion. Less than two years later, Novell sold WordPerfect and Quattro Pro to Corel for approximately $170 million.