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Microsoft Grills Red Hat Exec In Antitrust Case

An attorney for Microsoft argued in court Monday that Red Hat had failed to popularize the Linux computer operating system because of its own shortcomings, not because of any interference from Microsoft.

Cross-examining Red Hat CTO Michael Tiemann, Microsoft attorney Stephanie Wheeler said Red Hat had spent little money on research and development, and dedicated few of its employees to winning over software developers to write programs for Linux.


Tiemann was called as a witness by nine states seeking stiffer sanctions against Microsoft for illegally preserving its Windows monopoly in personal computer operating systems.

The nine states have rejected as too weak a proposed settlement of the landmark antitrust case reached in November between Microsoft and the U.S. Justice Department. Nine other states have signed the settlement.

Wheeler showed U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly financial disclosures from Red Hat showing the company had spent $18.8 million on research in fiscal 2001, a pittance compared to the R and D budgets of larger software companies.

Nor does Red Hat have any "evangelists" on staff to convince software developers to write programs for Linux, Wheeler said.

Tiemann conceded Red Hat doesn't devote people to winning software developers over to Linux. He said the company's strategy is to take advantage of Linux enthusiasts outside the company to do that.

In direct testimony last week, Tiemann told the judge that computer makers had rebuffed his attempts in recent years to pre-install the Linux operating system on their machines because of fears that Microsoft would retaliate.

Linux Compatibility

Tiemann said Microsoft had tried to dominate the market for network computing by making sure competitors' Internet server software didn't work well with either Windows or its own server software.

Red Hat is a distributor of the Linux operating system, software originally developed in Finland and updated by programmers around the world under its open source status.

Tiemann told the judge Linux cannot provide an alternative to Windows unless it works well with Microsoft's Office and Internet Explorer software. But he said Microsoft had not disclosed enough about how those programs worked to allow that to happen.

Wheeler tried to neutralize Tiemann's testimony Monday by pointing out that Microsoft's settlement with the Justice Department would require Microsoft to make disclosures that would ensure compatibility with other companies' software.

But Tiemann said the settlement deal was vague and could allow Microsoft to continue withholding technical information competitors need to make sure their software works well with Microsoft products.

Last June, a federal appeals court threw out some of the charges against Microsoft but upheld a lower court ruling that the company had illegally maintained its Windows monopoly.

The proposed settlement would require Microsoft to give computer makers more freedom to feature non-Microsoft software on their machines. It also bars Microsoft from retaliating against computer makers.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly is considering the proposed settlement under a separate proceeding.

The objecting states are proposing more stringent sanctions, including one that would require Microsoft to sell a modular' version of Windows that would allow computer makers to strip out add-on middleware features like the Internet Explorer browser, or Microsoft's media player.

The states' proposal also would force Microsoft to disclose more about its software and license its browser to other companies royalty-free.

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