MS/DoJ: Boeing wants to pick browser

A decision by Boeing to standardise on a version of Windows 95 that doesn't include Internet Explorer, became a central point in the US Government's attack on Microsoft in court yesterday.

In week five of the Microsoft antitrust trial, the government presented excerpts of the videotaped testimony of Scott Vesey, a Windows product manager at the aircraft maker, to buttress testimony of government witness Glenn Weadock, a computer consultant and computer author.

Weadock, president of a one-man consulting company, Independent Software in Colorado, and a US Justice Department (DoJ) consultant, argued during his day and half of testimony that companies want a choice in browser technology to reduce support and training costs and ensure a common platform.

"Companies do want to be able to choose what sort of software they want to put on their machines," said Weadock.

Vesey's testimony seem to fit Weadock's contentions like a glove. Vesey was originally listed as a witness for the government, but the government, instead, decided to rely on his videotape excerpts.

Vesey testified said that Boeing standardised on Netscape 2.02 because it could run across more computer platforms than Microsoft's browser, and would provide a common user experience when viewing documents.

"In the same way that we would want to be able to choose what graphics editor or what HTML editing product, or what word processor we're using, we would want to be able to choose what Web browser we're using for those same business reasons," said Vesey.

But Vesey, under questions from the Microsoft attorney in a portion of the videotape they played, also acknowledged that having a browser integrated into Windows could provide advantages.

Boeing has installed an earlier version of Windows 95 that doesn't include Explorer, and uses Netscape Navigator as its standard browser. But the company could lose that ability to keep Internet Explorer off desktop PCs in the future.

The government introduced an internal Boeing document, written by Vesey in September, that asks: "Why Internet Explorer 5.0?" And then answers: "We do not have a choice. Internet Explorer will be installed as a component of our next generation desktop operating system."

The government also cited an e-mail by PC maker Gateway executive Jim VonHolle to a Microsoft manager in April, 1998, seeking the ability to remove Internet Explorer if a customer requests it.

"We want IE to have uninstall for as much as the code as can be removed without disabling the system," VanHolle said.

Mark Murray, Microsoft spokesman, said at the noon recess that there is "absolutely no legal basis" for the government to tell a software marker how to design its products.

Murray said that by making the earlier version of Windows 95 available to customers, Microsoft is offering them choice. But he offered no guarantees that option would remain available in the future.

David Boies, the lead government attorney, said availability of the older software was not "choice" and noted that Microsoft could stop offering it, at its discretion, under its contracts with PC equipment manufacturers.

The government is also expected to call John Soyring, director of network computing software services at IBM, as a witness after Weadock. Soyring's written testimony, in which he alleges that Microsoft contracts have kept developers from writing programs for IBM's OS/2 operating system, has been released by the Justice Department.

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