MS/DOJ - Microsoft's witness dubious of 'unbound' Windows

It is "probably impossible" for Microsoft to provide an 'unbound' version of Windows, as the states suing Microsoft would require under their proposed remedies, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology testified during the company's remedy hearing Thursday.

Appearing as an expert technical witness for Microsoft, Stuart Madnick discussed the potential ramifications of a states' proposed remedy that would force Microsoft to sell versions of Windows free from additional software, such as a browser or media player; these pieces of additional software are referred to as middleware in these proceedings.

During this hearing, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is being presented with proposed remedies from states suing Microsoft and from the company. The U.S. Department of Justice and nine states agreed upon a settlement with Microsoft in the antitrust case last November, but nine other states and the District of Columbia are holding out for tougher restrictions on the company's business practices.

During his cross-examination of the witness, attorney for the holdout states Kevin Hodges questioned Madnick about Microsoft's Windows XP Embedded, a modular version of the operating system designed for use in dedicated machines such as cash registers.

The topic also came up earlier in the hearing last week, when Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates testified to the difficulty of creating an unbound version of Windows.

Attempting to show that Microsoft has already developed a version of Windows from which middleware pieces could be easily removed, Hodges asked if licensees of Windows XP Embedded could create an operating system that runs all the same applications as Windows XP. Yes, Madnick answered; if all of the binary files of Windows XP Embedded were put together, the result would be "essentially Windows XP." There would be a few items missing, he added, such as the operating system's program that installs new applications.

Hodges questioned why Madnick said in his written direct testimony that it would be impossible for Microsoft to comply with the states' remedy to sell an unbound version of Windows, if it can already be done. Windows XP Embedded actually highlights the interdependencies found among the various components of Windows without offering a solution to untangle them, Madnick answered.

When licensees of the embedded OS pick from a list of components -- including middleware such as Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player -- to be included in their system, the OS automatically includes other pieces of software necessary for those components to run, Madnick said. His point was designed to illustrate how pieces of the operating system are dependent upon each other in order to work, and how pulling them apart would hobble the OS.

Later in the day, attorney for Microsoft Rick Lacovara asked if the fact that Windows XP Embedded is "100 percent componentized" -- as Microsoft's marketing material states -- had any significance in assessing Microsoft's ability to comply with the states' remedy. "It has no bearing," Madnick answered.

Madnick stressed that Windows XP Embedded does not remove the interdependencies of Microsoft's middleware and operating system code, but instead magnifies them.

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