MS/DoJ: Trial focus to switch to Java

The US Government in its antitrust case against Microsoft will call Java creator James Gosling to the witness stand next week, shifting the focus of the trial to Microsoft's alleged misuse of Sun Microsystems's programming language, sources close to the case said.

Gosling, a Sun fellow and vice president, could take the stand as early as Tuesday morning, the sources said.

However, Microsoft must first complete its cross-examination of government witness Frederick Warren-Boulton, after which the US Department of Justice (DoJ) will spend about an hour with its "redirect" questions to economist Warren-Boulton, one of the sources said.

The court is closed today and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday in the US.

The antitrust lawsuit filed by the DoJ and 20 US states alleges in part that Microsoft illegally used the power of its Windows operating system to undermine Java's potential. Java can be used to write software programs that run on any operating system, and Microsoft saw that cross-platform capability as a threat to the widespread use of Windows, according to the lawsuit.

In building up its case against the software giant, the DoJ has yet to hone in on its accusations of Microsoft's alleged misuse of Java. But when Gosling takes the stand next week the government will likely spell out the Java portion of its complaint in more detail, the sources said.

Gosling has also been a witness in a separate, private lawsuit Sun brought against Microsoft in a California district court. In that case Gosling in September offered testimony about how Java technology works, why Microsoft supposedly saw it as a threat to its operating system, and how Microsoft allegedly implemented a "polluted" version of Java in its products in a bid to derail Sun's efforts.

Just last week Sun was granted a preliminary injunction in that case, which forced Microsoft to make changes to its Java products to bring them into line with Sun's compatibility tests.

A Microsoft spokesman today downplayed that order, calling it a "narrow, technical" ruling that will have no bearing on the government's antitrust case. However, the government has subpoenaed evidence gathered in Sun's private lawsuit, and has indicated that it intends to use that evidence to help bolster its case.

Gosling has submitted 30 pages of written testimony to the court, which will be released the day before he is due to take the stand.

Meanwhile, Microsoft this week said it plans to file a motion to have the government's case dismissed once the government has called all of its witnesses. The motion will be based only partly on the proposed merger announced yesterday between America Online and Netscape Communications, said Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan.

"All the witnesses that already have spoken right now show that this case can be dismissed based on the facts already presented. The new deal (between Netscape and AOL) was just one component of why we would be filing this motion," Cullinan said.

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