MS/DoJ: Witness to show how IE can be removed

A US Government-hired computer expert will testify today that Internet Explorer can be safely removed -- contrary to Microsoft's claims -- from the Windows 98 operating system.

The findings of Dr. Edward Felten, a Princeton University computer scientist, are being used to support the US Government's contention in its antitrust case against Microsoft that Internet Explorer is, at its heart, a separate product and not an integral part of the operating system. Felten was hired by the US Department of Justice to figure out how to remove the browser software from Windows.

Meanwhile Microsoft will argue in court that Felten did not actually remove Explorer from Windows 98 and only hid some of the functionality that it provides.

Felten follows Java creator James Gosling, a vice president of Sun Microsystems, whose cross-examination concluded last week.

In his written testimony, Felten outlines how he went about removing Internet Explorer, version 1 through version 4, from the Windows operating system.

Felten said he easily removed earlier versions of the browser from Windows, and figured out how to uninstall the third release, version 3, from a Microsoft KnowledgeBase article entitled "Cannot Uninstall Internet Product in OSR 2". OSR 2 is shorthand for the original equipment manufacturer service release.

Notwithstanding the title, Felten said the article describes a two-step process for removing Internet Explorer. He said he was also able to remove Internet Explorer from Windows 95, although doing so was not as clear-cut.

Felten said Microsoft does not provide a mechanism for removing Internet Explorer from Windows 98. But it is possible, Felten said. "With the help of two young assistants, I have developed a prototype removal program that demonstrates one way Microsoft could have done this," he said in his testimony.

Felten's prototype removal program makes three changes to the system: it removes the desktop icon, the IEXPLORE.EXE program file, and other files and icons that allow the user to directly initiate Internet Explorer 4 Web browsing. It also changes the Windows Registry to prevent Windows 98 from using Internet Explorer 4 for certain files.

Microsoft, in a response to Felten's testimony, said Felten "removed almost none of the Internet Explorer software."

Felten's testimony proves nothing, Microsoft said. "You can surgically remove someone's right arm, but the arm was certainly a useful part of the person's body before it was removed. In the world of software, with enough engineering effort nearly any functionality could be hidden or 'removed' from nearly any product," Microsoft said.

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