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Barksdale suggests splitting Microsoft operations

But if you split OS and apps, do you let Microsoft decide which is which?

By Graham Lea, 29 Oct 1998

After finally concluding his marathon questioning, Netscape's Jim Barksdale came up with the hoary old suggestion that Microsoft separate its OS and applications developers. But if the case went against Microsoft, this remedy would be unlikely to work, because Microsoft could merely redefine everything to be operating systems work. Or Microsoft could simply move its headquarters outside the US, as Gates and Ballmer have threatened, and carry on as it wishes. By that time, Microsoft would have around $30 billion in the bank, and with that, it could even buy a few countries. The company's trial attorney, John Warden, re-examined Barksdale during Tuesday afternoon, but made no significant progress. Attempts at hypothetical questioning -- what if Internet Explorer and Windows 98 were disintegrated, would you start charging for Navigator? -- got nowhere: Barksdale just said: "I would be competitive." Nor did Warden get the answers he wanted when he tried to get Barksdale to agree that Netscape's market tactics -- making the browser the seed corn for the more lucrative server business -- were similar to Microsoft's approach. Barksdale replied that although he had used the term "seed corn", he meant that the browser generated brand recognition. Warden had clearly not been well-briefed by Microsoft, since he asked questions that elicited answers that did not reflect well or usefully on his client's case. An example was when he tried to multiply Netscape's revenue of $45 million in 1995 and a distribution of 15 million browsers, when the retail price was $39, and he couldn't get the arithmetic to work. Barksdale explained volume licensing to Warden. Warden was able to score a few points when he introduced an email from Paul Maritz of Microsoft that referred to eight areas where Navigator did not apparently follow standards, particularly in dealing with JavaScript. The exchange began to become heated, with Warden saying that the pot shouldn't be calling the kettle black, but before Barksdale could respond, Judge Jackson sent then back to their corners. Barksdale began to get the measure of Warden, and when protesting about being asked to read Reback's four-page letter before answering questions about it, Warden said that he had been able to read it pretty quickly. Barksdale chipped in: "You're a much smarter man than me, Mr Warden." Lawyers like to pretend to be poor, so Warden retorted: "That's why you're worth $100 million and the bank owns my house." "You're doing alright, Mr Warden, from what I can see," responded Barksdale. But the truth was that Warden's client was not doing alright after the first government witness. The prospect of an intransigent Bill Gates appearing for the DoJ on the court screens, and probably on many of the screens that had not-so-long previously carried the Clinton evidence, could hardly be comforting for Microsoft. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories

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