Iowa trial makes embarrassing reading for Microsoft


Dirty secrets revealed in emails.

Embarrassing evidence has been revealed in an anti-trust case against Microsoft currently being held in Iowa.

Jim Allchin, who resigned as co-president of Microsoft's Platforms & Services Division last week once Vista had launched, said in an email (PDF) that Microsoft had "lost its way" on Windows development. 

"I would buy a Mac today if I was not working at Microsoft," Allchin wrote in a 2004 email to Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.

"Apple did not lose their way. They think scenario. They think simple. They think fast. There is nothing hugely deep in all this."

Allchin also bemoaned the fact that Apple is so far ahead in the media player business.

In a memo (PDF) referring to the top Windows-based media player, the Creative Jukebox ZEN Ultra, he trashes the player as "not even close to iPod standards". 

"I have to tell you that my experience with our software and this device is really terrible," he wrote.

"I spent time last night really playing with it. My goodness it is terrible. What I do not understand, though, is that I was told the new Creative device would be comparable to Apple. That is so not the case."

Another set of emails (PDF) covers Microsoft's concern about the threat from Linux. 

An email exchange between Kevin Johnson, now head of Windows, and Peter Houston, senior director of identity and access management, suggests that Microsoft considered removing its name from an IDC study which it paid for looking at the costs of Linux versus Windows.

"I don't like it to be public on the [document] that we sponsored [the study] because I don't think the outcome is as favourable as we hoped," Johnson wrote in 2002.

Houston replied two days later: "We have been unable to get any major firm (other than IDC) to do such a study.

"And I'm concerned that the same warts are going to show in any rigorous study - perhaps worse. (Windows .Net Server will help a lot but I think we are 18 months out from having that product released and deployed in enough shops to re-execute the study. So we would be leaving the field hanging.)"

Houston went on to say that Microsoft had approached Gartner to do a similar study, but that the analyst firm declined to take part.

The court also heard testimony from Theo Lieven (PDF), co-founder of Vobis, which was once Germany's third biggest computer maker. 

Lieven alleges dirty tricks by Microsoft to stop rival software firms from selling their products to his company.

According to lawyers for the plaintiffs, Lieven entered into a contract on behalf of Vobis to ship a different operating system called OS/2 Warp which he thought was much better than MS DOS.

The lawyers allege that, once the OS/2 contract was announced, Microsoft retaliated by first demanding an audit of all of Vobis accounts.

Microsoft then denied Vobis the necessary material to ship computers during the holiday season, and finally imposed a huge price increase if Vobis insisted on allowing its customers the choice of computer operating systems.

In order to save his business Lieven finally agreed to demands and paid $3m to settle the audit with Microsoft.

The case continues.
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