Adding some heft to its antitrust case, Microsoft Corp. on Monday plans to call its top official, Bill Gates, to the stand.
Gates, Microsoft’s chairman and chief software architect, will be the eighth witness to testify on behalf of the software giant as the remedy hearing involving Microsoft, nine states and the District of Columbia enters its sixth week of testimony.
Gates is expected to testify about “the potential harm to customers and the industry posed by the non-settling states’ remedy proposals,” the company said in a statement. He is also expected to deliver his take on the evolution of the PC industry and Microsoft’s involvement in that evolution.
No doubt Microsoft attorneys are hoping Gates’ testimony will go more smoothly than when video portions of the chairman’s deposition were played in court during the liability portion of the trial in October of 1998. Gates was widely criticized for acting defensively and arguing with government lawyers in that video.
Microsoft officials said the company would release copies of Gates’ written direct testimony on Sunday evening. In this hearing before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, witnesses submit their written testimony — mostly in support of one side’s remedies and against the other’s, since remedies are the topic of this hearing — before they testify in person. Once they are put on the stand, the opposing side’s lawyers begin oral cross-examination, and then attorneys for the witness’ side are given a chance to ask follow-up questions.
Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision that Microsoft violated antitrust law by maintaining its monopoly in the PC operating system market through anticompetitive behavior. The Court of Appeals rejected the lower court’s antitrust remedies, however, and sent the case back to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Kollar-Kotelly called this hearing to listen to proposed remedies from the states and Microsoft, and she will make the final decision.
Microsoft has characterized the remedies being sought by the states that did not sign on to the proposed settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and nine other states as potentially harmful to consumers and the industry. Gates will expound on that in his testimony. The litigating states are seeking restrictions on Microsoft that go beyond the company’s conduct in the PC operating system market to include its business practices in the Web services, handheld device, set-top box and server operating system markets.
The software company put its first witness on the stand Tuesday, following more than four weeks of testimony from the states’ fifteen witnesses. While the states’ witness list included industry executives, economists and technical experts, nearly half of Microsoft’s potential witness list is comprised of Microsoft executives. A Microsoft attorney on Thursday said Jim Allchin, group vice president of the company’s platform division, will testify during the hearing, and Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer is listed as a possible witness.
On Friday, Microsoft delivered to attorneys for the suing states its list of witnesses scheduled to take the stand next week. In addition to Gates, Microsoft said it would call to the stand executives from its Windows and MSN Internet divisions, as well as the vice president in charge of the technology at the core of the operating system known as the Windows base OS kernel.