WASHINGTON (AP) The government accused Microsoft on Tuesday of offering a false video as evidence during a court demonstration by the software company that purported to show severe problems resulting from the government's efforts to modify the company's Windows 98 software.
“I believe from what I've seen here is, they filmed the wrong system," said James Allchin, a senior vice president and Microsoft's top computer scientist. He later added: “I'm not sure they would do anything like that" to mislead the judge.
In one of the most dramatic moments of the antitrust trial against giant Microsoft Corp., Justice Department lawyer David Boies stopped a video demonstration in midframe to show a subtle inconsistency: the border showing the program's name was different in one part of the video than in another.
On the video, Microsoft's marketing director, Yusuf Mehdi, tests a version of Windows that the company said was modified by the government to disable its Internet functions.
The issue is important because the government, as part of its lawsuit, alleges that under federal “tying" laws, Microsoft's design forces consumers who use Windows also to use its browser, discouraging them from using popular rival software.
By showing that Microsoft's Internet software can be disabled, the government hopes to illustrate that the company could be ordered to remove the software from Windows without harming Windows. Microsoft refutes that.
“It's taking a very long time, however unusually long to access that Web site," Mehdi said on the video. “That's a result of the performance degradation that has occurred because of running the (government) program."
Boies charged and Allchin agreed that the subtle change in the border, called the title bar, indicated that Microsoft's test actually used a version of Windows unaffected by the government's modifications.
“This video you brought in here and showed for the court, that you checked it … and that's just wrong, right?" Boies snapped.
“In this particular case, I do not think the (government) program had been run," Allchin conceded. But he insisted that performance problems exist: “I personally tested this, and I know the problem exists."
Hours later, Allchin testified that he had been mistaken, and that his tests were conducted properly on a modified copy of Windows. But Microsoft was unable to explain why the software title bars were different.
“How that name tag was removed, we're not specifically sure of right now," spokesman Tod Nielsen said.
Another Microsoft spokesman, Mrk Murray, accused the government of “nit-picking on issues like video production rather than confronting the facts."
Boies said outside court there was no evidence the demonstration was deliberately altered, which he warned would be “obstruction of justice, an outrageous thing."
“I'm not going to stand here and say something nefarious went on," Boies said. “We don't know. … Whether it was deliberate or a result of incompetence, the video was wrong."
An outside expert, computer scientist Edward Felten of Princeton University, previously testified for the government that he was able to disable Microsoft's Internet software included within Windows.
Allchin responded that government efforts slowed some functions and prevented other programs from running at all. He derided the Felten's attempts as a “Rube Goldberg mechanism" that made Windows “effectively useless in a commercial sense."
After Allchin's testimony earlier in the day, Microsoft's lawyers looked crestfallen. A spokesman rushed into the hallway with a cellular telephone.
Smiling broadly, government lawyers in the courtroom appeared jubilant as Boies pressed onward: “You do understand you came in here and swore this was accurate?"
“They probably filmed it, grabbed the wrong screen shot," Allchin answered. “What's on the screen is the truth. Obviously, there were mistakes done there.