Browsers not a worry, Microsoft official says; Rosen's testimony contradicts himself, Gates and others


WASHINGTON -- A Microsoft Corp. executive testified yesterday that the world's largest software company didn't view Internet browsers as a competitive threat, a statement that contradicts his own words and those of Chairman Bill Gates and other company executives.

Under cross-examination at Microsoft's antitrust trial, General Manager Dan Rosen said he didn't perceive Net-scape Communications Corp.'s Navigator Web browser as a threat in mid-1995 to Microsoft's Windows operating system. He also said he was "not certain" that Microsoft and Net-scape engaged in a three-year battle for leadership in the market for browsers.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer overtook Navigator in usage late last year.

Rosen stuck to his story even after government lead attorney David Boies showed the executive his own statements to the contrary. Boies also confronted Rosen with statements from Gates, Microsoft Group Vice President Paul Maritz and Senior Vice President Brad Chase that undercut his testimony.

Referring to a 1995 e-mail on browser competition that Gates sent to Microsoft senior executives, Rosen said, "I remember thinking that Bill was probably wrong because [Netscape Chairman and Chief Executive] Jim Barksdale was telling me that Netscape didn't intend to compete in this way."

The soft-spoken, 49-year-old executive offered interpretations of words such as "ownership" and "wrest" that caused U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to throw his head back in his leather armchair and stare at the ceiling. After about three hours of frequently circular questioning, Boies abruptly cut Rosen off mid-answer, telling Jackson he had no more questions.

The Justice Department and 19 states suing Microsoft allege that the world's largest software maker viewed Internet browsers as a threat to its Windows monopoly because the new technology had the capacity to run a variety of software. To end the threat, antitrust enforcers allege, Microsoft engaged in a widespread pattern of anti-competitive, illegal behavior.

Microsoft denies that its Windows system represents a monopoly and that it used illegal tactics to stave off competition.

Rosen is the ninth Microsoft witness to take the stand. When he is finished, Microsoft General Manager Eric Engstrom will testify to address allegations that Microsoft tried to divide the market for multimedia software with Apple Computer Inc. and disabled Apple's QuickTime product after the computer maker turned the offer down.

Jackson, who will decide the case without a jury, said that after all 12 of Microsoft's defense witnesses have testified, the trial will recess until April 12, which will postpone a final ruling for at least six weeks.

Pub Date: 2/23/99

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