For all its software genius, Microsoft Corp.
found itself outwitted in a humiliating computer demonstration at
its antitrust trial by two young men barely out of college and a
government lawyer so unaccustomed to techno-jargon that he once
pronounced "log in" as "lojun."
In a second day of high courtroom drama, the government exposed
new, embarrassing problems Wednesday with a digital video
demonstration prepared by Microsoft to buttress one of its bedrock
Over a four-minute segment, Justice Department lawyer David
Boies pointed out software icons that appeared then disappeared
and reappeared on the screen of a computer purported to have been
tested by Microsoft.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson grabbed his brow and
shook his head in exasperation to admonish James Allchin, a
Microsoft executive on the witness stand, about the video.
Allchin, a top scientist and a senior vice president, was forced
to explain that Microsoft had tested several computers with
different software packages, but edited together video segments so
it appeared a single computer was being tested during the
"This wasn't in our lab trying to be incredibly precise,"
"How can I rely on it if you can't tell me whether it's the
same machine or whether any changes have been made to it?" the
judge demanded. "It's very troubling, Mr. Allchin."
Later, in a private meeting with lawyers, the judge said he did
"not believe that (Allchin) deliberately falsified this, but it
does cast serious doubt on reliability of that exhibit
altogether," according to a court transcript.
The judge added that Boies "has done a very professional job of
discrediting those tapes."
Struggling to recover its credibility following the courtroom
fiasco, Microsoft promised to re-create the demonstration overnight
Wednesday in downtown Washington with government experts watching.
They planned to play the new video for the judge today.
Microsoft had believed its demonstration would be an effective
rebuttal of the government's claims that its Internet browser
software could be easily removed from Windows 98. The video shows
its browser running dramatically slower after the government tried
to disable most Internet functions in Windows.
The issue is central because the government alleges that
Microsoft illegally "tied" its browser to newer versions of
Windows, forcing consumers who use its popular computer operating
system also to use its Internet software.
Pitting its technical expertise against Microsoft with its
legions of brilliant programmers the government hired as
consultants Christian Hicks and Peter Creath, both in their early
20s, and their former computer professor, Edward Felten of
The three studied Microsoft's demonstration video ever since the
company handed over a preview copy to government lawyers just over
a week ago.
They noticed a subtle flaw in the video that Boies used to
confront Allchin about on Tuesday with Perry Mason-style fanfare,
then they discovered new problems when they reviewed the
demonstration again Wednesday.
Boies gave credit to his young computer experts. While he's
nationally known for his legal skills, Boies has proved less than
adept tackling technical issues.
He once mispronounced "log in" as "lojun," and frequently
calls the world's largest Internet provider "American Online"
instead of "America Online."
Allchin had testified he was assured by his "total trust in my
team" that Microsoft's tests had been performed using clean
computers containing only Windows software with the government's
But Boies pointed out telltale remnants of other programs, such
as parts of Microsoft's Office business software. In one segment,
nine icons were visible in the background on the computer's screen;
in another, one was missing. Later, it reappeared.
"Clearly the impression given is, this is the same machine,"
"We make very good software. We didn't make a very good tape,"
said the company's lead in-house lawyer, William Neukom. "It's
frankly our fault. We've got to do a better job."