The New York Times
November 18, 1998


Microsoft Hampered OS/2, IBM Official Tells Court


Curbs on Software Developers Are Faulted

WASHINGTON -- A senior IBM executive accused Microsoft Corp. Tuesday of imposing contract restrictions on software developers that prevented OS/2, IBM's computer operating system, from effectively competing with Microsoft Windows.

John Soyring, director of network computing software for IBM Corp., took the witness stand Tuesday afternoon in the government's antitrust suit against Microsoft. In the early 1990s, he was in charge of developing OS/2.

For part of that time, OS/2 was being jointly developed by IBM and Microsoft as a replacement for MS-DOS, the Microsoft operating system that preceded Windows.

In written testimony, Soyring largely blamed Microsoft for OS/2's tiny 6 percent market share. Though the suit does not include complaints about Microsoft's monopoly hold over personal-computer operating systems, its competitive business practices are central to the case.

Soyring testified that Microsoft provides certain programming tools that software developers use to write programs that run on Windows machines. Developers rely on those tools, he said, but Microsoft forbids their use in writing software for other operating systems.

As a result, Soyring said, if a company wants to create a version of, say, a word processing program for OS/2 computers, it would have to "recreate much of the application from scratch," making it difficult to "justify the cost of offering the application on OS/2."

Microsoft, in a statement Tuesday, said, "IBM made decisions with its OS/2 operating system that were not well received by consumers and did not make it easy for developers to make great applications for their platforms."

In November 1989, when IBM and Microsoft were still collaborating on OS/2, they designed it to run only on expensive computers with more memory than was typical at the time. Until hardware caught up, the companies said, customers could use Microsoft's new product, Windows. Eventually, however, the computing world turned to Windows, and Microsoft ended its partnership with IBM.

The government also played a short clip from the 20-hour deposition last summer of Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, in which he was asked about Microsoft's relationship with IBM. In an e-mail message last November, Gates wrote that he was unhappy with IBM because "the Java religion coming out of the software group is a big problem."

Java is the programming language created by Sun Microsystems that can be used on any operating system. As in previous parts of the deposition shown in court, Gates said he did not recall much about his e-mail message or about other topics on which he was questioned.

Gates did volunteer that he had wanted IBM to stop criticizing Microsoft, adding that he had "talked about rhetoric being lowered on both sides."

Soyring -- like a previous witness, Glenn Weadock, who ended his testimony Tuesday -- also said IBM saw no advantage in integrating a Web browser with the company's operating system. "Indeed," he said, "integration could be inefficient and disadvantageous to customers" because it could "increase the size of the operating system and therefore the size of the hardware required to run it effectively."

As Weadock finished his testimony earlier in the day, the government showed memorandums and played deposition excerpts from executives of several large corporations -- including Boeing, Packard Bell NEC and Gateway -- who offered similar sentiments.

"Generally, Gateway wants to have flexibility on anything associated with the Internet," Jim Von Holle, a Gateway executive, wrote in an internal company memo last April. "We want Microsoft to provide us with the technology, not make decisions and choices for us or our customers."

Jon Kies, a Packard Bell NEC executive, said in a videotaped deposition that "it wouldn't make sense to have two very large programs installed" -- Microsoft's browser and another that a user might choose to use instead -- "taking up hard disk space and potentially confusing customers."