Originally created 08/05/98

Microsoft fights request for Windows code



WASHINGTON -- Microsoft is fighting government efforts to obtain the blueprints for Windows software and spend two days interviewing chairman Bill Gates about the federal antitrust case.

In papers filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the company called those blueprints the "software equivalent to the formula for Coca-Cola." It called the government request for two days with Gates an "unfair and misguided imposition on Mr. Gates' time."

The Justice Department and 20 states suing Microsoft complained in court papers last week that Microsoft won't turn over the blueprints without "oppressive" restrictions and that it refuses to offer Gates for more than eight hours of interviews next week. The legal wrangling focuses on the collection of evidence and testimony expected to be used during the September trial.

Blueprints for the Windows software, called its source code, could be pivotal for the government, which contends that Microsoft has illegally "tied" the use of its Internet browser to the sale of Windows. The government wants to prove they are separate software programs combined only to hurt rivals, such as Netscape Communications Corp.

Microsoft argues that the browser is integrated into Windows, which is legal.

A browser is a software program that allows people to view pages of information on the World Wide Web with point-and-click simplicity.

Microsoft wants outside experts who might examine the blueprints for the government to sign agreements not to work on computer operating systems for 12 months. The agreements also would prevent them from working for a list of many software companies for 18 months.

The government called the agreements "oppressive" and warned they would prevent the government from using the experts "unless they are willing to give up their livelihood for a period of 12 to 18 months."

Microsoft argued Tuesday that many of the states investigating antitrust claims already had agreed to similar terms when they requested the source code for Windows 98.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson has scheduled a hearing for Thursday in Washington to talk about the problems.

The company revealed Tuesday that its blueprints include programming notes -- similar to the scrawl in the margin of a legal pad -- that "reveal, to some degree, plans for future versions of Microsoft's operating systems."

In a separate case last week, a federal magistrate ordered Microsoft to hand over some of its Windows blueprints to attorneys for Caldera Inc., a small high-tech company in Utah.

Caldera is suing Microsoft in federal court in Salt Lake City for designing early Windows software that allegedly was deliberately incompatible with DR-DOS, an operating system that competed directly with Microsoft's MS-DOS.

Caldera also claims Microsoft intentionally misled users of Windows 95 to believe that the product replaced the need to buy DR-DOS or MS-DOS.

In that case, Microsoft also wanted the magistrate to prohibit Caldera's experts from consulting on the design of any operating system software for up to 18 months. The magistrate refused but warned Caldera that the blueprints can be used only in its legal case and not for commercial purposes.