Microsoft's Poison Apple

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WASHINGTON: Did Microsoft deliberately take a bite out of Apple? The antitrust trial got technical again Wednesday, when the government’s focus shifted away from Bill Gates’ testimony and back on his firm’s alleged bid to "sabotage" its one-time Cupertino rival. We’ve already heard how Microsoft threatened to stop supporting the Office suite on the Mac; now Avadis Tevanian, a senior suit at Apple, tells the court of a suspiciously high number of glitches that occur when you try to run Apple’s QuickTime multimedia software on a Wintel machine. The error messages are misleading, Tevanian says – and "what other goal could there have been except to injure QuickTime in favor of Microsoft technologies?"

All of which sounds a lot like an earlier complaint from RealNetworks, another Microsoft competitor in the online audio and video business, that Redmond had thrown some bugs in the path of the latest version of RealPlayer. The problem – then and now – is proving intent in the nebulous world of programming. How can the government show that it wasn't simply a dumb mistake? As Tevanian was forced to admit, it’s "unfortunate but it’s not unusual" for new software to be incompatible with existing programs – especially a multimillion code-line monster like Windows 98. The Feds might have better luck with the circumstantial evidence: Microsoft refused to send Apple an advance copy of Media Player, which would have helped iron out those errors. And Apple has plenty more time on the witness stand to air its grievances.