MS/DOJ: Govt. grills witness on consumer harm

MS/DOJ: Govt. grills witness on consumer harm

The Government continued its cross-examination of Microsoft's first witness today by focusing on whether consumers were harmed by the integration of Internet Explorer in Windows 98.

David Boies, the lead Government attorney, pursued that issue by way of analogy, inquiring of his witness whether consumers would benefit if Word, Microsoft's word processing program, was integrated in the operating system in much the same way as Explorer.

Richard Schmalensee, dean of the Sloan School of Management at MIT, said there could be benefits, but he also acknowledged under questioning that if rival word processing programs, such as Word Perfect, didn't work as well as a result of Word's integration then there could be consumer harm.

"If in some way I can't do it as well as before, that's a harm," said Schmalensee.

His answer goes to a key allegation in the government's case, namely that consumers were harmed by Microsoft's decision to integrate Internet Explorer in its operating system.

The Government believes consumer choice suffered as a result of this integration. Microsoft executive Paul Maritz, group vice president of the platforms and applications group, will follow Schmalensee on the witness stand. The earliest Maritz will likely appear is Thursday.

Maritz -- through his numerous e-mails entered as evidence throughout the trial -- has already been a prominent figure in court. Maritz was one of the key decisions makers, in particular, on issues involving Internet Explorer.

In other testimony today, Boies took Schmalensee through a series a questions that attempted to establish when he became aware of Microsoft's decision to offer its browser for free.

The Government has been attempting to show that Microsoft used predatory pricing, along with tying the browser to the operating system, to combat Netscape Communications. Microsoft has argued that its decisions regarding the browser were made before Netscape was a significant company.

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