Rebuttal witnesses identified in Microsoft trial

Microsoft Corporation and the U.S. Department of Justice released their lists of rebuttal witnesses this week, setting the stage for a final showdown when the historic Microsoft antitrust trial resumes later this century. Each side gets to present three witnesses. Microsoft's witnesses include America Online (AOL) executive David Colburn, Oblix CEO Gordon Eubanks, and professor Richard Schmalensee. Coburn is a particularly interesting choice as he was a witness for the DOJ during the trial; he will be presented as a hostile witness. Microsoft will attempt to prove that AOL's purchase of Netscape completely undermines the DOJ theory that Microsoft has squashed competition in the computer market.

"Our rebuttal witnesses will show that the $10 billion merger of AOL and Netscape completely undercuts the government's case. Our rebuttal witnesses will also show that competition and innovation are stronger than ever in the software industry, and that consumers are seeing extraordinary benefits from Microsoft and the industry as a whole," said William H. Neukom, Microsoft's senior lawyer.

Microsoft also contends that the AOL/Netscape merger was specifically not announced until after Microsoft lawyers questioned Colburn and Netscape's then-CEO James Barksdale during the trial.

Meanwhile, the government will call IBM's Garry Norris, professor Edward Felton, and professor Franklin Fisher. While the two educators did appear during the trial, Norris is another interesting choice, since he negotiated IBM's licensing agreements with Microsoft. The DOJ will attempt to show, through Norris, that Microsoft offered the only "commercially viable" operating system and therefore could deal from a position of power, even with mighty IBM.

As for when the trial will resume, it's still up in the air, but experts expect resumption sometime late this month

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