Microsoft witness slips up in court

Microsoft's latest witness, general manager Dan Rosen, faced an embarrassing day in court Monday, defending his employer in its historic antitrust case. Perhaps most damaging was the admission that a 1995 email he claims to have never sent was, in fact, delivered to at least one other person at Microsoft. The email describes his plans for Microsoft to "wrest" control of the Web browser market from Netscape.

" I believe I never sent it," Rosen said when asked about the email. In what is becoming standard fare for this bizarre court case, government lawyer David Boies then presented a hard copy of the email, which was sent to Ben Slivka, another Microsoft employee.

"At the very least, I sent it to Mr. Slivka," Rosen then conceded.

And it didn't stop there. In fact, Boies halted the cross-examination of Rosen an hour early because Rosen had contradicted so many previous statements.

"The witness countered his own deposition, the depositions of other people, his own documents, and the documents of others," Boies said afterwards.

Even Judge Jackson was seen rolling his eyes at Rosen's responses. At one point, Boies asked Rosen about Microsoft's early view of Netscape, which dominated the Internet in 1995. Rosen says that Microsoft wanted to partner with Netscape and offer them their technology.

"If \[Netscape used\] your technology, your platform, they would not be offering an alternative platform, would they?" Boies asked Rosen.

"No sir. I did not think Netscape at that time was competing in the platform space," Rosen answered.

"You mean \[your email to Slivka\] refers to interoperability problems," Jackson said, pointing to a projection screen that was displaying the message. In it, Rosen had written "In this relationship our goal should be to wrest leadership of the client evolution from them."

"Yes," Rosen said, as Jackson rolled his eyes disbelievingly.

Rosen was shown numerous statements, emails, and memos from various Microsoft executives, including Bill Gates, that show the company viewed Netscape as a threat, not a partner. Rosen replied that he worked more closely with Netscape than anyone at Microsoft and that he would know better than anyone--including Gates--how the company viewed Netscape.

In other trial news, Judge Jackson announced that the trial will recess for at least month following the completion of Microsoft's defense so that he and government attorney Boies can attend to other cases. Microsoft has four more witnesses to call, including Eric Engstrom, who is expected to take the stand tomorrow. Should everything go according to schedule, this phase of the trial could end as early as Friday. In the meantime, a status hearing will be held March 31st and the trial will resume by April 12th unless the other cases are not completed by then.

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