One month after the US government sued Microsoft for its efforts to crush Netscape, Microsoft executives were still using strikingly similar pressure tactics against Apple. This stunning revelation comes from the written pre-trial testimony of Avadis Tevanian, released on Friday.
Tevanian, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, will take the stand in the Microsoft antitrust trial on Monday, as the third government witness.
The 45 pages of Tevanian?s pre-trial testimony provide an at times chilling account of Microsoft?s scare tactics. Tevanian claims that Microsoft, in June of this year - a month after the government filed its antitrust case against the company - was still threatening competitors to keep off the Windows desktop.
Tevanian?s account offers many apparently word-for-word quotes from Microsoft executives threatening Apple to abandon the multimedia playback market in no uncertain terms.
The harsh tone struck by Tevanian in his testimony is surprising, because Apple and Microsoft had recently become close partners. After years of antagonism, both companies in 1997 reached a wide ranging agreement that involved Microsoft investing $150 million in Apple and committing to continued support of the Macintosh platform.
But Tevanian?s testimony mainly deals with the period after the Microsoft agreement was signed. It describes Microsoft exerting pressure on Apple to stop developing the Quicktime multimedia player technology for the Windows platform.
His account starts with an April 1997 meeting between Tim Schaaff and Peter Hoddie from Apple, and Eric Engstrom and Christopher Phillips from Microsoft.
The meeting was ostensibly about cross licensing multimedia codec (coder-decoder) software, said Tevanian - until the Microsoft executives made an unexpected proposal.
?Mr Phillips and Mr Engstrom suggested that Apple cede the playback market to Microsoft and focus solely on the 'authoring' area of multimedia, ie the development of software tools used to create multimedia content," writes Tevanian.
Apple refused, he claims. But the market division proposal was repeated in subsequent meetings in August, September and October of 1997, and again in February 1998, in a phone call in April 1998, and finally, in a modified form, at a 15 June 1998 meeting.
At the September 1997 meeting, the proposal was accompanied by a threat, said Tevanian: ?Mr Engstrom stated that, if necessary, Microsoft would assign 150 engineers to an authoring development project in order to displace Apple from that market."
At one point, Engstrom allegedly told Apple executive Phil Schiller on the phone: ?I don?t want you to misunderstand. We?re going to compete fiercely on multimedia playback, and we won?t let anybody have playback in Windows. We consider that part of the operating system, so you?re going to have to give up multimedia playback on Windows."
This remark was allegedly made only weeks before the government filed its antitrust complaint against Microsoft. The final 15 June meeting took place a month after the complaint.
At the 15 June meeting, Microsoft made a new proposal - a convergence between Apple?s Quicktime multimedia technology, and Microsoft?s DirectX multimedia programming interface.
But, according to Tevanian, the proposal would essentially result in Apple adopting Microsoft?s DirectX and Advanced Authoring Format (AAF) on the Windows platform. Again, Apple refused.
Tevanian also claimed that, while Microsoft was making its threats against Quicktime, it was at the same time ?sabotaging? the technology - in some instances, he says, Internet Explorer 4.0 will ?bypass? Quicktime and use Microsoft?s own software to play some multimedia file types. According to Tevanian, fear of retribution from Microsoft caused Compaq in early 1998 to decide not to license Quicktime 3 for inclusion on its PCs.
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