Microsoft continued to irritate Judge Thomas Jackson on Wednesday by questioning the definition of the word 'remove', as it insisted that it was only obeying orders by shipping a non-working version of Windows 95.
Jackson issued an injunction on 11 December ordering Microsoft to unbundle the Internet Explorer browser from Windows 95. Microsoft claims that it is not possible to remove or disable IE without damaging the functionality of the operating system.
Yesterday was the second day of a contempt hearing called by Jackson to determine whether Microsoft had flouted the injunction by continuing to offer versions of Windows 95 with IE.
The thrust of the supplier's argument on Wednesday was that its decision to release a version of Windows 95 without IE - that by its own admission did not work - was a direct result of a literal interpretation of Jackson's order.
This was too much for Jackson, who demanded of Microsoft vice president David Cole: "It was absolutely clear to you that I entered an order that required you to distribute a product that would not work, that's what you're telling me?"
But Cole was defiant in the face of the judge's evident anger. "In plain English, yes," he said. "We followed that order. It wasn't my place to consider the consequences of the order."
Cole earlier showed the Washington court that removing IE using Windows 95's 'add/remove' utility would only remove the most obvious means of accessing the browser software. After removing the browser, he then entered a few lines of code to restart it, proving, he claimed, that it was impossible to remove IE completely in this way.
But Justice Department lawyer Phillip Malone responded by calling up an advisory box which appears when the uninstall facility is used. This reads: "The following software can be automatically removed by Windows."
Why was Microsoft telling people that IE can be removed if it cannot, he demanded. "When you click on Internet Explorer in the add/remove utility, the dialog box says this will remove Internet Explorer. What do you think the user is thinking?" Malone asked Cole.
After initially ducking the question by answering "Can't speculate.", Cole's response was to question the definition of the word 'remove'. "We use a very generic term in a very short sentence," he insisted.
The hearing was adjourned until 22 January without either the Justice Department or Microsoft presenting a closing summary of their remarks. The judge wants findings of fact from both sides by Monday.
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