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Bill Gates Takes the Stand In WordPerfect Trial 472

Posted by Soulskill
from the apparently-some-people-still-care-about-wordperfect dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Remember WorldPerfect? Bill Gates took the witness stand to defend his company against a $1 billion antitrust lawsuit that claims Microsoft duped Novell into thinking he would include WordPerfect in the new Windows system, then backed out because he feared it was too good. Gates testified Monday that Microsoft was racing to put out Windows 95 when he dropped technical features that would no longer support the rival's word processor. He said that in making the decision about the code, he was concerned not about Novell but about one element of the program that could have caused computers to crash. That code, technically known as 'name space extensions,' had to do with the display of folders and files. Novell attorney Jeff Johnson concedes that Microsoft was under no legal obligation to provide advance access to Windows 95 so Novell could prepare a compatible version but contends that Microsoft enticed Novell to work on a version, only to withdraw support months before Windows 95 hit the market. 'We got stabbed in the back.'"
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Bill Gates Takes the Stand In WordPerfect Trial

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  • Very important stuff (Score:4, Interesting)

    by alphatel (1450715) * on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:48AM (#38147646)
    Nothing like having a defunct company bring a lawsuit 10 years after the fact, never settle, and force a trial over 15 years later. Not because Novell wasn't cool or anything, but they did manage to lose every single market advantage they had year over year until they died. Must have been some other company's fault.
    Very happy to see this judge refuse to throw this one out and make sure we all get to read about him in the press every day.
  • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:53AM (#38147678)

    I have been a fan of WordPerfect for many years. I liked how it was ported to many platforms (eg. Amiga). I liked the reveal codes and macros. Some of the keystrokes were a bit obscure, but you got used to them.

    But the features of the software were its downfall when it came to a Windows version. Their keyboard shortcuts directly conflicted with that used by Windows, and their massive library of printer drivers were superceded by the Windows drivers. But the biggest problem was the delay in getting a Windows 3.1 version out, and how buggy it was. They can't blame missing features in Windows 95 for that. They went 3 or 4 years before they finally came out with a non-sucky version (WPWin 5.1 to 6.0a). Even the DOS version of 6.0 was buggy - I seem to recall that they had to release a version 5.2 AFTER 6.0 was out.

    When they finally did come out with a Win95 version, it would not run on Windows NT. With such a history of poor releases, it doesn't seem to unreasonable to believe that any problems that they had were of their own making.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:48AM (#38148192) Journal

    Not to mention Novell seems to have an awfully short memory on how long it took MS Office to gain traction. Remember folks we are talking OFFICE software, offices tend to be pretty damned conservative and don't just change software willy nilly. Hell look at how many corps are still running XP even though its two versions behind!

    Well I was working corp and SMB at that time and I can tell you MS Office really didn't start to gain any great traction until Office 97 and didn't cement their place until Office 2K/XP in 200/01 respectively. The reason WP bombed was because like MANY software companies at the time they tried to put out not a Windows program but a DOS program with an updated GUI to look like a Windows program. Remember that there was a BIG difference here folks, DOS is a 16 bit single tasking OS whereas Windows 95 was a 16/32 bit hybrid OS with multitasking and Win98 was a 32bit OS with some legacy 16 bit and a DOS bootloader. I can tell you those companies that tried to put out DOS programs with only a GUI makeover ended up with misbehaving piles of shit because they expected to be the only thing running and thus could stomp all over the memory and that just didn't work with Windows. if you did that you got a HELL of a lot of crashes and hangs!

    So they had a solid TWO YEARS which is like a decade in software years to make a new version and IIRC they didn't put out a truly solid Windows version until almost 2001, which by then nobody gave a shit. I had customers that tried to hang onto WP but it simply was too buggy in a Windows environment compared to DOS so when office 97 came along and everyone talked about how it didn't crap itself and die like WP they reluctantly switched. hell last I heard the law firms are STILL on WP, that bunch is so conservative that it'll probably be another decade before anybody starts using MS Office. I know that when i quit doing corp in 05 the law offices were hanging onto WP and I saw no signs it was going anywhere.

    TL:DR? Novell had PLENTY of time to come out with a new product but instead hung onto the old code for too long and by the time they saw the train it ran them over.

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @10:07AM (#38148388) Homepage Journal

    There were other reasons that WP was dependent on running with Win95:

    - WP4x slammed the market because they wrote print drivers for virtually every printer, and back then printers were wacko. No two were alike. So having print drivers for your fancy NEC daisy wheel printer was crucial. Even Word for DOS lagged here. In fact, WP support was largely printer support, and they did very well.

    - Then Windows 3x did printing for you, albeit at the lowest common denominator, and Wp's key feature was diminished. They did, of course, write their won print subsystem so stuff like superscripts and kerning actually worked right, and fonts were properly supported.

    - Windows 95 made vast improvements in printing, and of course HP started making laser printers, and WP's advantages in supporting all these dot-matrix and wheel printers started to not matter at all. WP's biggest advantage, WYSIWYG printing, was being incorporated into Windows. Advantage MS.

    - Word for Windows finally got printing right around that time, and WP was being crushed by both loss of their printing advantage and the killing off of several key features - the file dialogs that made a secretary's life tolerable as documents proliferated, the inherent networking advantage of those dialogs, in a LAN environment where Novell ruled and VINES was the big corporation/government solution, and naming was critical to managing those many many documents.

    MS didn't just drop those APIs, they purposefully showed them in pre-release examples of the OS, and failed to notify any of the developers in advance that they would not ship (except for a very few, under NDAs, like Adobe and Autodesk, but that story is not entirely substantiated to this day). Novell didn't get any notice, and their client (and WP, not just WordPerfect but Office and the mail stuff) all were left holding their cannoli on release.

    Not just embarassing, but in the shop I was in then, we had plans to deploy 95 in a month after release, and that became 6 months as the NetWare client was fixed. Management started to scream that we should ditch NetWare and go to NTAS, but we survived that.

    Oh, and after 7 years, the shop did finally kill NetWare and go to Server 2003. And the server reboots went from single-digits per 7 years to single-digts per week. But at least it's compatible.

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @10:20AM (#38148536) Homepage Journal

    Your opinion is common, and IMHO, somewhat misguided.

    - Justice delayed is justice denied. It's taken this long to get past MS's delaying tactics. You seem to think this is Novell's fault.

    - Novell will be able to show that it was materially harmed by deliberate acts by MS, intended to harm their products, and done without disclosure. Had MS just sayd out front that Win 95 would not support WP, and you needed to buy Word, well, that would be a different legal case, probably one for restraint of trade. And behold, that's the case now, save that Novell is claiming MS did it surreptitiously.

    - And Novell lost most of their networking advantages the same way, MS rendering their products incompatible on purpose, while promoting their competitive solutions.

    No need for an analogy here. Such acts are illegal. Making better products isn't. Mostly. But this wasn't a patent case.

  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @10:22AM (#38148576)

    Because I don't like the interface. I don't want the icons on the side. I most EXPLICITLY do not want my menus all at the top of the screen.

    It simply doesn't behave how I want. If I'm to have a dock I want it at the bottom of the screen. I want desktop icons for frequently used programs and filesystem locations, and I want my menus to be placed at the top of the window to which they are associated.

    Other things like the insane disappearing scrollbars I won't hold too much of a grudge over because they can be turned off, but its still indicative of the basically stupid ideas about UI that Ubuntu seems to be embracing.

    I don't need some "revolution" in my "workflow". Workflow was something I have not had any issues with for years. I just want the system maintained and polished. When security holes are discovered, patch them. If you can make a program a little faster or more efficiently, do that. If a new awesome video codec or web standard comes up, then build in support for it. When new hardware comes out write drivers for it. The base UI is what has evolved from 25-30 years of big monitor + keyboard + mouse usage. It works. The new stuff you're seeing on phones is a direct result of different input methods (touch + a tiny screen). The desktop doesn't need to go that route because it doesn't operate under the same restrictions.

  • by Medievalist (16032) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @10:28AM (#38148662)

    Just FYI, W4W 3.11 was the first Microsoft 16-bit OS capable of running the 32-bit wolverine TCP/IP stack... which is also what Win95 ran. Wolverine was very reliable and stable for a Microsoft product.

    My memory of such things is not reliable, but I think you could have downloaded wolverine onto your W4W3.11 system, ditched trumpet, and gotten the same increased network stability that you got from upgrading to Win95.

    At the time I was running slackware linux systems that were incredibly painfully difficult to set up and get running, but then never, ever crashed for any reason. Mad shouts to Pat Volkerding!

  • by Reziac (43301) * on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @10:41AM (#38148850) Homepage Journal

    That part is true, but it only affected some computers (anecdotally, about half). It appears to be at root a bug in the timer chip on the motherboard, which in turn tickled a bug in Win9x. Hardware that lacked the bug would NOT crash at the 49 day mark.

    [My old Win98 box evidently lacks this bug, as it has many times run more than 7 weeks at a crack. But it has a server-class motherboard. It is now almost 14 years old and still stable.]

    And a lot of the stability problem wasn't Win9x at all (at least once we got past the initial version of Win95) but rather was due to shit hardware and buggy drivers, or sometimes just plain poor design, like the 3-slot memory thing. (On boards with only 3 RAM slots, Win98 is limited to 512mb RAM. No such limit on boards with 4 RAM slots.)

    Buying a cheapass system then complaining because Windows crashes is like buying a Yugo then complaining it can't last the first round of the demolition derby.

  • by Scoth (879800) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @12:49PM (#38150282)

    This [msdn.com] has an interesting discussion on formatting issue. There was a lot of stuff in Win9x that sacrificed performance for compatibility. On the one hand it's kind of impressive that so much old stuff kept working, but it definitely held back Windows performance compared to contemporaries.

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