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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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  • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:13AM (#38147392)
    http://groklaw.net/ [groklaw.net] ; tends to give better in depth coverage with fewer misunderstandings than most other observers of this lawsuit.
    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:24AM (#38147456) Journal
      Not really. Groklaw doesn't seem to say much about exactly what the APIs in question were. Like TFA, it just nebulously mentions 'name space extensions', which were supported by Windows 95 and NT4. They're also a pretty unimportant thing for a word processor. Why does a word processor need to add something that is effectively a virtual filesystem?
      • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:36AM (#38147548)

        It's worth reading through much more on Groklaw; this article [groklaw.net] explains that they were shell extension namespace APIs which made URL integration possible. It's pretty obvious that if WWW integration is a major new feature relied on throughout your code and Microsoft has promised to implement a large part of it, when they hide those APIs so that partners can't use them it's going to be a big problem.

      • by clintp (5169) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @11:50AM (#38149722)

        Agreed, the article blows on tech details. Between the Gates-bashing and the Linux/Win95 wars in this thread, there's been a severe lack of technical discussion. Then again, it's Slashdot.

        In a nutshell, it seems that name space extensions (NSE) allowed you to leverage using the Windows File Explorer to represent things that weren't really files and directories at all. Details here [microsoft.com]. Perhaps Novell was layering a document management system (or networked document management system) on top of NSE's.

        If WP was managing the documents for something like a law or medical office where it's fairly easy to drown in folders and files, this would be a great selling feature and yeah, NSE's might be a good shortcut to that representation. But you'd think that when MS withdrew the feature a clever engineer could just emulate the Explorer's representation of objects that they'd worked so hard to build already to feed to Explorer's NSE. It wouldn't be the first time someone's re-invented that wheel, for sure. Hell, if I were that engineer, it might be something I'd already have around for testing. When you play in someone else's sandbox, you'd better be prepared for them to take their best toys and go home; at least there's always sticks and rocks to play with.

        Any way you slice it having something like that sink your word processing software is possible, I guess, but only if you're position was already tenuous.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      The part I don't understand is why this is being litigated today. Shouldn't this have happened 15 years ago?

      • by aslagle (441969)
        Novell's suit was precluded because of the anti-trust federal suit which was in progress. When that suit was completed, it was then allowable for Novell to file, and they did.
  • by thomasdz (178114) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:15AM (#38147402)

    Remember WordPerfect? Hell, I'm still using it. I still have an old Toshiba laptop that runs FreeDos and WordPerfect v5.1

    Now, get off my lawn you whippersnappers while me and Bill Gates reminisce about the old days

  • Wrong summary!!! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:19AM (#38147424)

    "into thinking he would include WordPerfect in the new Windows system" This is WRONG! Novell thought Windows would include some (4) APIs about "name space extensions".

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:35AM (#38147542)

      There is a list of defunct companies as long as the dictionary who thought they could trust Microsoft. Even the ones who profit in the short-term eventually discover that their product is now a free feature of the next version of $MicrosoftProductName$.

      • by ulricr (2486278) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:28AM (#38147986)
        Right, because the success of Word Perfect entirely hinged on being able to do something funky in file open dialog instead of using the standard OpenFile dialog, with the customization support everyone uses!! Adobe, Core, Autodesk, no one else had this problem. That wasn't at all a fundamental function of a word processor AND when you develop on a beta operating system you CAN expect things to change before it ships.
        • by Shompol (1690084) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @12:17PM (#38149994)
          Let's do an experiment. You create a text editor (Notepad), and I create all external API's for all hardware interaction -- keyboard, screen, file read/write. One condition for the experiment is that you can only go through my API (say, I control 98% of the market), and my code is close-sourced.

          In the last month before release I change every API call that you were using. Your program suddenly looses access to keyboard, screen, file system. You say "Hey, I already shipped the product! What's are the API changes?" -- "No changes, I removed it completely. There is an alternative API that MY text editor is using, if you want to know what it is, no problem, I will provide a spec in 6 months or so".

          The point is, if you rely on my API, I can pull a rug from under your feet at any moment. It's a short leash you are on.

          Adobe, Core, Autodesk, no one else had this problem.

          Maybe it is because MS did not target them with a replacement of their own. The fact that MS did not manage to kill ALL non-MS software does not make them any less guilty.

  • by turkeyfeathers (843622) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:20AM (#38147430)
    Bill Gates is spending his time and money these days looking for a cure for malaria and other diseases. Taking time away from that to testify in this case = more dead babies. Novell is killing babies.
    • by Chrisq (894406)

      Bill Gates is spending his time and money these days looking for a cure for malaria and other diseases. Taking time away from that to testify in this case = more dead babies. Novell is killing babies.

      And lining up the lawyers to prevent other people from saving babies without paying him patent rights.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      BG is trying (and failing) to make up for all the evil he did. Not Novells fault.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:32AM (#38147514)

    This is what Microsoft was throughout the late '80s and entire '90s. People today look at Gates and see a great man donating billions to help starving people in Africa. Yes, he is that, but remember how he made those billions. He made them by crushing the rest of the PC software industry using heavy-handed, often blatantly illegal means, from his perch as CEO of a monopoly.

    Gates is the modern day John D Rockefeller or Cornelius Vanderbilt.

  • by sco08y (615665) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:33AM (#38147528)

    Namespace extensions are things that let you mess with Windows Explorer and add your own contextual menus and folder layout. How could that sink a word processor? From the user's point of view, are they really not going to buy the word processor because they can't initiate feature X from explorer? I don't even know of any word processor that even has a feature like that, and it's been 15 years since Windows 95 came out.

    I don't doubt that MS over-promised on what features the OS would deliver, given that they've done that with every OS release I can recall, but to say that they shelved a viable feature to sink Novell, and that it was actually the cause of Novell going under is a real stretch.

  • by sco08y (615665) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:37AM (#38147560)

    "The company said Gates duped it into thinking he would include its WordPerfect writing program in the new Windows system then backed out because he feared it was too good."

    The whole story seems to be about the namespace extensions thing. So where is Novell claiming that MS agreed to bundle WordPerfect with Windows?

    • TFS is a bit confusing. Mind you, Novell claiming that the inability to make clicky hyperlinks caused them to spend a year rewriting their open file dialog (seriously, WTF?) and cost them 40% of their sales is also a bit... interesting.
      • 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 gl4ss (559668)

      they claim that the namespace extension thing was means to that end, apparently.

      but WHAT THE FUCK? the namespace extensions thing doesn't really make any sense as a real reason for word perfect to be lagging from win95 release.. eh.. just rewrite the save and load dialogs? wtf were they doing at novell?

  • by trout007 (975317) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:39AM (#38147588)

    I'm curious as to why this is not a contract dispute? I can only assume it is because no contract existed. If they had a contract with Microsoft that stated what the interface was supposed to be then they would be in violation of contract. If there was no contract and MS was just building an OS and told them the interface would be and then decided not to include it or change it there is no case.

  • by hessian (467078) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:41AM (#38147598) Homepage Journal

    Show codes.

    When you ran into trouble with the way your document was displaying, you could hit show codes and edit the paired tags (a lot like HTML).

    No program should ever hide your data so that you cannot directly edit it when the "interpretive" parts of the program guess incorrectly about what you want.

    The first and foremost abuse of this is web-based comment fields with little mini-GUIs to help you format your text. When the system "guesses" the wrong bullet point, or line spacing, etc. you can fix the problem in three seconds with a show codes option.

    Sadly, many programs and web sites do not do this. They think it's too complicated for their users. While this may be true of the 90%, it's not true for the rest, and they're slowing us down with the simpleton interface.

    Grrr.

    • No.. all programs and web sites do this.

      It's called a hex editor.

      Now, that may be too complicated for 90% of the techies, but it's not true for the rest of us, and you're slowing us down with the simpleton demands for ASCII-editable interfaces.

    • Show codes.

      When you ran into trouble with the way your document was displaying, you could hit show codes and edit the paired tags (a lot like HTML).

      No program should ever hide your data so that you cannot directly edit it when the "interpretive" parts of the program guess incorrectly about what you want.

      The first and foremost abuse of this is web-based comment fields with little mini-GUIs to help you format your text. When the system "guesses" the wrong bullet point, or line spacing, etc. you can fix the problem in three seconds with a show codes option.

      Sadly, many programs and web sites do not do this. They think it's too complicated for their users. While this may be true of the 90%, it's not true for the rest, and they're slowing us down with the simpleton interface.

      Grrr.

      I agree with you that Reveal Codes is a extremely helpful feature that is or should be standard on almost all current WordProcessing software. As someone who supports the 90% and 10% of WordPerfect Reveal Codes users, I can safely assume that this feature was not born out of innovation but necessity. I've been "fortunate" to support users using WordPerfect since WP8 and it is a notoriously buggy program that has trouble handling WP codes present in documents from older versions hence the birth of reveal c

    • by dominator (61418)

      So, go use LaTeX then.

    • by IntlHarvester (11985) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @03:49PM (#38152142) Journal

      Show Codes is the reason WordPerfect sucked. It was easy to accidentally delete an invisible end tag, and then the entire formatting of your document would be fucked. So you were pretty much forced to reveal the codes and tediously edit around them, which is suckwork for nerds.

      I'm perfectly capable of marking-up HTML, but who wants to deal with that shit while you're writing.

  • Novell is Dying (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gubers33 (1302099)
    I think Novell is just grasping for straws. They are a dying company and have been fading out for quite sometime. I work at a large software company and out of all our customers only 2 use Novell and both plan to migrate off of it in the next few years because of compatibility issues with API calls and lack of support. Microsoft nor any company is required to make their system compatible with your software, that is your job as a software developer.
  • 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 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 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.

  • Can someone care to enlighten me as to how not implementing these API into Windows back in the day could cause a $1 billion loss for WordPerfect? Or did "Name Space Extensions" mean something else back then? I just don't see how this relates to word processors, and the article even seems to confirm that suspicion with Bill Gates saying the feature didn't have word processors in mind.

  • by linebackn (131821) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:02AM (#38147764)

    I duno how much Microsoft really had to do with it, but it seemed like WordPerfect really screwed themselves with poor quality software and service.

    The original release of WordPerfect 7 ONLY ran on Windows 95 (Not at all on under NT), was late to to release, and was not very stable. They later produced an update of WP 7 that was more stable and ran on NT 3.51/4.0 but the only way to get that was to order a new CD. No downloadable update patches for you!

    WP 7 for Windows 3.1 was just a rebadged version of the 16-bit WP 6.1.

    Then they pulled the same trick with WordPerfect 8. Initially buggy and updates required obtaining a new CD.

    To this day there is still an option to turn off the "enhanced" open/save dialog because it is buggy and crashes under odd environments - especially under Wine.

    It also didn't help that at the time it was switching ownership left and right. WordPerfect corp? Novel? Corel? Good way to destroy confidence in a product.

  • by arglebargle_xiv (2212710) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:04AM (#38147778)

    One of the three members of the trio who ran WordPerfect corporation, Pete Petersen, wrote a detailed book about the WordPerfect saga called Almost Perfect [wordplace.com]. Go read it now, it's a fascinating tale of a once-great company so busy shooting itself in the foot that it hasn't noticed that it's going down the tubes. WordPerfect Corp was doing such a good job of committing suicide that it really didn't need any help from Microsoft, or anyone else for that matter.

  • by bryan1945 (301828) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:06AM (#38147790) Journal

    "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."

    Out of the jabillion things that made 95 crash, he just happened to focus on the one thing that was not in-house?
    Not that Novell is looking any better.

  • Wouldn't it be great if the minutes from the hearing were typed up in OpenOffice :)

  • by CaroKann (795685) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:12AM (#38147838)
    Wordperfect? Windows 95? What decade are we talking about here? Not only have the horses left the barn, they have established a healthy feral population.
  • by Gideon Wells (1412675) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:18AM (#38147908)

    Well, I guess if you want to pick a beef you might as well go for it. One more question, am I the only person who never had Windows 95 blow up on them? I mean, going to 98 was a heck of a lot smoother, but I never had any problems with '95.

  • Windows 95 came out what - 15/16 years ago??? WTF?

    Either way, unless there is some sort of tengible evidence beyond heresay proving that Microsoft had serious intentions to bundle WP, I don't think Novell will get anywhere here. Even then, Microsoft can tell any number of wendors or 3rd parties it intends to bundle a certain app or piece of functionality in, that doesn't make it true. This is generally why you sign contracts and letters of intention. I can remember lots of features in Windows OS's that w
  • I was there (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rambo Tribble (1273454) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:46AM (#38148182) Homepage
    I suspect the majority of us working in deploying word processing environments at the time would tell you: WordPerfect was the better word processor; Word had better, prettier Windows integration. The integration, along with bundled "Works" versions, pushed the market to Word.
  • by ToasterTester (95180) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @10:59AM (#38149056)

    I was a huge WordPerfect DOS fan it was the best wordprocessor and interface was most intuitive I've ever seen. Then they tried to make a Mac version SUCKED horriblily and if I remember they killed the product and restarted and killed again. Then they tried to do a Windows version and it was so-so at best and it died a slow death. Their problem wasn't MS it was they never successfully make the transition from a DOS text to GUI platform.

    Maybe they should sue Apple too for their problems.

  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @01:41PM (#38150794) Homepage
    After all they built windows to crash on purpose for DR DOS

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