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Bill Gates Takes the Stand In WordPerfect Trial 472

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 TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:24AM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:32AM (#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 @09:33AM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:35AM (#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 Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:35AM (#38147544) Homepage

    He's just trying to swing the karma bar from "scourage of the wasteland" to something more on the good side of the neutral line.

    All old rich guys do this. They do really nasty evil things to get rich and then spend a little of their trillions trying to buy back their soul.

  • by hessian ( 467078 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:41AM (#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.


  • Novell is Dying (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gubers33 ( 1302099 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @09:48AM (#38147638)
    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.
  • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @10:01AM (#38147754) Homepage Journal

    Steve Jobs didn't seem to do that :p If he did, nobody found out about it. I find it hard to believe that nobody would find out if he did though.

  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @10:20AM (#38147928) Journal

    My first Linux was not for coding or server or e-penis, it was to keep the fucking music playing while Windows did one of its routine crashes. The crashes I had learned to live with but the music constantly interrupting because of it I had not.

    Then I learned of course that on Linux you could keep a browser open. Just open. You know, open. Where you left it and come back to it and not found the system had crashes and lost all your search history.

  • by WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @10:25AM (#38147962) Homepage

    Yep. Read Jerry Kaplan's book _StartUp_ for another side of this story.

  • by ulricr ( 2486278 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @10:28AM (#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 MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @10:30AM (#38147998)

    What are you talking about? Gnome 3 and KDE 4.x were huge steps back. Windows 7 is a huge step forward from Vista.

    As much as it pains me to admit it, you're right (at least on Gnome - I haven't really used KDE much since the 2.x days). On Gnome 2 my system was running absolutely beautifully ever since early 2009 (which was when I basically transitioned to full-time Linux usage - I'd been dual-booting and using it off and on since 1998). Everything worked exactly as it should - aside from maybe getting some native game ports and a native iTunes, there's literally nothing that my system needed to do differently. Then somebody felt the need to "innovate". Everythings borked now. In Ubuntu 11.10 Unity is a disaster. Gnome 3 isn't even usable for me. Even if you install the Gnome fallback "classic" mode its gotten glitchy compared to the last release (flickering icons, slowdowns, problems with compositing - it almost feels like they sabotaged the classic mode as it's not working like it used to). Right now I'm doing my best to cobble together a usable XFCE setup, which is the lesser of many evils. It's not working exactly how I want but at least it feels like XFCE is working with the users rather than intentionally trying to piss them off.

    Right now I'm anxiously awaiting Linux Mint 12. With their efforts to fix Gnome3 and support of MATE (Gnome 2 fork), they seem to be taking user concerns seriously, rather than Ubuntu and Gnome who are in a screaming match with the entire user base claiming that the users just don't really know what they want. Interestingly enough, if you check Distrowatch, Mint has unsurprisingly surpassed Ubuntu as the leader in page hits for the last 6 months. If you narrow that down to shorter time frames (like last 30 days), Ubuntu has fallen from #2 down several spots, with Mint in the #1 spot by a wide margin.

    It's like Canonical is shooting itself in the foot while screaming how great it feels.

  • I was there (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rambo Tribble ( 1273454 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @10:46AM (#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 Paradise Pete ( 33184 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @11:04AM (#38148350) Journal

    Oh, suddenly thats ok, but microsoft as a company discussing destroying another company isn't?

    If Apple had enticed Google into developing Android for them, then intentionally pulled the plug in order to cause serious harm and distract and delay them from developing Android in different ways, but claimed to be innocent of that, then yes that Jobs statement would be meaningful.

  • by g4b ( 956118 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @11:08AM (#38148396) Homepage

    son, reality is a bitch.

    but back in the days of 95... ... 95 didnt crash every day, it just got slower. also, it still ran on DOS. .....linux in that time might have run rock solid, but the X server crashed every day. so no, linux was not heaven.

  • by Zaphod The 42nd ( 1205578 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @11:18AM (#38148508)
    If Steve Jobs showed up at Android developers and offered to work with them, I think they would be suspicious. If he promised to help them port their Android software to iOS, and then when they finished working on it after spending a year of development he said "haha, nope! just kidding, it doesn't work.", THEN that wouldn't be okay. That would be deceptive and bad. If you want to announce to the world you hate somebody and you want to compete with them, go right ahead.

    Nobody is remotely claiming Microsoft shouldn't compete with their competitors. DUUUH. If you honestly think that is the issue at hand, maybe read TFA and do some research before commenting.

    The problem is whether Microsoft unfairly led Novell to believe they were working together and they were going to support Novell's software, and then they internally decided to try to hamstring Novell and slow them down as much as possible. That sort of deceptive business practice is bad for competition and the free market.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @11:18AM (#38148518) Journal
    On one hand, why look for malice when mere incompetence would suffice to explain the chain of events? I mean it is not that Microsoft was turning out super duper crash free, bug free secure code at other places!

    On the other hand, sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

  • by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @11:28AM (#38148656) Journal

    Hell look at how many corps are still running XP even though its two versions behind!

    Look [] how many people are using Firefox 3.6 even though it's 5 versions behind!

    Versions are a pointless distinction. It's simply that XP runs what they need, how they wanted it, and Vista did not do one or both of these tasks. I personally remember a field test where a proprietary application would simply not run on Vista and had to be partially rewritten to accommodate the changes in folders, permissions, and other things.

    It's like the whole debacle with Linux interfaces (Gnome 3/Unity/KDE4) You can't expect to change people's environment as drastically as they've been doing and not get backlash.

  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @11:42AM (#38148872) Homepage Journal

    And, I'm just as serious with my answer:


    FFS, people, the world doesn't revolve around Microsoft and Apple. They are both pretty much the same - bullies, who are impossible to play with, unless you are willing to accept them changing the rules every couple of days.

    Let me ask your question right back at you. Ted Bundy was a terrible person. But, how was he any different than Charles Manson? Does that help to understand that your question is really really close to being moronic? (And, the answer to my rephrased question would be, "No difference, they are both low life predators!)

  • by ToasterTester ( 95180 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @11:59AM (#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 clintp ( 5169 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @12:50PM (#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 []. 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 Shompol ( 1690084 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @01:17PM (#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 IntlHarvester ( 11985 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @04:49PM (#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.

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