The big moment in Comes v Microsoft - the ongoing Iowa class-action anti-trust lawsuit seeking $330 million in consumer rebates - arrives in a few weeks when Microsoft Chair Bill Gates is slated to take the stand in Des Moines. He'll be defending the quality of his product line, which the lawsuit in effect says was overpriced for what it delivered.
But it didn't help Chairman Bill's case any last week when a two-year-old e-mail from Jim Allchin, the Windows software development exec, surfaced in court, saying if he wasn't working for Microsoft, why he'd buy himself a Mac. He added, according to testimony: "I think our teams lost sight of what bug-free means, what resilience means, what full scenarios mean, what security means, what performance means, how important current applications are, and really understanding what the most important problems our customers face are." Ulp.
Gates, in early January, will presumably try to make himself clearer this time than he did when he testified in the 1998 U.S. antitrust case against Microsoft - a video of some of that testimony was replayed for the Iowa jury last week.
In hours of testimony, he said I don't know, I don't remember, or I don't recall more than 200 times. Many of us however do remember the 1998 moment he was asked by litigator David Boies about a definition Gates had used: What did Bill mean by that?
Gates respond by asking Boies what he meant by mean.
Gates: "If you define 'definition' for this conversation in a loose way, then I'll understand what you mean."
Boies: "What you need in order to understand the question is to have me define what is meant by 'definition'?"
Gates: "At least loosely."
Boies: "What I mean by definition is what you meant by definition when you said that you wouldn't have answered this question unless you had a definition of a word."
The chairman was also puzzled about the true meaning of "concerned," said he didn't know exactly what a "browser" was, and asked the prosecutor for the meaning of "we," Kemosabe.