by Eric Lai, Computerworld -
IDG News Service
Editor's note: This story was reprinted from Computerworld. For more of
Computerworld's coverage of the Mac, visit its Mac Knowledge Center.
Longtime Windows development chief James Allchin wrote in a January
2004 e-mail to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and company co-founder Bill
Gates that the software vendor had 'lost sight' of customers' needs
and said he would buy a Mac if he wasn't working for Microsoft.
"In my view, we lost our way," Allchin, the co-president of
Microsoft's platform and services division, wrote in an e-mail dated
Jan. 7, 2004. The e-mail was presented as evidence late last week in
the Iowa antitrust trial, Comes v. Microsoft.
"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. I see lots of
random features and some great vision, but that does not translate into
Allchin, who has headed various aspects of Windows development since the
mid-1990s but plans to retire at the end of this year with the shipping
of Windows Vista, later wrote in the same e-mail that he would buy a Mac
if he was not a Microsoft employee, according to transcripts from
proceedings Thursday and Friday in the class-action case obtained and
posted by Groklaw.net, an open-source legal Web site.
Jim Hibbs, a spokesman for Wixted Pope Nora Thompson & Associates, a Des
Moines public relations firm employed by the law firm prosecuting the
case, confirmed that Allchin's quotes were read directly from his
e-mails by the plaintiff's lawyers.
The case, filed in February 2000, charges that Microsoft used its
monopoly position to overcharge Iowans for its software. Held in the
Polk County District Court in Des Moines, it is one of two remaining
antitrust cases; the state of Mississippi's case is the other brought
by the U.S. government and multiple states against Microsoft starting in
the late 1990s.
In 2004, Microsoft settled a class-action lawsuit accusing it of
overcharging customers in California for $1.1 billion. That same year,
it was also hit by a $613 million fine by the European Commission for
monopolistic behavior for its free bundling of Windows Media Player
with Windows. Microsoft, which has appealed the ruling, was hit by a
further $356 million fine in October for failing to comply with the
Microsoft, through its public relations firm, Waggener Edstrom
Worldwide, was unable to comment on the Allchin e-mail immediately.
Allchin has said in the past that Vista's delayed arrival -- it
shipped five years after Windows XP was released -- was the result
of a desire to improve its security and make it perform bug-free from
As in past antitrust trials against Microsoft, much of the evidence
came in the form of e-mails from Allchin and other Microsoft
executives. Ironically, Allchin himself is quoted in two internal
memos directing employees to get rid of all e-mails after 30 days.
"This is not something you get to decide," he wrote on Jan. 23, 2000.
"This is company policy. Do not think this is something that only
applies to a few people. Do not think it will be okay if I do this, it
hasn't caused any problems so far. Do not archive your mail. Do not be
foolish. 30 days."
Iowa's counsel also presented evidence designed to show that an
ostensibly charitable program from Microsoft for developing countries
and schools was actually designed to ensure that Windows remained
preinstalled on PCs to discourage competition from the open-source Linux
The so-called Education Government Incentive (or Edgi) program, appears
'to be based on Microsoft generosity, but in fact the program is
intended only for use where Linux is a threat,' according to Roxanne
Conlin, co-counsel for Iowa.
Conlin also presented evidence of a job description for Bill Gates'
technical assistant, whose primary duty was to make sure no permanent
record of Gates' e-mail existed, Conlin said, according to transcripts.
Copyright 2006 Mac Publishing LLC
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