Bill Gates testifies on Novell

November 21, 2011

Bill Gates has been called to testify in a Utah court over a monopoly case against Microsoft that refuses to fade away.

The case, which has roots stretching back to 1995, involves questions about Microsoft’s alleged anti-competitive practices when dealing with WordPerfect software maker Novell.

Microsoft chairman and co-founder Gates took the stand Monday morning, the Associated Press reported, where he is expected to be questioned for much of the day. He opened his testimony with a brief history of Microsoft, the report said.

“We thought everybody would have a personal computer on every desk and in every home,” he reportedly told the court. “We wanted to be there and be the first.”

Novell argues that Microsoft and Gates prevented its WordPerfect software from being included in Windows 95 because it competed with Microsoft products. Novell said that Microsoft encouraged the company to develop WordPerfect for Windows 95, only to withdraw support a short time before the operating system was released.

As evidence, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, Novell has said cited an e-mail from Gates to developers telling them to hold off on a piece of code that Novell argues was crucial to WordPerfect. In the e-mail, Gates mentions WordPerfect and competitor LotusNotes by name, “We should wait until we have a way to do a high level of integration that will be harder for [the] likes of Notes, WordPerfect to achieve, and which will give Office a real advantage.”

Microsoft lawyer David Tuchlin said that the company pulled support because WordPerfect was crashing Windows and could not be fixed in time for the launch. Gates said in 2009 that the e-mail was intended to push Microsoft’s Office development team to be more innovative by pointing to the competition.

J. Frederick Motz, the judge presiding over the case, has reportedly expressed his skepticism that Novell’s claims have merit, saying that there’s no requirement for companies to give their products to competitors.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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