MS/DOJ: Allchin takes the stand, testifies about security

Microsoft Group Vice President for Platforms Jim Allchin took the stand at the remedy hearing in its ongoing antitrust case late Tuesday morning to testify about, among other things, the company's focus on providing users with computer security.

His testimony is likely to continue into the afternoon.

Earlier Tuesday morning, a lawyer with the states continued cross-examining Microsoft's Linda Averett, product unit manager for Windows Media Player. Attorney John Schmidtlein questioned Averett about Internet Explorer's media bar, which lets users play media clips from within the browser.

Averett made the distinction that the IE media bar uses Windows Media Player technology, but is not the Windows Media Player. Yet when Schmidtlein asked if IE can run clips without the media bar, Averett answered it could not.

When an IE user comes across a piece of media for the first time on the Web that the media bar can play, a dialog box appears that asks if the user wants to play the media inside the browser, "so it will be easier for you to see or hear it while still browsing the Web," according to a screen shot of the box shown by the states. The dialog box also includes a "remember my preferences" check box, which is set to be checked as the default. The "yes" option is also set as a default, so if the user simply hits enter, "yes" will be selected.

Schmidtlein asked if a user said "yes" to the dialog box, would the IE media bar then override any other media player that had been selected by the user to be the default. Averett answered yes. "You have every expectation that users will click yes here?" asked the attorney. Averett answered that some will but others won't, adding that making yes the default in dialog boxes is "common behavior."

The attorney asked if Averett felt that Microsoft was providing users with enough information in this dialog box to realize they were changing their default media player. The witness answered that she felt the dialog box provided users with an indication that they were making a choice. "This dialog box informs users that IE is going to play the file," she said.

The remedy phase is occurring because nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia have refused to sign a settlement agree reached between nine other states and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), all plaintiffs in the ongoing federal lawsuit against Microsoft. The company was found by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to have a PC operating system monopoly and was further found to be using that power to illegally hamper competitors. This portion of the case, before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, is meant to determine remedies that will curb that anticompetitive behavior.

(More to follow.)

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