WASHINGTON - Contradicting claims by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, a former Microsoft executive gave a dramatically different account of a key 1994 meeting in Kirkland where Gates contends the company decided to put its Internet browser into the Windows operating system.
Released in court yesterday, the sworn testimony of Philip Barrett undermines Microsoft's primary defense to a key government allegation in the ongoing federal antitrust trial - that the software giant bundled its Internet-browsing software into its operating system to defeat rival browser maker Netscape Communications.
Government attorneys said the testimony of Barrett, who now works for Microsoft rival RealNetworks, is significant because he was the executive who was put in charge of Microsoft's Internet-technology design after the meeting during which Gates said he gave the order to put the browser into the operating system.
Microsoft contends the decision to put the browser into Windows came at an April 5, 1994, meeting at the Shumway Mansion in Kirkland - before Netscape formed as a company. In an interview with The Seattle Times last summer, Gates said he told his top executives at that meeting, "We're going to get it (the browser) integrated into the operating system."
But Barrett said there was no such talk - only a discussion led by Gates about installing "Internet protocol," the language needed to permit a browser to connect with Internet service
"While the chairman (Gates) was willing to stand up and say the Internet is important, nobody was willing to put any resources behind doing the sorts of things to make the Internet happen," Barrett said. "That's what I got from (the Shumway meeting)."
In a prepared statement released to reporters yesterday, Microsoft replied that that "because Mr. Barrett did not participate in specific discussions about the browser, (that doesn't mean that) these discussions somehow did not occur."
Barrett left Microsoft to join RealNetworks, a Seattle company founded by a former Microsoft executive. RealNetworks became embroiled in a controversy with Microsoft last summer when the company founder, Rob Glaser, accused Microsoft of deliberately disabling one of its products.
During his deposition, Barrett said he worked from April until October and no work was accomplished on building a browser.
When Barrett left, his work was transferred to Ben Slivka, whose team did put together a browser in time for shipment with Windows 95.