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Comes v. Microsoft Resumes Today
Thursday, January 04 2007 @ 05:30 AM EST

If you are anywhere near Iowa, this is a fabulous day to start attending the trial in Comes v. Microsoft, because beginning today the plaintiffs will call the first live witness, Ronald S. Alepin, who is expected to testify until the 9th, after which John Constant is expected to take the stand.

Constant was Product Manager for DRI, and it was he who designed DR DOS, so you know he's got a few Microsoft stories to tell. Mr. Alepin was an expert witness against Microsoft and gave a presentation in the European Union Court of First Instance in Microsoft's appeal, the same one where Andrew Tridgell testified, as many of you will recall.

There's a piece of Alepin's story you may not know.

In March of 2006, Microsoft claimed that its competitors were colluding with the EU Commission, which it charged with lacking impartiality (which is what losers in court often do -- blame the court), and Microsoft tried to use the US courts to prove it, sending subpoenas to Oracle, Morrison & Foerster (of SCO v. Novell fame), Sun Microsystems, several others, and Ronald Alepin. The EU Commission filed objections to the requested discovery. The designated victims all filed a motion to quash, which was successful. Microsoft appealed, but eventually gave up, after losing a similar attempt against Novell in Massachusetts and IBM in New York.

You might find the filings in the California Alepin matter interesting. The case was Microsoft Corporation v. Ronald Alepin Morrison & Foerster et al, and the Pacer docket is a hoot in itself. It looks like SCO's handiwork, with Microsoft requests for de novo review of the magistrate judge's decisions and the works. Here are a few of the filings, all PDFs, to give you a taste:

If you only have time to read one, I'd suggest the Motion to Quash. Mr. Alepin's attorneys wrote in his objections to the subpoena that in context, "the subpoenas are retaliation for providing technical input to the Commission and if permitted will chill not only the flow of information to the Commission in this matter, but others as well." I gather Mr. Alepin doesn't intimidate easily, since he is testifying again against Microsoft in Iowa.

He is quoted as saying this, in part, in April of 2006:

Ronald Alepin, an independent consultant and former CTO for Fujitsu, disputed the idea that Microsoft had been an innovator in the field. He said that interoperability protocols were developed by companies other than Microsoft, and that Microsoft has simply extended the protocols and then refused to disclose the extensions. In so doing, he told the court, Microsoft "has hijacked standard interoperability protocols agreed by the entire industry."

"Microsoft can and is putting limits on what kind of interoperability third-party workgroup servers can offer by refusing to disclose interface information.

Here's what Alepin had to say when Microsoft argued that opening up its specifications would give its rivals a free ride:

But Ronald Alepin, the former chief technology officer of Fujitsu Software Corp. and an expert witness for Microsoft's rivals, said the company was wrong to claim that describing how its software works could help other software makers clone Microsoft products.

"It is axiomatic in our industry that specifications, properly written, do not reveal the design and should not reveal the design," he said. "We just want to be able to connect."

You can read Microsoft's side of that story in this paper, "Confidential Business Secrets: Responde of Microsoft Corporation to the Statement of Objections by the European Commission Dated 21 December 2005" [PDF], submitted by Microsoft.

Alepin also was technical adviser to the states in their antitrust action in connection with the Department of Justice antitrust action. You can read about the role the states played in this fascinating paper, "Comments of Stephen D. Houck and Kevin J. O'Connor on the States' Role in the Microsoft Case Re: Working Group on Enforcement Institutions," that mentions Alepin. I didn't follow the US v. Microsoft antitrust trial closely, so I found that paper a good overview. Perhaps you will too.

I'm sure you can see just from this little bit of research why you'll certainly never be sorry if you make it to that state courtroom in Polk County, Iowa. Trial hours are now 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 pm Central time daily.

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