SALT LAKE CITY – Microsoft’s Windows 95 rollout presented the most challenges in the company’s history, leading to several last-minute changes to technical features that would no longer support a rival software maker’s word processor, Bill Gates testified Monday in a $1 billion antitrust lawsuit filed by the former owner of WordPerfect.
“We worked super hard,” the Microsoft co-founder said. “It was the most challenging, trying project we had ever done.”
Gates was the first witness to testify Monday as Microsoft lawyers presented their case in the trial that’s been ongoing in federal court in Salt Lake City for about a month. He is set to resume testimony this morning.
Utah-based Novell Inc. sued Microsoft in 2004, claiming the company violated U.S. antitrust laws through its arrangements with other software makers when it launched Windows 95. Novell says it was later forced to sell WordPerfect for a $1.2 billion loss.
Gates said Novell just couldn’t deliver a Windows 95 compatible WordPerfect program in time for its rollout, and its own Word program was actually better. He said that by 1994, Microsoft’s Word writing program was ranked No. 1 in the market above WordPerfect.
Gates called it an “important win.”
He testified later that Microsoft had to dump a technical feature that would have supported WordPerfect because he feared it would crash the operating system.
“We were making trade-offs,” he said.
Novell argues that Gates ordered Microsoft engineers to reject WordPerfect as a Windows 95 word processing application because he feared it was too good.
WordPerfect once had nearly 50 percent of the market for computer writing programs, but its share quickly plummeted to less than 10 percent as Microsoft’s own office programs took hold.