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Bill Gates in court: he 'meant no harm' in decision that sank Word Perfect

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By Noel Young, Correspondent

November 21, 2011 | 3 min read

Microsoft founder Bill Gates told a court in Salt Lake City yesterday that he had no intention of harming the development of Word Perfect when he made the decision in 1994 that effectively shut it out of Windows 95. The decision was to withdraw support for a software code feature that the company had previously enthusiastically promoted.

Bill Gates: First witness

Microsoft is being sued by Novell for $1 billion over the circumstances under which Microsoft rejected Word Perfect for use in Windows 95.

The Utah-based company says Gates told his engineers to turn down Word Perfect because , claims Novell, " he feared it was too good " and would steal some of the thunder from Microsoft. Microsoft's own programmes went on to became dominant.

Microsoft deny this. They say the reason for the turndown was that their engineers feared WordPerfect would crash Windows and that it could' not be fixed in time for the rollout.

Bill Gates, the lead defence witness, said that In making the decision about the code, he was concerned not about Novell but about one element of the programme that could have caused computers to crash.

Gates said Novell just couldn't deliver a Windows 95 compatible WordPerfect programme in time for the launch - and Microsoft's own Word programme was actually better, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Beginning his evidence, the billionaire said he was just 19 when he helped found Microsoft .

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

Novell complain they weren't given access to the new Windows 95 in time for them to fix glitches. They saw their market share plunge from 50 per cent to 10 per cent after the shutout. They later sold WordPerfect for a $1.2 billion loss.

The case, based on US anti-trust laws, was originally raised in 2004 and Microsoft is seeking a dismissal. The trial is expected to last a month.

Novell appear to have an uphill struggle ahead of them . On Friday judge Frederick Motz said he doubted the merits of their claims .

He said, "I don't see why I have to give a product to a competitor so he can beat me."

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