Plaintiffs to get 3 hours with Ballmer in Vista lawsuit

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Plaintiffs to get 3 hours with Ballmer in Vista lawsuit

Redmond (WA) – Microsoft lawyers tried to protect CEO Steve Ballmer from being grilled in the increasingly dirty “Vista Capable” lawsuit, but Judge Marsha Pechman believes that Ballmer may have special knowledge about what went on behind the scenes and ordered the executive to be available for questioning. The document leaves no doubt that the finger pointing at Microsoft is already in full swing.

The “Vista Capable” lawsuit, which has unveiled questionable agreements between Microsoft and Intel surrounding the launch of Windows Vista, has already turned into a nightmare for Microsoft and it seems it will only get worse. Plaintiffs now succeeded in getting the court to agree that CEO Steve Ballmer needs to spend some one-on-one time in a question and answer session.

Judge Marsha Pechman declined a motion by Microsoft for a protective order to preclude Steve Ballmer from a deposition. According to a document published by Techflash, Ballmer will have to make himself available for deposition that will have to take place within thirty days and a duration of up to three hours. Ballmer will be able to choose the time and location of the deposition.

In their motion, Microsoft’s lawyers conceded that Ballmer discussed with Intel CEO Paul Otellini the technical requirements of “Vista Capable”, but they claim that the content of this discussion is “irrelevant” – simply because “those concerns” were relayed to other members of the management. Ultimately, the “the issue” was resolved by others, they said. Microsoft noted that then co-president Jim Allchin and senior vice president Will Poole – both have left Microsoft since then – had “superior knowledge” of the decisions made.

Pechman disagreed that these claims are enough to preclude Ballmer from a deposition. The court believes that Ballmer himself had doubts about Poole’s decision, which would indicate that “Ballmer may have been evaluating Microsoft’s response to Intel’s concerns about the Vista Capable changes.” As a result, there is “a sufficient basis to justify the deposition,” the document states. Pechman also noted that Ballmer may have “unique personal knowledge” about the events.

Poole, who appears to have been responsible for key decisions to change the Vista Capable system requirements in favor of Intel, left Microsoft in September of this year to “pursue philanthropic and entrepreneurial interests.” Poole joined Microsoft in 1996 through the acquisition of eShop, which he co-founded in 1991. Allchin left Microsoft on January 30, 2007, the day on which Microsoft released the consumer versions of its Windows Vista operating system. Allchin joined Microsoft in 1990 and was co-president of the firm’s Platforms & Services Division from September 2005 until his retirement.

Ballmer’s deposition may or may not add to the damage already caused by the lawsuit. But his comments will, at the very least, attract additional attention to the matter. However, given the scope of the suit and given the already released content of communication between Microsoft and Intel, it seems that Microsoft may get stuck with the bill of some unfortunate decisions – which is somewhat surprising as Intel may have been the main beneficiary. Microsoft’s mission in this case is clearly damage control.

While there is no doubt that a certain damage has been caused by Poole’s decisions, it would be interesting to know whether Poole was aware of the implications of his actions or not.