Jim Allchin - Biography - Controversies


Running the most profitable product areas within Microsoft caused Allchin to be included in many negotiations and disputes along with his business and technical leadership responsibilities.

According to Dr. John, Brad Silverberg, the Microsoft executive, who had been responsible for Windows 95, emailed Jim Allchin on 27th September 1991:

... after IBM announces support for dr-dos at comdex, it's a small step for them to also announce they will be selling netware lite, maybe sometime soon thereafter. but count on it. We don't know precisely what ibm is going to announce. my best hunch is that they will offer dr-dos as the preferred solution for 286, os 2 2.0 for 386. they will also probably continue to offer msdos at $165 (drdos for $99). drdos has problems running windows today, and I assume will have more problems in the future.

Jim Allchin replied:

You should make sure it has problems in the future. :-)

During the United States v. Microsoft antitrust trial, emails sent by Allchin to other Microsoft executives were entered as evidence by the government lawyers to back up their claim that the integration of Internet Explorer and Windows had more to do with their competition with Netscape Communications Corporation than innovation.

During the Caldera v. Microsoft case, emails from Allchin to Bill Gates were introduced as evidence. One email from September 1991, included Allchin telling Gates that, "We need to slaughter Novell before they get stronger."

In August 1998, Allchin asked an engineer named Vinod Valloppillil to analyse the open source movement and the Linux operating system. Valloppillil wrote two memos that were intended for Senior Vice-President Paul Maritz (at the time, the most senior executive after Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer). Both memos leaked and became known as the Halloween documents.

On September 29, 1998, Allchin was deposed to respond to the testimony of Professor Edward Felten. He later testified in court from February 1 to February 4, 1999. Some of his testimony centered on whether Internet Explorer could be removed as stated by Felten or not. While ultimately Allchin proved his written testimony was correct in court, a video-taped demonstration created by Microsoft Attorneys supposedly illustrating Allchin's points was shown to have been misleading. David Boies believed it was an honest Microsoft Attorney mistake, but avoidable nevertheless.

In May 2002, Allchin testified before Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly during the settlement hearing between Microsoft and the nine states and the District of Columbia, resulting from the United States v. Microsoft antitrust trial. Allchin was called to testify on two issues, however it was the first that gained the most publicity. In relation to the issue of sharing technical API and protocol information used throughout Microsoft products, which the states were seeking, Allchin testimony discussed how releasing certain information could increase the security risk to consumers.

It is no exaggeration to say that the national security is also implicated by the efforts of hackers to break into computing networks. Computers, including many running Windows operating systems, are used throughout the United States Department of Defense and by the armed forces of the United States in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

According to exhibits filed in 2006 by the plaintiff in the case Comes v. Microsoft, Allchin wrote a memo in January 2004 to Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer that was critical of Microsoft and Longhorn, saying that they had lost their way and comparing them to Apple whom he believed had not.

I am not sure how the company lost sight of what matters to our customers (both business and home) the most, but in my view we lost our way. I think our teams lost sight of what bug-free means, what resilience means, what full scenarios mean, what security means, what performance means, how important current applications are, and really understanding what the most important problems customers face are. I see lots of random features and some great vision, but that doesn’t translate into great products.

I would buy a Mac today if I was not working at Microsoft. ... Apple did not lose their way. ...

Allchin was also found to be critical of Microsoft relaxing its requirements for PCs to carry the 'Vista Capable' badge. The seal, designed to inform customers of a PC's ability to run the Windows Vista operating system, was not initially intended for computers running Intel's 915 chipset. This was overturned however, after Intel voiced their dissatisfaction with the decision. In an email to Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, Allchin wrote:

I believe we are going to be misleading customers with the Capable program. OEMs will say a machine is Capable and customers will believe that it will run all the core Vista features.

...We must avoid confusion. It is wrong for customers.

Read more about this topic:  Jim Allchin, Biography

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