Microsoft senior VP Joachim Kempin spent a day in the hot seat Thursday, defending the software giant's PC maker contracts during the historic antitrust trial. Kempin is in charge of any Windows licensing contracts that are made with PC makers, so his first-hand knowledge of these deals is of particular interest. And the government started right in with questions about why PC makers cannot alter the Windows boot-up sequence.

"\[Microsoft's developers\] didn't like the idea OEMs would be allowed to butcher the Windows Os," he said. Kempin says that changing the boot-up sequence would violate Microsoft's intellectual property and confuse customers, who should expect each Windows installation to behave identically.

"We don't allow \[PC makers\] to alter the last chapter of the book because they don't like the ending," Kempin said.

Lead government attorney David Boies then turned to the Windows desktop and complaints from Hewlett Packard, Gateway, and Compaq that they were unable to remove Microsoft's icons and replace them with icons of their own choosing. He also produced an email from Microsoft CEO Bill Gates to Kempin complaining about the modifications PC makers were making to the Windows desktop.

"A lot of \[PC makers\] are bundling non-Microsoft browsers and coming up with offerings together with ISPs that get displayed on their machines in a FAR more prominent way than MSN or our Internet browser." Gates wrote. "Winning Internet browser share is a very, very important goal for us."

After arguing a bit over the meaning of the word "prominent" (Kempin argued that certain PC makers were placing their own icons in positions that were supposed to be occupied by IE and MSN) Boies revealed that Microsoft was charging PC makers that didn't alter the Windows desktop less money for Windows. And in the afternoon session, Kempin admitted that certain high-volume PC makers got letters of exception that allowed them to modify the desktop but still get lower pricing