In unequivocal terms, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates told the court that he would withdraw Windows from the market if forced by a court to produce a stripped-down version of the operating system.

Gates said the remedy “asks for the impossible” and compared the removal of seemingly modular, arbitrary parts of the system to removing a human heart.

US District Court states’ attorney Steven Kuney repeatedly questioned Gates as to whether he would make some effort to comply with the remedy before taking such a “drastic step” to pull Windows from the market.

“I don’t see how we could comply,” said Gates. Instead, he said the company “would come back to every court that would listen to us” and fight the remedy.

Gates will return to the witness stand to continue testifying in this landmark case as his company fights remedies sought by nine states that have refused to sign the Bush administration’s proposed settlement of the case. The states believe the deal isn’t tough enough.

‘Not enough demand’ In questioning yesterday afternoon, Kuney focused on the states’ proposal requiring Microsoft to allow PC makers to sell a stripped-down version of the operating system or include competing middleware products such as browsers and media-players without the equivalent Microsoft product.

Microsoft could still sell its full-featured version of Windows.

The settlement reached by the Bush administration allows PC makers to remove end-user access to Microsoft applications, but the code remains in the operating system.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is running the case on two tracks, considering both the settlement and the remedies sought by the non-settling states.

In response to questions, Gates said he doubts there is enough demand for a version of Windows XP with less functionality to make such a product commercially attractive.

Kuney also questioned Gates at length about an aspect of the Microsoft chairman’s written testimony in which he said that Netscape Navigator and Java “supposedly had the potential to become general-purpose software-development platforms.”

A key government claim in the case was that Microsoft viewed Navigator and Java as platform-threats. Kuney homed in the Gates’ use of the word “supposedly”, presenting evidence, memoranda, and emails introduced during the trial, to show that Microsoft characterized them as platform-threats.

Gates acknowledged that that was the case, and said, “I would be glad to strike the word supposedly” from the written testimony.

Gates keeps his cool Kuney continued to press the point, raising objections from Microsoft lead attorney Daniel Webb, who said: “Enough is enough,” and charged that Kuney was attempting to retry the original case.

Kuney said the evidence related to the credibility of what Gates has said on the stand.

Throughout the day, Gates kept his calm on the witness stand, frequently smiling, and occasionally eliciting laughter from the judge and spectators. At one point, Kuney introduced a question by saying: “Do you recall testifying yesterday afternoon,” and before Kuney could finish, Gates said with a grin “yes”. Unlike some witnesses, he did not seem visibly rattled.

The Bush administration reached an antitrust settlement with Microsoft last June. But the District of Columbia and nine of the 18 states in this case said the settlement didn’t go far enough to restore competition and protect against other threats of monopoly, such as handhelds, set-top boxes, and server operating-systems.

The non-settling states are California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, West Virginia, and Utah.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly held a hearing on the settlement last month and is deciding whether to accept it or not. The phase considering the remedy has been going on for six weeks, and is expected to continue for more than two months.