Long-time Windows development chief James Allchin wrote in a January 2004 email to Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer and company co-founder Bill Gates that the software vendor had "lost sight" of customers' needs and said he would buy a Mac if he wasn't working for Microsoft.

"In my view, we lost our way," Allchin, the co-president of Microsoft's platform and services division, wrote in an email dated 7 January 2004. The email was presented as evidence late last week in the Iowa antitrust trial, Comes vs Microsoft Corp.

"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 our customers face are. I see lots of random features and some great vision, but that does not translate into great products."

Allchin, who has headed various aspects of Windows development since the mid-1990s but plans to retire at the end of this year with the shipping of Windows Vista, later wrote in the same email that he would buy a Mac if he was not a Microsoft employee, according to transcripts from proceedings in the class-action case obtained and posted by Groklaw.net, an open-source legal website.

Microsoft was unable to comment on the Allchin email immediately. Allchin has said in the past that Vista's delayed arrival - it shipped five years after Windows XP was released - was the result of a desire to improve its security and make it perform bug-free from the get-go.

As in past antitrust trials against Microsoft, much of the evidence came in the form of emails from Allchin and other Microsoft executives. Ironically, Allchin himself is quoted in two internal memos directing employees to get rid of all emails after 30 days.

"This is not something you get to decide," he wrote on January 23, 2000. "This is company policy. Do not think this is something that only applies to a few people. Do not think it will be okay if I do this, it hasn't caused any problems so far. Do not archive your mail. Do not be foolish. 30 days."