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Breaking up Microsoft is as ludicrous as breaking up . . . whoever wins the World Series

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While the federal court winds up its elastic in Washington, the Court of Public Opinion has been hearing some propaganda from chairman Bill Gates during a whistle stop tour of the US. After fielding a couple of awkward questions yesterday at the Gartner Symposium in Florida (Gates under fire over upgrade pricing; Now Microsoft plans to integrate database in the OS), he went on to Charlotte, North Carolina, to reward Senator Lauch Faircloth, who just happens to be up for re-election in a couple of weeks, with a personal tour of Microsoft's product support centre. Faircloth supported Microsoft against the DoJ, saying "breaking up Microsoft is as ludicrous as breaking up . . . whoever wins the World Series". Gates contribution to the speeches was a none-too-subtle threat that action against Microsoft would be bad for the US economy: "We certainly have a concern . . . that regulation could take the steam out of what's been driving the economy . . . certainly there's going to be a lot of concern nowadays with the difficulties in Asia . . . about what can happen to the American economy." In various speeches, Gates has been leaning heavily on what he likes to interpret as a "win" in the Court of Appeals, but the merits of Microsoft's case did not cause the overturning of Judge Jackson's preliminary injunction against the tying of IE and Windows: it was the imprecision of words added to the consent decree by Microsoft and accepted by former antitrust chief Anne Bingaman that lost the DoJ the appeal. Another sympathy-seeking theme from Gates is his insistence on the need to be able to innovate, accompanied by a reference to the court of appeals opinion that a court could not be involved in software design, which really means that the appeals judges didn't want to get involved in understanding the issues. When Scott Winkler of Gartner asked Gates to name Microsoft's three most important innovations, he came up with: the development of software according to common industry standards [for which read proprietary protocols]; NT; and the incorporation of high-volume transaction capabilities into NT. Winkler retorted that "What you are doing is not innovating technology [but rather] taking other technologies and simply applying them to your business model" to market them. ® Complete Register trial coverage

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