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DoJ springs trap for Bill Gates

Justice's opening set out to prove Gates less than truthful, and to undermine his credibility as a witness

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The US Department of Justice aimed straight for Bill Gates at the opening of the Microsoft antitrust trial yesterday, comparing and contrasting the video testimony he'd given with what he'd said in earlier Microsoft internal documentation. Gates won't be in the court and his credibility, not to mention his courage, is clearly going to come under heavy fire. Steve Houck, the lawyer leading for the 20 states and the District of Columbia (whose action against Microsoft has been merged with that of the DoJ), drew attention to Gates' absence as a witness for Microsoft: "Given Mr Gates' key role in these events, the only explanation for his failure to appear is his lack of intestinal fortitude." But DoJ special counsel David Boies led on the credibility thing. On one of the three tapes played, Boies asked Gates whether he was aware of the DoJ claim that Microsoft had tried to divide the browser market with Netscape. Gates replied: "I think somebody said that is in there" and went on to say that he had read about the claim in the WSJ in April this year. A second video clip had Gates denying that he was involved in the 21 June 1995 meeting with Netscape at which it is alleged that the browser market carve up was discussed. "I wasn't involved in setting up the meeting," Gates said, and claimed he played no part in the allegation that Microsoft wanted the Windows browser market and was willing to let Netscape have the remaining markets for its browser. Clip three had Gates being asked whether he had responded to an employee question about whether it made sense to invest in Netscape, to which he replied that it did not (a bad decision, as it turned out). Then Boies produced a document written by Gates shortly before the meeting with Netscape which said: "I think there is a very powerful deal of some kind that we can do with Netscape [in the browser market] I would really like something like that happen." Having sprung the trap, Boies showed the fourth video extract in which Gates was shown a message he had written, in which he said: "We could also give [Netscape] money as part of the deal, buy a piece of them or something." The only conclusion that could reasonably be drawn from the video evidence is that Gates was not telling the truth about the Netscape meeting, and did indeed orchestrate it. Boies went on to extend the attack to Gates' involvement in attempts to bully other companies, Intel being a prime example. Microsoft was accused during the summer of forcing Intel to abandon some software development, and Gates has gone on the record as denying that anything of the sort took place. But Boies produced a Gates email saying to Microsoft executives that he would be happy not to give AMD backing if Intel abandoned its plans for Java. Intel arch-rival AMD had at the time been negotiating with Microsoft. Boies didn't establish that such a proposal was made to Intel (although Intel did back down), but said it was an example of Gates putting together a deal that could pressure Intel. "If you stop supporting my competitor, I'll stop supporting your competitor," Boies said. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories

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