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Lawyers spin after Gates video

And will the US elections keep Billy-Boy off the front pages?

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The cordon sanitaire that has surrounded Bill Gates and prevented any public embarrassment was breached on Monday afternoon. John Warden, Microsoft's trial attorney, may well have been going slowly under instruction for the last two weeks, so that the first tape of Gates deposition -- and the one that would be most publicised -- would be seen just before US election day. This would have the effect of minimising the negative headlines as election day front pages are less likely to have any detail and in-depth comment about Gates' performance. Microsoft's PR team must now hope that public interest in the Gates video testimony wanes. Microsoft can then concentrate on spreading its own spin on the proceedings to the majority who have no direct knowledge of what is really happening. Judge Jackson decided after consulting lawyers for both sides and spending around an hour considering the issue that the tape could be released to the media after the court had heard it. He then adjourned for the morning, saying that "I will anticipate with some pleasure the viewing of deposition testimony, beginning at 2pm". Jackson is increasingly accepting the arguments from the DoJ rather than Microsoft. It is not unusual for a federal judge to prefer the government side, but in this case, it is quite possible that Jackson was not pleased to be overruled by the court of appeals over his December interim injunction, and the appointment of Professor Lessig as a special master. An email Paul Maritz in January 1997 is going to be very hard to explain away: "To combat [Netscape] we have to position the browser as 'going away' and do deeper integration on Windows. The stronger way to communicate this is to have a 'new release' of Windows and make a big deal of it." The email casts some light on the hatching of Windows 98, and is a smoking gun, showing intent to integrate the browser with Windows to harm Netscape, and not in response to customer demand, as Microsoft likes to claim. Stephen Houck, the lead attorney for the 20 states and DC, has carved out a role as the media's deep throat on the case, since he has little chance to say anything in court because of a decision by Judge Jackson that only one attorney from each side may ask questions of a witness. He has taken to doing his deep throat act on the courthouse steps, alongside Mark Murray and Bill Neukom, Microsoft's spokesman and head lawyer, respectively. Houck volunteered that Warden objected to the video of Gates being released to the public, and wanted just the text released. Murray interrupted Houck and disagreed with Houck's interpretation. At this rate the courthouse steps will soon be a public debating forum, rather like Hyde Park Corner. Mysteriously, Neukom's courthouse steps statements are word perfect when they appear in comment on Microsoft's Web site, but don't seem to appear elsewhere. Murray claimed that the government (as the DoJ is generally referred to) wished "to paint Mr Gates in a negative light" and make the revelations "sensational". Murray's claim that Gates "answered the questions in a precise and accurate way" was perhaps the most misleading statement of the whole day. Boies did not comment on Gates deposition outside the court room, but observed that "The court will have to determine what weight to give what parts of the testimony". ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories Click for story index

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