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Microsoft lawyer claims AOL deal makes lawsuit dead parrot

We think he means the DoJ should just stand back and let everybody compete unfairly with everybody else...

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Microsoft general counsel William Neukom won the race to get out of bed and state the predictable about the Netscape-AOL deal, but as according to our calculations he couldn't have started stating much before 7am Seattle time, we don't think Bill should give him a rapid rebuttal or instant punditry bonus (Register prediction at bottom of story). Neukom stated, incorrectly: "From a legal standpoint this proposed deal pulls the rug out from under the government." From a legal standpoint, it does nothing of the kind. If it were the case - which it is not - that the government's action against Microsoft was directed entirely and narrowly at proving that Microsoft had competed unfairly with Netscape, then AOL's proposed purchase of Netscape now wouldn't change anything. If Microsoft attempted to destroy the company, AOL trying to buy it now doesn't erase history. Silly old Bill (Neukom) is deliberately missing the point here, and if Netscape is now so weak that it's willing to sell out, well, that might just show how successful Microsoft has been, and how much money it could cost Microsoft if it were proved Microsoft had been successful by foul means. But the DoJ's case is a lot broader anyway, and Silly Billy (Neukom) is one of the ones who's been complaining (unsuccessfully) about how the DoJ has broadened the brief from an originally narrow case (this is untrue as well, as we're rapidly getting bored of pointing out). The DoJ is set on proving Microsoft is a monopoly, and that it uses that monopoly unfairly - Netscape is just one of the alleged victims it is putting forward. Neukom does however have one point - or at least, the half of a point. "This proposed deal shows that the government's case was and is unnecessary. Microsoft's competitors have always had the ability and the resources to change the competitive landscape overnight." The second sentence is perfectly true, and describes the world as Microsoft would like it to be. Hardball-playing competitors pursue their ends ruthlessly, using all the resources they have available and, because the playing field is level - they all do it, they can all do it if they want to - it's not something the regulators have a right to mess with. You might say, but don't the weak get screwed then? Microsoft no doubt would say that's their own fault, because they're not strong enough. Meanwhile the other Bill has been catching it from his local paper, the Seattle Times, which in a piece headlined "Gates on video is a Microsoft horror show" concludes: "Now, just five weeks into what could be a four-month landmark antitrust trial, Microsoft must rescue Gates' credibility - or desperately argue that his testimony and memory are irrelevant." The Times draws attention to the strangeness of Bill Gates III, son of Seattle lawyer Bill Gates II, perpetrating a major screw-up by going into testimony entirely unprepared. Gates III, the paper reckons, must have found the antitrust case so impossible to take seriously that he, well, didn't… ® Complete Register trial coverage

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