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Gates moans to press in PR spectacle (Not)

The Microsoft boss' charm offensive is sinking on the reef of his own intransigence

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The government is "trying to turn this into a PR spectacle," Microsoft legal consultant Charles F Rule told ranks of reporters as he stood in front of banks of video monitors yesterday. Rule was speaking at the Washington venue for a satellite interview with Bill Gates - but despite the apparent contrary signals, this is information, not "a PR spectacle," right? Microsoft's justification for mounting an apparent PR spectacle while denouncing the antitrust trial as one was put succinctly by Rule: "Our focus is in the courtroom, but we cannot and will not stand by without responding." The sub-Churchillian Mr. Rule is a former head of the DoJ's antitrust division, so is a gamekeeper turned poacher. But he's in good company - David Boies, the DoJ's main man in the trial, saved IBM from the feds in another lifetime. In reality yesterday's press conference was just another stage of the charm offensive Microsoft is mounting in a bid to repair the damage caused by Bill Gates' video deposition. Bill started this off the other week (Gates moans to press), and Microsoft is starting to hint at the possibility that he'll be used as a "rebuttal witness" later in the trial. Neither side has called him so far, but the Microsoft legal team may now feel it has to play the Gates card to recoup the situation. Or alternatively, they may be privately thinking a further spectacular screw-up by Bill in open court will save their hides, and make it clear that Gates himself is the one responsible for the whole case going down the toilet. Because Bill's current 'rebuttal' schedule seems to have him zooming from interview to interview, front page to front page, and not giving an inch. Could it perhaps be that his ego won't let him? In the face of three days worth of video deposition that indicates quite the contrary, Gates continued yesterday to insist that David Boies had asked all the wrong questions, badgering Gates "to give yes or no answers when he knew the questions were ambiguous." Said Gates: "I had expected Boies to ask me about competition in the software industry, but no, he didn't do that." What this means in the Wonderful World of Bill Gates isn't entirely clear. Boies has indeed spent some considerable time asking His Billness questions that are pertinent to Microsoft's competitive position in the software industry (get your lawyers to check what the case is about, Bill). But no, we suppose Boies hasn't asked something like: "So what do you think about competition in the software industry, Mr Gates?" Yesterday Gates was still insisting: "I answered every question, but Boies made it clear that he is out to destroy Microsoft and make us look very bad." But the record shows that he didn't answer every question (unless you count speaking, eventually, after each of them as an answer). Boies meanwhile has yet to reveal the true nature of his dastardly mission from the Dark Side to anyone outside of Microsoft. The DoJ did issue a press statement yesterday, but disappointingly it did not begin: "I, David Boies, Grand Admiral of the Klingon Fleet, am engaged in a secret mission to make Microsoft look very bad." It simply said: "Microsoft's latest press statements are another public relations effort to distract attention from the overwhelming evidence introduced in court showing that Microsoft has illegally used its market dominance to block competition from innovative technologies that threaten its operating system monopoly." Shucks. Complete Register trial coverage

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