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Gates book 2: Now Bill contradicts key MS witness

His computer systems are so great he knows everything about what's selling where. After all.

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The world according to Bill Gates' books continues to diverge from the one described in Gates' trial testimony - and now, too, in the testimony of other Microsoft antitrust witnesses. The first excerpts from Gates' new book Business @ the Speed of Thought earlier this week (I read all my email - Bill) showed Bill claiming he read all of his email carefully, when last year he apparently couldn't remember any of it, and now he seems to be implying that company economist witness Richard Schmalensee got it wildly wrong under trial cross-examination. Schmalensee came up with one of the more hilarious claims of the trial, saying that Microsoft's sales records were kept on scribbled bits of paper and, um, that was why it was pretty well impossible to produce breakdowns. Obviously no sane person was going to believe this nonsense, but it seemed just possible that Schmalensee at least, who is handsomely rewarded by Redmond, was prepared to accept it as gospel. But here's the truth according to a book excerpt, published in the Financial Times this week: "When figures are in electronic form, knowledge workers can study them, annotate them, look at them in any amount of detail," Gates wrote. "Going digital changes your business." Gates backs this up in an interview with the FT: "The sales results are in digital form, so anytime I want to I can look by country, by product, exactly how sales compare to budget, how they compare to other groups." Even more bizarrely, it seems Microsoft mouthpiece Mark Murray is still prepared to shore-up Schmalensee's ludicrous claims. Bill's wonderful description of Microsoft's Digital Nervous System, he says, is only dealing with sales data, while Schmalensee was specifically talking about tracking profits. Actually, you can see a possible small nugget of truth here. Bill is obviously going to want to know who's buying what and where, and it's a fairly small step to at least attach estimated revenues to those figures. But it's not particularly likely to be able to derive profit figures from that data. Old Schmalensee did however seem to go rather further than that. What he said was: "The state of Microsoft's internal accounting systems do not always rise to the level of sophistication one might expect from a firm as successful as it is." That is, he was strongly suggesting that there was no useful data at all, and that's clearly untrue. ®

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