Gates paves way for opening up Windows source

Oh no he doesn't, shout panic-stricken spinmeisters in unison...

Bill Gates was reported in a Bloomberg news release last night as saying that "Microsoft Corp would be willing to open the source code for its Windows software to competitors if that was all it would take to settle the antitrust case filed by the Justice Department". Gates was also attributed as saying that "If we can have a settlement, we're going to do absolutely our best to achieve it". But minutes later, Microsoft spokesman Greg Shaw claimed: "He did not make any of the comments regarding source code that were attributed to him.'' Another Microsoft spokesman, Jim Cullinan, said "We've talked to Bill, and Bill said he never said that. That issue [presumably opening Windows source code] is not even related to this case." Bloomberg then issued a correction, saying it had been advised by Microsoft that its earlier report of Gates' comment should read: "Bill Gates agreed with the statement that Microsoft Corp would be willing to open the source code for its Windows software to competitors in order to settle the antitrust case..." Not much difference, you may well think. Matthew Winkler, Bloomberg News editor-in-chief, proclaimed: "We stand by our story. He was asked specifically [if Microsoft would be willing to open the Windows source code in order to settle the case] and the answer he gave was yes [if that's all it took]." It turns out that after the on-camera part of the interview for Bloomberg Television had finished, Gates' response to the critical question was not captured on video or audio tape. Although Gates was apparently smiling at the time, there was no elaboration about any unacceptable settlement conditions, which were implied in his response. It could therefore be reasonably assumed that he thought he was speaking off-the-record, so his response could be a reliable indicator of the state-of-play in the mediation. Gates was in San Francisco for the Windows 2000 launch and was interviewed by Dylan Ratigan, the Bloomberg TV anchor. On Wednesday the WSJ had reported that Microsoft would be willing to agree to greater disclosure of Windows, amongst other concessions, so the Bloomberg interview is really an elaboration of that, from the horse's mouth, as it were. But in earlier interviews, and in the taped part of the Bloomberg interview itself, he'd seemed to rule this out. Judge Posner may well be peeved at these disclosures, since he told both sides not to speak to the press about the content of the talks. Gates has said that he has been spending considerable time personally on trying to reach a settlement, and pressure is mounting prior to the last scheduled hearing before Judge Jackson next Tuesday about the proposed findings of law. It is probable that a sticking point is whether a behavioural remedy would be sufficient to stop Microsoft's anti-competitive activities, with the DoJ most likely pressing that only a structural break-up would provide relief for the industry, and Microsoft being adamantly opposed to break-up. ®

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