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Michael Dell rides to Gates' rescue

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MS on Trial Long-term Microsoft ally Michael Dell has ridden to the company's rescue - but in a surprisingly tentative way. In a Q&A session at Red Herring's Venture 2000 conference, Dell described the antitrust laws being applied to Microsoft as outdated, but kept his answers fuzzy when it came to confirming or denying his own company's experience of Microsoft's famously robust business methods. Like all the other PC OEMs Dell Computer has of course been on the receiving end of the contractual restrictions which were detailed during the trial, and were addressed in the US government's proposed judgment last week. Even though the Dells (man and company) are down-the-line supporters of Gates and his company, they must clearly have direct experience of the yoke. But asked about this, he simply said that Microsoft was an "intensely competitive company" and left it at that. Gates of course might have wanted something a little stronger here, but you can see that Dell was in a tricky position. He obviously does have direct experience of predatory practices as applied to his own company, and as that experience will be documented and could well appear in the public prints, he can't flat out lie. Plus he's an honest sort who wouldn't do that anyway, right? On the other hand, it wouldn't exactly be helpful to Bill if Dell had told the audience that he knew all about this stuff, and started to list it. So squirming was the order of the day. As regards the "outdated" nature of the antitrust laws, Dell takes the view that the way they're being applied to Microsoft indicates that any company with a high market share isn't allowed to produce "products that work better together." That's the old Bill cheerleader we know and love sticking firmly to the company line, and happily skipping over techno-sabotage, predation and exclusionary practices. But if he reads Judge Jackson's findings, he might care to note that the judge himself thinks that the law, while not exactly outdated, needs some updating. ® See also: Red Herring report Complete Register Trial coverage

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