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Bush uses I-word, tilts towards Microsoft

And surely somebody's been briefing him on 'consumer harm'

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Microsoft's "freedom to innovate" slogan inflitrated the Bush campaign slightly last night, as George W fielded a question about the trial in a CNBC interview. He ducked, declining to talk about an ongoing case, but got the I-word into a brief answer, twice.

The Candidate is obviously still kind of talking in code, but from Microsoft's point of view the right triggers were in what he said. "But I will tell you this, I have always stood on the side of innovation over litigation," he said in the more coded part.

The next bit was almost in clear: "I think that some fundamental questions ought to be asked: Are the customers being harmed and is innovation being stifled?" Given Dubya's alleged reading preferences, it's unlikely he's been through sufficient trial material to grasp relevant markets and consumer harm adequately, but you can kind of track the fingerprints of a briefing here.

Microsoft accuses the government of stifling innovation, and hotly disputes that it has harmed consumers. On the contrary, it claims it has kept software prices low (and trucks out experts to prove how crazily high prices would otherwise be) and has benefited consumers producing ever more powerful software. Which is the innovation bit.

Bush's preference of innovation over litigation could of course mean almost anything, but as Microsoft has virtually TMed the I-word it ought to send out a message of good cheer to company supporters. George W may not be as ballistic on the subject as Slade Gorton (could anyone be?), but he's at least showing signs of tilting toward Redmond.

And earlier this year he was a little bit more expansive on the innovation-litigation issue, saying that as president he would be "slow to litigate." See the link below for more on this.

Meanwhile earlier this week we have the curious case of the dog that seems not to have barked. Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman were both invited to Gartner's Florida fest, for an IT policy quizzing. Cheney didn't show, but Lieberman seems to have held court, pushing a hands-off government policy on the Internet and technology, and favouring self-regulation for the industry. But he doesn't seem to have said anything about the Microsoft trial, doesn't even seem to have been asked. Suspicious-minded people might find that suspicious. ®

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