A bitter and battling Bill Gates slammed Wednesday's court-ordered breakup as "unwarranted" and "unprecedented" and predicted Microsoft would ultimately win the case on appeal.
"I believe very strongly that today is the first day for the rest of this case," said the Microsoft chairman, flanked on stage by many of his senior advisors during an afternoon conference at the company's Redmond campus. Reacting to US district judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's decision to split Microsoft into two entities, Gates said the company planned to seek a stay of the order. In the meantime, he said, the ruling was a troubling harbinger that "says to creators of intellectual property that government can take away what you created if it gets too popular."
Gates said Microsoft would continue development efforts in advance of the much-hyped rollout later this month of a new software architecture governing Windows in the post-PC era.
But during a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, Gates complained that Microsoft had been "denied its day in court" by the judge's refusal to grant the software maker extra time to reply to the government's breakup proposal.
If today's judicial decree remains in place, Gates said, it would hamstring the software giant's ability to improve its product and prevent Internet Explorer from ever being upgraded. "It really flies in the face of the kind of improvements that have benefited consumers," he said, calling Jackson's order an "unwarranted and unwanted intrusion into software marketplace" .
Gates, returning to a theme voiced by Microsoft executives during the course of the trial, said the core issue was whether the company had the right to put Internet support into the Windows operating system. "It's really common sense that our operating systems and other operating systems would do great job of supporting the Internet."
The prospect of a Microsoft breakup still remains far over the horizon. The company's chief legal strategist, Bill Neukom, said Microsoft expected the appellate phase to last "at least a year or longer".
The well-worn divide separating Microsoft from the government has been a matter of record for the last couple of years. But in a rare break from the usual script, Gates voiced regret at not having personally appeared in court during the antitrust case.
Although segments of Gates' videotaped testimony were played in court, the government was able to use the Microsoft chairman's words against him by comparing his statements with policy positions gleaned from e-mail and other company documents. "The whole story of Microsoft, the whole story of the PC was missed here," Gates said. "Perhaps I should have gone in [to testify in] person."
Taking aim at judge later in the day, Neukom took aim at what he described as procedural errors in "fashioning new law" and in creating new rules as the case went on, "always in Microsoft's detriment". He said Microsoft would file a motion with Jackson to stay his judgment while the appellate court considers taking the case.
Neukom said Microsoft would also attempt to block a so-called "fast-track" effort by the government to move the case directly for consideration by the Supreme Court. That stance reflects the prevailing confidence among members of Microsoft's antitrust team that they can gain a more sympathetic hearing during the appellate process.
Pundits claim the Microsoft breakup ruling won't have any impact. They say it will take years for the appeals process to finish. Jesse Berst says they're wrong. He says we'll start to feel the effects very soon. Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.
Take me to the DoJ/Microsoft special.