Microsoft's 'Jihad' Jam

It's that videotaped testimony again: Bill Gates gets even more contorted

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Here's one memo you don't want to be caught red-handed with, especially if your name is Bill Gates: "We need to continue our jihad next year." The author was Microsoft executive Brad Chase, the year was 1996, and the subject was the battle for the Internet browser market with rival Netscape. Given that Microsoft is now accused of throwing antitrust law to the wind in the single-minded pursuit of controlling that market, such language doesn't look too good. So, Mr. Gates, what exactly did Mr. Chase mean by jihad? "I think," the software boss told government lawyers in his videotaped testimony, "he is referring to our vigorous efforts to make a superior product and to market that product."

And that was just one of a number of highly embarrassing verbal contortions played for the benefit of the federal courthouse Monday. Confronted with one of his own mails in which he describes enhanced "browser share" as Microsoft's "No. 1 mission," Gates shot back: "We didn't mean browser share, we meant browser usage." Bill Clinton would be proud. Clinton, of course, didn't have to face a single judge with arbitrary power. Thomas Penfield Jackson, the man who will determine Microsoft's fate, was spotted chuckling and shaking his head as Gates tied himself in knots trying not to use the word "Netscape." It doesn't look good for the defendants - and there are still 19 hours of the Gates tape left to run.