Barbarians at the Gates

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WASHINGTON: On the Internet, Goliath crushed David. But when Bill Gates went head-to-head with Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the little guy -- aided by a gang of sympatico senators -- was finally able to get a slingshot in. Kicking off the hearings in a basketball-court-sized room, Sen. Orrin Hatch called for a fair fight. "Neither this hearing, nor any aspect of this committee's inquiry, are intended to serve as an arena for attacking any single company," he said.

Yeah, right. The Microsoft boss was thoroughly grilled over every aspect of his putative monopoly: Browser bundling. Predatory pricing. Shady licensing. Even Ted Kennedy and Strom Thurmond got in on the act. But they found themselves outpaced by Barksdale, a great showman. "Gentlemen, that's a monopoly," said the Netscape chief after asking for a show of hands from audience members with Windows 95. "We're letting the tail wag the dog here," he added.

Like a giant stung by bees, Gates looked slightly irritated throughout. He shrugged off charges of monopoly by declaring: "The products that Microsoft makes have a very short life span." He also tried his best to sound worried about the threat from Sun Microsystems, but Sun CEO Scott McNealy got far more sympathy for taking on the Redmond behemoth: "Would you go up against the most dangerous and powerful industrialist of our age?" he asked. The markets certainly wouldn't -- Microsoft stock was up three-eighths at the hearing's close.