A Kinder, Gentler Microsoft Responds to Critics

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If last week looked bad for Bill Gates —a judge ordered him to hand over the heretofore secret blueprints for Microsoft Windows—this week may be even worse. For starters, he’ll be spending at least two days with a pack of federal prosecutors, who will grill him on Wednesday and Thursday about Microsoft’s alleged anticompetitive practices. He’ll also spend some of the week batting back accusations that the firm’s new Windows 98 operating system was “undercooked” and rushed to market before it was ready. Though the software has been selling briskly, critics have been compiling an increasingly lengthy list of bugs in the program. Gates, typically, is ready on both fronts with Microsoft’s new “gentle” strategy: the firm plans to give away the update for free at microsoft.com starting Aug. 18, helping to squelch complaints about the new software. And Gates’ lawyers will ask this week to have the federal suit thrown out of court, arguing that depositions of Netscape veeps have done nothing to show that Microsoft tried to force its smaller competitor out of the market. This may be a kinder, gentler Microsoft, but it’s still on the offensive.