Gates Gets Defensive

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WASHINGTON: "Free the snippets!" That's the message reporters have worn on buttons since way back on the second day of the Microsoft trial, after Redmond lawyers began to use the defense that the government was taking "snippets of e-mail" and Microsoft memos out of context. Five weeks and a deluge of damning "snippets" later, it's still the company line -- as shown by Bill Gates's interview with the Associated Press late Wednesday, in which the software titan accuses the government of doing its best "to put words in my mouth." Not surprisingly, Gates now says he would rather have gone on the stand in person than allowed prosecutors to pick and choose which parts of his videotaped deposition to play. "It's more about government p.r. than the substance of the case," he claims.

It is, however, getting progressively more difficult to put Microsoft's legal woes down to misleading snippets that only appear to show anticompetitive behavior. Tuesday's ruling in the Sun Microsytems suit, for one, forces the company to stop pushing a "polluted" Windows-only version of Java; the judge said Sun's case had "real merit." Gates has since grudgingly decided to support pure, Scott McNealy-brand Java in Windows 98. "We're moving to make our product comply with the order," he told the AP. Will the beleaguered billionaire be saying the same once the government case is complete? "Just wait until the Microsoft people actually get up there and talk about these relationships" with other software companies, Gates warned. Maybe then the snippets can return to their natural habitat.