Gates Hangs Tough at Shareholders' Meeting

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If anybody's wondering what the mood is among the Microsoft faithful, yesterday's annual shareholder's meeting gave a strong indication: when Bill Gates left the podium, they mobbed him like a rock star. That's a lot of enthusiasm for an 8 AM meeting. But based on his remarks at that meeting, Gates's own position is less clear: is he, as he claims, ready to make a deal with the Department of Justice, or will he fight to the bitter end?

"We're willing to go a long way to address the government's concerns," said Gates, characterizing himself as "somebody who is quite pragmatic." "Throughout the case," he insisted, "we've welcomed any opportunity to resolve the case."

So much for the preliminaries. But in fact, much of Gates's speech was a reiteration of the kind of unhelpful rhetoric that has served as Microsoft's public face throughout the trial. Gates stayed 100% on message, insisting that through its anti-trust action the Department of Justice is simply restricting Microsoft's right to innovate. "At the heart of this lawsuit is really one question," Gates said. "Can a successful American company continue to innovate and improve its products for the benefits of consumers?" This from the company that threatened to cancel Macintosh Office 97 if Apple didn't make Microsoft's Internet Explorer its standard browser. MORE >>