Gates Expounds on DOJ, His Net Focus

Self-appointed software architect explains why XML is so important, how the US government is wrong and where Windows is going.

Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates met with Network World Senior Editor John Fontana last week at NetWorld+Interop 2000 to talk about the antitrust case against his company and a variety of technology matters, including the role of XML, security standards, application service providers and those ever-present viruses.

Is a settlement in the antitrust case still possible, and if so, what would it take to bring it about?

We've always been very anxious to find any type of settlement.

We do have two key principles that are important to our customers. One is should Windows be able to support the Internet. What is the key disagreement here between us and the government? They disagree with our software design, they disagree that putting Internet APIs into Windows or putting the browser into Windows, they disagree that that was a good thing.

The other thing is that the name Windows has some integrity. The government's whole intent is that somebody can rip out part of Windows, change the user interface, and do whatever they want and call it Windows. And we say, if people do those things that is OK, but that shouldn't be called Windows.

When you buy a computer that says it runs Windows, you should know it's the user interface you read about, learned on another machine, saw in a software manual. . . . The idea is that the Windows trademark ought to mean something.

If you came to some conclusion on those issues, there could possibly be a settlement?

Look, those are the only things that, sure, if somebody were to cede that our choice of designing to support the Internet was both for customers and legally a great thing, I'm sure we would have some kind of a settlement.

If the government prevails, what will be the fallout in the industry, not immediately, but two or three years down the road?

What the government is trying to say is that the Office user interface and the Windows user interface [should] divert from each other so that they [are] incompatible. When you call to get support, they don't want the Windows company to ever talk to the Office company, so if you have anything that falls between the boundaries of those two things, they are going to guarantee that you are screwed. And there are dozens of things like that in [the government's proposal]. Their expertise is not what customers need in this world of software, and so the regulatory approach they come up with obviously is not going to work as well as the marketplace has worked on these things. So you have to say to yourself who [does the government] go after next; it's interesting to guess who that will be.

Any guesses?

I don't think I should speculate.

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