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Bill Gates stages rally to plead his cause

BILL GATES, chief executive of Microsoft, staged a campaign rally in mid-town Manhattan yesterday in a new attempt to dissuade the US government from delaying the launch of his Windows 98 software.

The glitzy rally, held under the less than snappy slogan, "for continued PC industry innovation and economic growth", was billed as a major media event with elaborate technical assistance laid on. Representatives and employees of computer companies and distributors of Microsoft software were invited.

With one month to go before the scheduled launch of Windows 98, this was the latest in a series of lobbying efforts by Microsoft to defend its cause. Microsoft fears that the US Justice Department could take out an injunction against the release of the new Windows software pending the outcome of a pending legal battle.

Microsoft is contesting a Justice Department suit charging that Microsoft has been unfairly exploiting its virtual monopoly of the software market by trying to dominate access to the Internet as well. The case went to appeal last month, with Microsoft arguing that the government was encroaching on the right of commercial companies to innovate. Its counsel also argued that the government's specific complaint - that Microsoft made the installation of Windows conditional on the inclusion of its Internet browser, Internet Explorer - could be made obsolete by the release of Windows 98.

Since falling foul of the Justice Department at the turn of the year, Microsoft has invested considerable time and money lobbying Congress and trying to retrieve the company's image as the consumer's friend.

Mr Gates has increased the number of his public appearances, and used them to deny that his company has, or wants, a monopoly.