Microsoft judge laughs over Gates wordplay

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THE US judge in the Microsoft antitrust case shook his head in disbelief and laughed yesterday as the court watched Microsoft chairman Bill Gates questioning what was meant by the words "concern,'' "compete'' and "we'' in his videotaped pre-trial testimony yesterday.

Much of the hour-long segment related to the Justice Department's lead attorney, David Boies, pushing Mr Gates to say which company Microsoft saw as its largest competitor in the Internet browser market in January 1996.

Mr Gates repeatedly dodged Mr Boies' questions, although internal Microsoft e-mails and documents have shown that the company viewed Netscape Communications' Navigator browser as its biggest rival.

"My question is what non-Microsoft browsers were you concerned about in January 1996,'' Mr Boies asked. "Is it - are you asking me about when I wrote this e-mail or what are you asking me about?'' Mr Gates said.

"I'm asking you about January of 1996,'' Mr Boies said.

"That month?'' Mr Gates asked. "Yes, sir,'' replied Mr Boies. "And what about it?'' Mr Gates questioned again.

"What non-Microsoft browsers were you concerned about in January of 1996,'' Mr Boies repeated. "I don't know what you mean `concerned,'" Mr Gates said.

"What is it about the word `concerned' that you don't understand?'' Mr Boies replied."I'm not sure what you mean by it,'' Mr Gates said.

The Justice Department and 20 states allege Mr Gates orchestrated a scheme to protect Microsoft's Windows monopoly and crush possible threats.

- Bloomberg