Microsoft Says It Got No Respect

The plot thickens as the government antitrust case against Microsoft is revealing through company memos the inner thoughts of its founder Bill Gates.

With all the hyperbole and melodrama of the Jerry Springer Show, the winding-down trial shows Gates to be a man who’s used to getting what he wants, very much in control — but prone to nasty temper tantrums.

According to testimony given from June 7th through June 9th by IBM executive Garry Norris, Gates often displayed his anger while complaining that rivals like IBM showed him no respect. In an internal memo to IBM’s executive board, IBM senior vice president Richard Thoman described an hour-long conversation he had with Gates on July 24, 1994. Thoman had made the call in an attempt to resolve issues between IBM and Microsoft.

“A general point is their perception of IBM’s non-respect for Microsoft,” Mr. Thoman said, in the memo. “Gates is irate because of the lack of respect he feels IBM has for Microsoft. He cited (IBM Chairman Louis V.) Gerstner’s quote in Business Week that Microsoft was a great marketing company, but not a great technology company, as an example.”

Conspiracy Theory?

Thoman also said that Gates was concerned about what Gates characterized as “smear campaigns” planned by IBM against Windows 95. From Microsoft’s point of view, many of its rivals were and are plotting against it.

In fact, earlier this week in court, an internal America Online Inc. e-mail revealed that its top executives debated whether to stop distributing Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, during its secret negotiations last fall to buy rival Netscape Communications Corp. But the e-mail also uncovered something even more interesting and contradictory to Gate’s lament. It showed the fear even AOL’s chief operating officer Robert Pittman had of Microsoft when he advised Chairman Steve Case that Microsoft was “too strong to throw them out of the tent.”

Meanwhile, as Microsoft lawyers try to paint a picture of a persecuted Gates surrounded by enemy companies set on destroying him, Transvirtual Technologies Inc., a Microsoft-funded company has successfully cloned key parts of Java, according to the Wall Street Journal. Java, a computer language originally developed by Sun Microsystems Inc., has also been branded a threat to Microsoft’s existence, according to Microsoft. Transvirtual’s Chief Executive Tim Wilkinson told the Journal that the new product called “Kaffe” would run only on the Windows operating system.

So in typical Microsoft fashion, the software giant is fighting a war on many different fronts simultaneously. While Gates claims he gets little respect from his rivals, it appears to some that it’s really the other way around.

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