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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gates Denies Trying to Intimidate Microsoft Rivals




WASHINGTON -- Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates, the world's richest man, made his first extended appearance in the antitrust trial of his company, arguing in disembodied electronic form on a giant video screen that he and his company never tried to intimidate or hobble competitors in the technology industry.


In two hours of taped deposition shown Monday, Gates frequently fidgeted and questioned questions, private mannerisms for which he is well known. He frequently answered, "I don't remember" or "I don't recall." When asked a question, he sometimes paused for several seconds before answering, in almost cracking voice; at other times, he launched into a pitched and animated defense of himself and his company.


In one sense, the medium was a familiar one for Gates. At industry trade shows and other public appearances, he regularly appears on a large projection screen through a video linkup. But those appearances generally feature a cheery, well-coiffed executive mouthing scripted lines, not the often scowling, slouching man being jabbed by question after question from expert lawyers eager to trip him up.


In what was easily the most dramatic day of the now two-week-old trial, government lawyers pressed him about electronic-mail messages that he sent or received over the last four years.


Those documents, they contend, belie Gates' steadfast denials of bullying rivals and back up allegations that Microsoft has broken American society's rules of fair competition.


At one point, the lawyers zeroed in on an Aug. 8, 1997, memo that Gates wrote asking Microsoft executives about the status of talks with Apple Computer Inc. and how they might affect Microsoft's fight with Sun Microsystems Inc. over Java programming technology. "Do we have a clear plan on what we want Apple to do to undermine Sun?" Gates wrote.


David Boies, a lawyer working for the Justice Department, asked Gates on the tape whether he recalled sending the message.


"I don't remember sending it," Gates replied curtly.


"Any doubt you sent it?" Boies shot back.


Finally, Gates relented: "It appears to be e-mail I sent."


The Justice Department and 20 states are alleging a wide array of anti-competitive practices by Microsoft, whose Windows software runs on approximately 90 percent of the world's personal computers. Microsoft denies the allegations.