Microsoft chairman Bill Gates hit the interview circuit Tuesday in the face of reports stating that the U.S. government would seek to have his company broken up. Gates delivered a staggering attack on his detractors, saying that consumers would be hurt if Microsoft was broken up because the "synergy" between its Office and Windows groups was the reason behind its success. It's an intriguing tactic for a man who once claimed that a "Chinese wall" separated the various product teams at Microsoft, preventing them from colluding in ways that were impossible for third party developers. But with the government finally committing to a serious remedy in the Microsoft antitrust trial, Gates may have no choice: In the trial, it's all about benefiting consumers. And if consumers benefit from the Office team working closely with the Windows team, then so be it.
"We wouldn't have Windows today if it hadn't been for the Office group and the Windows group working together," Gates said. "It was the thinking that was done \[in both groups\], being in one company, going after a new user interface, taking a huge risk, that we were able to create Windows. We need to have our research people, our Office people, our Windows people all in one group taking breathtaking risks on this breakthrough user interface that is delivered in this next phase of the Internet."
This, of course, isn't news to the WordPerfects and SmartSuites of the world, whose makers have long complained that the close working relationship between the Office and Windows teams gave Microsoft Office an unfair advantage. Office, they said, got early access to APIs, insider information, and other technologies that were unavailable to third party developers. So it seems that these decades-old complaints are valid, if Gates' statements this week are to be believed. But with its back to the wall, it's unlikely that Microsoft will worry about this curious turn of events, as it has bigger problems to deal with. Friday, the government will present Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson with its proposed remedy in the Microsoft antitrust trial. And as reported previously in WinInfo, it looks like a breakup will be the prescribed remedy.