Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates gathered in New York with over 40 software developers, hardware manufacturers, resellers, and user group members to discuss his company's stand on the U.S. government and various states that are attempting to block the release of Windows 98. Gates says that such action wouldn't just hurt Microsoft, but could adversely affect the entire U.S. economy.
"Any attempt to block the release of Windows 98 would be a step backward," Gates said. "Innovation is progress, and progress is good for America."
"A delay will undermine our ability to meet the demand for the back-to-school and holiday seasons," said Compaq CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer. "We can't deprive customers of that opportunity."
"I'm not here as an advocate for Microsoft," said Storm President and CEO Bill Krause. "I'm here as an advocate for Windows 98 and the benefits it will offer for our customers."
Of course, Microsoft's biggest detractors couldn't resist the urge to make their own proclamations about Windows 98.
"Bill's creed that Microsoft be allowed to innovate is one of the most profoundly insincere statements I've ever heard in my life," said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. "This is not innovation in technology, this is innovation in business competition. If Microsoft had its way, there'd be only one piece of software in the world--the operating system. And every other piece of software is nothing more than an extension of the operating system \[, according to Microsoft\]."
Gates, however, stuck to the Microsoft line about integration and innovation.
"Windows 98 has been built as an integrated product. And one of the key features of it is the support of the Internet," he said. "The government is suggesting that we’re too powerful, that we’ve got too much support of the Internet in this product. And the irony there is unbelievable. Because the Internet is an agent to increase competition, to let people reach out to information. And so we think the government should encourage Internet support. Certainly all of our competitors are building the same support into their operating systems."
Interestingly, Microsoft also found support from an unexpected place: former Apple CEO John Scully, who said that the Redmond giant was tough but fair.
"I never thought of Microsoft as an innovator, but they are the best implementers in the world...The government shouldn't be messing around with what this industry is doing. It's government interference and a threat," he said. "\[Government interference\] would be harmful because so many companies are dependent on what Microsoft does.