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Gates addresses "CEO Summit"

Microsoft's chief outlines his vision of the Internet for more than 120 CEOs, but ducks questions about the antitrust lawsuits his company is facing.

Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates today addressed more than 120 CEOs and outlined his vision of the Internet, but ducked questions about one big issue facing the software giant: antitrust lawsuits.

"The antitrust lawsuit has not come up," said Gates. "We're talking about the Internet and the use of the Internet."

At the second annual "CEO Summit" in Seattle, Washington, which commenced today, more than 120 Fortune 1,000 CEOs have gathered from around the world to meet and collaborate on the growing technology needs of their businesses.

Gates said the two-day event will focus on technology and the Internet and how business is changing. Nicholas Negroponte, head of the M.I.T. Media Laboratory addressed the group earlier today. Security at the hotel where the summit was held was tight.

"[The Internet] is exciting stuff, and it is what we work on every day," said Gates. "Our goal [of this event] is to make sure it is a worthwhile use of the CEOs' time and to make better products," said Gates. "The key elements are empowering workers. How to get good news quickly, and to get bad news quickly. It is about being more electronic."

A panel on the information technology industry will convene tomorrow at the Microsoft campus.

One big focus of the event is the Net, Gates emphasized, noting that the event would center around a "digital nervous system," an electronic system that provides access to the information people need to solve business and customer problems.

According to Microsoft, the basic components of an effective digital nervous system include access to the Internet, reliable email, a powerful database, and powerful business applications.

About 65 percent of the CEOs who attended today's summit are based in the United States, and the remaining 35 percent are from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. They represent more than 35 industries.

The executives will be having a salmon dinner tonight at Gates's $60 million lakefront mansion, which took seven years to build.

Warren Buffett, Gates's friend and fellow billionaire, is set to give a speech after dinner tonight. Among the expected guests are wireless technology pioneer Craig McCaw, Tele-Communications Inc. chief executive John Malone, Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin, and Katherine Graham, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of The Washington Post Company.

Reuters contributed to this report.