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Gates deposition called evasive

Sources say Microsoft CEO Bill Gates is being cagey in his deposition to attorneys from the DOJ and the New York attorney general's office.

In a boardroom at Microsoft headquarters, chief executive Bill Gates yesterday gave his deposition in the pending antitrust case against the software giant to attorneys from the Justice Department and the New York attorney general's office, in much the same fashion that he delivered his earlier testimony before a Senate committee.

"He was evasive and nonresponsive," a source said.

Citing an example, the source said that when Gates was asked to verify a quote attributed to him in a published article, he said he would have to view the transcript of the interview to see its full context before commenting.

His tone throughout the questioning was consistent with that of his testimony last March before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a hearing that evaluated "Market Power and Structural Change in the Software Industry."

During the hearing, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told Gates he was hard to nail down as far as providing answers to the question of whether Microsoft imposed any limits on content providers when it came to advertising agreements or promoting the company's competitor in the browser arena, Netscape. Hatch repeatedly rephrased the same question before an answer was drawn out.

The deposition yesterday was part of the broad antitrust case filed against Microsoft by both the DOJ and attorney generals from 20 states and the District of Columbia. Representing the states in the deposition were three attorneys from New York Attorney General Dennis Vacco's office.

Accompanied by three Microsoft attorneys, Gates was deposed by the state of New York from 9 a.m. and until 3 p.m PT yesterday. For the remainder of the day, until 6 p.m., he was deposed further by three Justice Department attorneys.

Representatives from Microsoft, the department, and Vacco's office declined to comment on the deposition.

But according to a report today in the Seattle Times, Gates was questioned about Microsoft's pricing and its practice of bundling new software products into its Windows operating system.

During the deposition, Gates said he was unaware of any attempt to convince competitor Netscape Communications that the Internet browser market should be divided into the two camps, according to the newspaper report. In addition, Gates was expected to be asked about an alleged attempt to do the same with Apple Computer in the multimedia streaming space.

The Justice Department, which resumed its questioning of Gates today, is expected to conclude the deposition today. It could spill over into Monday, however, one source said.

The session is being videotaped, in case the courts rule in favor of providing public access to the depositions taken from Gates and more than a dozen other Microsoft executives.

The trial is set to begin on September 23.