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Tech Industry

Microsoft gets it from all sides

In the wake of ponderous legal woes, the software giant is taking hits from the competition, the government, and self-proclaimed Microsoft critics.

    It's not duck season, and it's not rabbit season. It's Microsoft season.

    In the wake of ponderous legal woes, Microsoft is taking hits from all sides, including the competition, the government, and self-proclaimed Microsoft critics.

    This week outspoken Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison accused archrival Microsoft of taking "outrageous" and "illegal" measures to protect its dominance in the computer operating system business. Ellison alleged that Microsoft uses its monopoly to drive other companies, such as Netscape Communications, out of business.

    "I think every American of voting age should file suit against Microsoft," he added, the Boston Globe reported.

    Sun Microsystems chief Scott McNealy echoed the anti-Microsoft sentiment, arguing that Microsoft should be forced to divest from all its minority investments or be broken up.

    "I would say you must divest yourself of all minority investments and no longer make any other equity investments of any size in any other company...rather than buying, bundling, and beating up on smaller competitors who are out there actually trying to innovate," he told Boston business executives this week.

    "When you look at what our competitors and other anti-Microsoft critics are saying, it is pretty clear we've entered the silly season," said Mark Murray, a Microsoft spokesman. "There seems to be a tendency right now for our competitors and for our critics to compete with each other to see who can say the goofiest thing about Microsoft in the press."

    The anti-Microsoft swell comes despite some polls that claim widespread sympathy for the software maker among consumers and general appreciation for the tens of thousands of jobs the company has created.

    Nevertheless, Web sites that take pot shots at Microsoft abound.

    Pie Gates
    Just one example of anti-Bill Gates humor on the Net

    Many sites host games and pictures based on Gates's visit to Belgium, in which the Microsoft chairman was hit in the face with a cream pastry--a cake or possibly a pie--as he was entering a government building to give a speech on education.

    One site--a sarcastic spoof on Gates--joins Microsoft's competitors in decrying Microsoft's alleged monopoly power, claiming that the company uses its position of power to control innovation in the technology industry.

    There also are several domains that capture such negativity, such as "ihatebillgates.com."

    "We try to take the spoofs with a sense of humor," said Murray. "We try to laugh when they are funny and we try to ignore them when they are mean-spirited."

    There are, however, some Pro-Microsoft Web sites to be found, including the Committee for the Moral Defense of Microsoft, Team Gates, the Objectivity Technology Forum, and The Association of Software Companies.

    Reuters contributed to this report.