Re: Despite Antitrust Efforts, Microsoft Rules in Government Offices.

I Find Karma (
Sat, 9 May 1998 23:30:08 -0700

> > Did Byars post the LA Times article on April 10, 1998 about
> > Microsoft PR writing letters to editors of newspapers and magazines
> > as part of a pre-Win98 publicity push?
> Nope I don't think that I did.

Okay, then I'll do it. Mind you, the mainstream press -- the LA Times --
printed (and continues to print) this kind of tripe...

Byars, you'll dig this:
> "At Microsoft," the ads read, "the freedom to innovate for our customers
> is more than a goal, it is a principle worth standing up for."

By GREG MILLER and LESLIE HELM, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
April 10, 1998

Public relations: Times finds media strategy meant to give look of
public support. Firm says it's only a proposal.

Stung by the public relations fallout from antitrust investigations
of its business practices, Microsoft Corp. has secretly been planning a
massive media campaign designed to influence state investigators by
creating the appearance of a groundswell of public support for the
The elaborate plan, outlined in confidential documents obtained by
The Times, hinges on a number of unusual -- and some say unethical --
tactics, including the planting of articles, letters to the editor and
opinion pieces to be commissioned by Microsoft's top media handlers but
presented by local firms as spontaneous testimonials.
The stated targets of the campaign are attorneys general and
politicians in California and 11 other states that may be considering
antitrust action against Microsoft, which is already battling a suit
filed last year by the Department of Justice.
When asked about the campaign Thursday afternoon, Microsoft
spokesman Greg Shaw initially said he was unaware of such a plan.
"I'm not sure what it is," said Shaw, whose name appears throughout
confidential documents -- some of them labeled as draft copies --
that are part of a large binder of materials distributed under
Microsoft's name to the campaign's regional coordinators.
Later in the day, Shaw amended his remarks, acknowledging the plan
exists but saying it is merely a proposal and "not something we are
moving on." He acknowledged attending a meeting in Chicago on Monday
during which the plan was scheduled to be discussed in detail.
Shaw's characterization of the campaign was also contradicted by
knowledgeable sources who said it was presented to regional PR firms as
"a done deal" and that the firms were expected to come to the Chicago
meeting with detailed plans for their states.
Even if Microsoft has now decided to abort the plan, the documents
and the activities they describe reveal a great deal about how serious
the company considers its plight and the measures it is willing to
consider to protect its dominance of the software industry.
The entire effort is "geared to generating leveragable tools for
the company's state-based lobbyists," positive press clippings that
"state political consultants can use to bolster the case," according to
In fact, the Redmond, Wash.-based company has taken the unusual
step of arranging for one of its top media agencies to recruit a dozen
public relations firms known for their strong political connections in
targeted states.
A printed list of regional coordinators includes Jeff Eller, former
director of media affairs for President Clinton, a firm in Michigan run
by the former head of the state's Democratic Party and an Illinois
company that has played a central role in gubernatorial campaigns.
Other states targeted are Arizona, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania,
North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
When told of the planned campaign, state officials said such an
effort would succeed only in aggravating investigators.
"I've been battling this type of PR gimmickry for a long time, and
I can smell it 40 yards away," said Michigan Atty. Gen. Frank J. Kelley.
"It represents arrogance, and it's personally demeaning to me.
[Microsoft Chairman] Bill Gates would have been better off if he or one
of his representatives had picked up the phone and called me."
Even in the modern world of corporate spin control, the proposed
plan is unusual in its scope, tactics and targets.
The campaign is being choreographed by Edelman Public Relations, a
giant PR firm with close ties to Microsoft. But sources said it is
designed to appear not as a major thrust by Microsoft or Edelman, but as
an eruption of grass-roots support.
"They're trying to plant stories about how wonderful it is to do
business with Microsoft," one source said. "I just find it outright
wrong that Microsoft and Edelman are trying to hide their involvement in
According to the documents, local PR agencies are scheduled to
begin submitting opinion pieces to the media next week, followed in the
coming months by waves of other materials including glowing accounts
from Microsoft partners, consumer surveys and studies designed to show
the company's impact on each region's economy.
Letters to the editor are to be solicited from regional business
leaders. Opinion pieces are to be written by freelance writers, and
perhaps a "national economist," according to one document. The writers
would be paid with costs "billed to Microsoft as an out-of-pocket
The campaign, which could cost millions of dollars, is designed to
generate positive stories at critical junctures in Microsoft's legal
battles. One round of stories, a document says, "will coincide with
April 21 oral arguments before U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on
Microsoft motion to disqualify Lawrence Lessig as special master in
Microsoft antitrust case."
Microsoft is not the only company working behind the scenes to
influence these antitrust matters. Rivals including Netscape
Communications Corp. have cooperated extensively with investigators,
supplying documents and technology demonstrations designed to show that
Microsoft is abusing its monopoly position.
The various investigations center on Microsoft's attempts to extend
its monopoly in computer operating systems to Internet-browsing
software. The Justice Department accuses Microsoft of illegally trying
to bundle the two products, while Microsoft claims it has the right to
integrate the browser into the operating system as a new feature.
Sources close to Microsoft said the proposed campaign is an
outgrowth of the company's growing fears that it is being outgunned in
the media by rivals and perhaps even hostile state officials.
One stated goal of the campaign is to counter "negative, reactive
coverage that is driven by state attorneys general."
Media experts said many elements of the campaign seem clumsy,
adding to a perception that for all of Microsoft's prowess in software,
the company has little skill with public relations.
"Companies like Microsoft are run by engineering types who don't
understand the public," said Ian Mitroff, director of the USC Center for
Crisis Management, who added that base attempts to manipulate the media
and shape public opinion often fail.
"It's cynical," Mitroff said. "It assumes we're dumb."
This wouldn't be Microsoft's first public relations misstep. The
company was forced to try to soften its image in January after
suggesting Department of Justice lawyers were incompetent. Microsoft
also appeared to be thumbing its nose at the court by insisting it
couldn't carry out an order to separate its browser from its Windows
operating system.
As part of a subsequent publicity tour, Gates was unusually candid
about his family life and stressed Microsoft's contributions to schools
in interviews with Barbara Walters and other journalists.
On Thursday, the company began placing ads in a handful of
newspapers around the country, stating its case against regulators. "At
Microsoft," the ads read, "the freedom to innovate for our customers is
more than a goal, it is a principle worth standing up for."
The proposed multi-state campaign represents another component of
this broad media blitz.
The campaign appears to have been crafted by Rory Davenport,
Edelman's director of "grass-roots and political programs" in
Washington. Davenport is listed as an author of confidential documents,
but in a brief telephone interview Thursday, he would say only that
"there is no agreement for a campaign like that."
Another Edelman official whose name appears on the memos, Neal
Flieger, also responded to questions about the campaign by saying, "I'm
not prepared to amplify on that at all."
The Chicago meeting, attended by many, if not all, of the regional
coordinators, focused on the campaign. An agenda for the meeting
indicates that Shaw and Flieger were to be key speakers and refers to
the "Microsoft multi-state plan."
Both men acknowledged they were in Chicago on Monday, although
Flieger said it was merely to visit family. Other participants said the
meeting went forward as scheduled, and that regional coordinators flew
in from around the country to attend.
Shaw said elements of the plan may ultimately be pursued, but the
company has no intention of targeting attorneys general or states.
A number of state investigators, who are reportedly considering
filing within a month a suit against Microsoft for anti-competitive
practices, said they are prepared anyway.
"When it comes to knowledge of computer technology, I take my hat
off to Mr. Gates," said one attorney general. "But if he wants to enter
the field of political intrigue, I say welcome to my world, Mr. Gates,
I'm ready to do battle."

Okay, back to Doctor Tim...
> If you notice I'm not in favor of any of this. It's one thing for us
> to knock Microsoft, we have paid our dues and have that right. It's
> another for these Johnny cum lately's to jump into it.

Agreed. Who does the government think they are, anyhow -- I mean, how
can they have the gall to tell people what they can and cannot innovate?

If Netscape or whoever wants to beat Microsoft, let them do it on the
playing field, baby.

> On the same note, the I wish Billy G. would have had better bodyguards and
> they would have pumped the numnuts that threw the pie in his face full of
> lead. It's a dangerous precedent.

Also agreed. Speaking of dangerous precedents, check out the following
"Wired" piece I plucked off of Pointcast... what is THIS?...

[from the article below]
> "This is a very serious situation," he said. "Any government action that
> would derail or delay Windows 98 would hurt the American economy and
> would cost American jobs ... the effect would be profound and would
> ripple through the economy."

I understand what he's doing here, but is the high melodrama really

Let's see, it's May 10 and Win98 will ship in five days unless someone
somewhere gets his or her act together and demands a shut down. Yup, in
my mind, BillG's doing the right thing: stall them with whatever until
we've hit the point of no return...

-------------------- 8< from Wired, off Pointcast, over IE4 ------------

Wired News Report

6:02pm 5.May.98.PDT -- Flanked by a phalanx of computer company
executives and consumer group leaders at a midtown Manhattan office
building Tuesday, Microsoft head Bill Gates claimed that any attempt by
the US government to delay the release of Windows 98 would hurt the
nation's economy.

"This is a very serious situation," he said. "Any government action that
would derail or delay Windows 98 would hurt the American economy and
would cost American jobs ... the effect would be profound and would
ripple through the economy."

Gates' volley was the latest in Microsoft's public effort to stop state
and federal government attempts to break up Microsoft's perceived
control of the software industry.

The federal government and Microsoft are locked in a court battle in
which the Justice Department has accused Microsoft of violating an
antitrust agreement related to the Internet browser capabilities of its
Windows 95 operating system. And attorneys general of 14 states are
investigating antitrust allegations at the state level.

The rising heat in this battle between Microsoft and what seems
sometimes to encompass the entire world is probably because any action
against the software company will have to happen soon, as Windows 98 is
scheduled to be released to PC-makers on 15 May.

But Microsoft's public relations machine hasn't won many friends with
its increasingly heavy-handed message. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah),
chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who held hearings earlier
this year into Microsoft's business practices, even went as far as to
accuse Microsoft of coercing executives to Tuesday's event.

"It strikes me as curious that it was only after calls from Microsoft
that many of these individuals saw fit to sign letters and make public
appearances," he said.

After the news conference, Connecticut Attorney General Richard
Blumenthal, one of the state officials investigating Microsoft, said
that Microsoft's message to America may be backfiring.

"Some arguments made by Microsoft against government action seem to
support the view that Microsoft has excessive dominance that constitutes
a stranglehold -- and has illegally exploited it -- since it is saying
that Windows 98 is so absolutely essential to the PC industry," he said
in a statement.

While he declined to say exactly what action the states might take,
Blumenthal said any action would be aimed at moves by Microsoft that
could "harm consumers with higher prices and fewer choices."


I can't stop smiling, but I don't know why I'd want to anyway.
-- Velocity Girl