WASHINGTON -- A new book due in stores later this week about Microsoft's behavior in the high-tech industry contains tough charges involving the world's most powerful software company. But most of its action takes place years before the focus of the government's current antitrust case.
Among the items raised in The Microsoft File, The Secret Case Against Bill Gates: allegations that IBM found listening devices in its hotel room in 1989 the night before an important meeting with Microsoft, and questions about whether Bill Gates destroyed documents during government investigations of the early 1990s.
"We expect that bookstores will want to position this in their 'fiction' section," Microsoft spokesman Greg Shaw said. "It does little more than rehash a lot of old issues that were thoroughly investigated. While it's interesting reading, it's certainly nothing new."
Gates himself is handled harshly within the pages of the $26 hardcover, described by unnamed rivals as "an ill-kempt, socially inept, scrawny, insecure, ruthless Lex Luthor." A particularly unflattering section suggests that Gates solicited a prostitute.
Author Wendy Goldman Rohm opens Chapter 4, for example, recounting Gates sitting in a restaurant with a woman so beautiful that "it hardly mattered she was paid."
Rohm, who covered the high-tech industry for the trade magazines PC Week and Interactive Week, explains in her introduction that Gates and other Microsoft executives declined her requests for interviews, saying the company's lawyers wouldn't allow it.
In another chapter, former Novell Inc. Chairman Ray Noorda -- whose rivarly with Gates is notorious within the industry -- is quoted as calling his chief competitor "that little sissy" and deriding him as "Pearly Gates."
Much of Rohm's book is historical, and is therefore only peripherally relevant to Microsoft's current troubles. The government's pending antitrust lawsuit, for example, is covered only in the book's final 18 pages, and she gives short notice to many of the specifics of the government's case.
She criticizes the government's investigations of the company as "fumbling" and "circuslike."
Her most sensational allegations surround two events that both happened years ago.
Rohm alleges that during a computer trade show in Nevada in 1989, then-IBM executive James Cannavino discovered three tiny listening devices planted in his hotel room. That was just prior to a meeting with Gates about Microsoft's pledge of support for IBM's rival operating system, OS2 (although Gates then threw his support for his own product, Windows).
"We never attributed them to anybody," Cannavino, now chairman of Cyberspace Corp., told The Associated Press. "Hell, for all I know, every room in that hotel was bugged."
Rohm also raises questions about whether Microsoft destroyed evidence when it was under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission during the early 1990s. She alleges that a handwritten note by Gates was found in a stack of papers given to federal investigators. It read: "purge email."
The FTC told the AP last week that the agency won't comment about Rohm's book.
The Microsoft File was published by Times Books, Random House.
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