Gates was interviewed by Bloomberg News television anchor Dylan Ratigan on Thursday as the company officially launched its latest operating system -- Windows 2000. But the comment in question came after the taping ended when Gates was leaving and the reporter asked whether he would be willing to open up Windows source code to third-party companies in order to settle the case.
"He looked at me and it was very conversational. He said, 'Yeah, if that's all it took,'" Ratigan said on Bloomberg Radio. A Bloomberg News spokeswoman said in a phone interview that the news agency stands by its story.
However, Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said Ratigan's description of the conversation was completely wrong. Gates did not make that comment, but instead told Ratigan, "That issue is not even related to this case," according to Cullinan.
"It's disappointing that misinformation is being spread out there," Cullinan said.
In the taped portion of the Bloomberg interview, Ratigan asked Gates whether Microsoft would open Windows source code to compete with the Linux open-source operating system, and Gates indicated he would oppose such a move.
"In order to have the great reliability we promise with Windows you can't have all these variant versions where somebody's gone and tinkered with the source code here and tinkered with the source code there," Gates said in the taped portion of interview.
The Microsoft chief has never commented publicly on mediation talks with the DOJ, which is the company's policy, Cullinan said. During the taped portion of the interview, Gates said only that the vendor is working hard to settle the case.
Microsoft and US Department of Justice lawyers are scheduled tomorrow to return to US District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's courtroom for oral arguments in the antitrust case. In November of last year, Jackson issued his "findings of fact" in the case, officially labelling Microsoft a monopoly.
Since that time there have been several rounds of filings in the case, as well as reports that in settlement talks mediated by Richard Posner, chief judge of the 7th Circuit US Court of Appeals, the US Government has proposed the idea of breaking up Microsoft.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer last month called the idea of breaking up the company "reckless and irresponsible". His phrase has become Microsoft's standard answer to any suggestion of a company breakup to resolve the antitrust case.