Seattle Times Shuns Microsoft Software; Nasty Words between Two Internet Publishers Competing for the Same Online Readers and Advertisers in the Pacific Northwest

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Nasty words between two Internet publishers competing for the same online readers and advertisers in the Pacific Northwest

The Seattle Times has made it a point to inform the world that it has chosen Sun Microsystems and Netscape rather than Microsoft Corp.--to supply the networking, server operating system and Wet) publishing software for its online publishing operations.

The Times' public announcement has both rankled the headquarters of Microsoft in nearby Redmond and rekindled an ongoing sore point between the newspaper industry and the software giant that has now become a competitor of newspapers.

Sun Microsystems of Menlo Park, Calif., and Netscape Communications Corp., of Mountain View, Calif., are direct and intense competitors of Microsoft, both in networking and operating systems and Web design, publishing and World Wide Web browsers.

Debate about boycotting Microsoft

At the same time, national gatherings of newspaper publishers have recently debated whether or not newspapers should refuse to purchase Microsoft software systems in retaliation for the software company's launch of multiple national Web publishing ventures that directly compete with their own online operations.

A press release, dated Sept. 9 and distributed via Business Wire, explained,"The Seattle Times is in competition with Microsoft to provide (online editorial) content in the Northwest. The Sun platform gives the Seattle Times a strong advantage" in that competition.

The press release was prepared by UpStart Communications, which represents Sun, and was approved by the newspaper. Laura Elliott of UpStart said, "In interviewing [officials at the Seattle Times], they brought it up. They really consider themselves in competition with Microsoft as a content provider and they feel so strongly that that was the way we wrote the press release." Microsoft hires away newspaper's personnel

In the press release section that appears to have most angered Microsoft, Dave Wagner, the newspaper's new media technology and operations manager, explains that Microsoft is a very powerful competitor, but has one glaring weakness in the online publishing wars: the inferior quality of its own software. Wagner also noted that "Microsoft has the edge in the number of dollars and employees it can throw at any Internet content project, including a number of talented people hired away from the Seattle Times"

John Pinette, a Microsoft spokesman, said he was "surprised" at the tone of those comments.

Microsoft e-mail threat?

Michael Fancher, executive editor of the Seattle Times, confirmed that a Microsoft public relations representative sent an e-mail to reporters who cover the Redmond company, suggesting that distribution of the press release "complicated" Microsoft's job of ensuring that those reporters get access to Microsoft executives for story interviews.

Fancher said, "One of the reporters responded and said that we cover (Microsoft) in an objective fashion and their executives should realize there's a separation between news and business. I think it's surprising that you'd get a reaction like that."

'Ability to punish'

Bob Ingle, president of Knight-Ridder New Media, who has urged newspaper publishers to boycott Microsoft's software as a way of protesting Microsoft's entry into the editorial content business, chided Microsoft for the nature of its response to the Times. …