In a Wall Street Journal piece published on Friday, Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates defended his company's position against mounting lawsuits and negative public opinion. Gates writes that he never guess that his "dedication to consumers" would land him in court with the United States government.

"I'm deeply disappointed that this has gone to litigation. We worked long and hard to avoid this outcome, which we believe will be bad not only for Microsoft, but for consumers, taxpayers and America's high-tech industry," Gates writes. "We spent 10 days in serious discussions with the government, and offered substantive proposals that addressed their concerns. But we were unwilling to compromise a principle fundamental to the high-tech industry--the freedom to design products with the innovative new features, functions and improvements consumers want."

Gates maintains that it is the desires of consumers that drive the market and that Microsoft is simply giving people what they want.

"Everything Microsoft does--and everything our competitors do in the marketplace--is driven by the goal of giving consumers innovative tools and products that will improve their lives. That is the only way we can remain competitive."

But when it came to facing years in court, Microsoft decided that the law was on its side.

"We simply don't think the government should get involved in product design. Moreover, we believe that both the law and consumers are on our side. Last week, in Microsoft's continuing dispute with the government over the integration of our Internet Explorer technology with Windows, a U.S. appeals court stated that the regulators 'presented no evidence suggesting that Windows 98 was not an `integrated product,` ' and added that barring the distribution of Windows 98 'would put judges and juries in the unwelcome position of designing computers.' Consumers, meanwhile, will pass judgment with their pocketbooks, just as they always have."

If you'd like to read the entire article, it is reprinted on the Microsoft Web site