Refusing to take part in Ralph Nader's "Appraising Microsoft" conference, Microsoft officials labeled the event a "kangaroo court." Microsoft VP Bob Herbold told Nader that attending the conference "would be like walking into an ambush with sharpshooters on every hilltop." Herbold says it is pointless for Microsoft to attend such an obvious Microsoft-bash, since "virtually all the speakers at the conference are either litigation opponents, leading competitors or well-known Microsoft critics."

To make the debate worthwhile, Microsoft suggested that "respected industry participants and observers who could have presented a balanced view" of Microsoft be allowed to attend. Nader declined.

Microsoft's VP also attacked the cost of the conference, which is charging attendees at least $1000 a seat.

"It's also curious that the conference was advertised in full-page national newspaper ads costing upwards of $50,000 apiece," Herbold said. "How is it that a nonprofit organization like yours can find the money to finance such expensive advertising and marketing efforts on behalf of companies that compete with Microsoft?"

Herbold also attacked Nader's opinion that Microsoft has halted competition in the software industry.

"As an AT&T executive observed last year, the cost of computing has fallen 10 million-fold since the microprocessor was invented in 1971. That's the equivalent of getting a Boeing 747 for the price of a pizza," he said. "If this innovation had been applied to automotive technology, a new car would cost about $2; it would travel at the speed of sound, and it would go 600 miles on a thimble of gas."

Herbold's comments to Nader were made in a letter explaining the software giant's decision not to attend the conference. The entire letter appears on the Internet Nexus web site, in our Opinions section