In a remarkable pot-calling-the-kettle-black incident, Microsoft has attacked Asian plans to build an open-source operating system as anti-competitive.

In response to the multi-million-pound development and promotion deal signed by the Japanese, Chinese and South Korean governments, Microsoft's director of government affairs in Asia, Tom Robertson, told Reuters: "We'd like to see the market decide who the winners are in the software industry. Governments should not be in the position to decide who the winners are."

He continued: "You would have to look at what a government does, whether it's a protectionist issue... As with any trade-related issue, Microsoft would look to its peers and colleagues in the information technology community for guidance."

This sounds to us remarkably as if Microsoft is arguing that to support anything other than its own software would be anti-competitive.

As we remember it, Microsoft was involved in a rather extensive court case in the US and in another here in Europe over, well, grossly anti-competitive behaviour. If of course by "anti-competitive" you mean abusing your position in the market to effectively shut down other businesses by threatening resellers and rewriting your own code to include your own programs and exclude others.

You could even stretch anti-competitive to giving backing to a company to destabilise your main competitor over a tenuous copyright issue regarding ancient Unix code.

Microsoft had hoped to avoid governments giving backing to competitors through its Government Security Program that gives governments and international organisations access to its source code so they could alleviate concerns that it contained backdoors for the US authorities.

However, great though this privilege was, the Japanese government in particular was not won over. Government ministers have criticised Microsoft over two issues. First, the relatively poor support for Asian characters in MS software and second, its security issues, especially considering the recent Blaster worm.

It would be useful to pursue a new kind of software code, said Japanese trade minister Takeo Hirunama. Microsoft responded by saying security was a wider issue and should be focused on just one company or product. Which, again, seems slightly at odds with the Microsoft we know and love.

The fact is that Asia doesn't like the idea of being beholden to an American company, especially when they can knock up their own operating system using their own citizens. Microsoft has meanwhile tried to stem the flow towards open source by offering price cuts and generous discounts, but it seems to be losing the battle.

But then it is hard to have sympathy for a company that sees the ideal competitive market as one where there are no competitors.