A cerebral computer-scientist-turned-executive, Eric E. Schmidt has spent much of his career competing uphill against Microsoft, quietly watching it outflank, outmaneuver or simply outgun most of its rivals.

At Sun Microsystems, where he was chief technology officer, Mr. Schmidt looked on as Scott G. McNealy, the company's chairman, railed against Microsoft and its leaders, Steven A. Ballmer and Bill Gates, as "Ballmer and Butthead." During a four-year stint as chief executive of Novell, Mr. Schmidt routinely opined that it was folly for any Microsoft rival to "moon the giant," as he put it; all that would do, he argued, was

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