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Just can't get good help these days

One of the advantages of having a small dedicated staff is that you can wind up with a spotless attrition record.

One of the advantages of having a small dedicated staff is that you can wind up with a spotless attrition record. My loyal assistant Trixie Pixel has been with me since the very beginning and apart from a brief dalliance with a headhunter from Victoria's Secret, she has never strayed. Week in and week out she sits at her desk, filing her nails, chewing her gum, talking to her girlfriends back on Long Island. I couldn't live without her, and as long as she keeps her faith in the Rumor Mill IPO, I won't have to.

Microsoft should be so lucky. It's no rumor that a staff of millionaires can be hard to motivate, as Microsoft's latest HR headaches show. Redmond has lost either temporarily or permanently execs and other valued employees including John Ludwig, Nathan and Cameron Myrhvold, Brad Silverberg, Pete Higgins, Thomas Reardon, J Allard, and Peter Neupert.

According to a Skinformant who has done time hacking for Redmond and is close to the current crop of the recently or nearly departed, "millionaire malaise" has gripped Microsoft to the core.

At the heart of the problem we don't find just wealthy young retirees, but also a creeping calcification caused by executives who tread very carefully while they wait for their stock options to vest. "Microsoft has such a population of wealthy people that won't do anything to risk vesting," claims our friend up north. "Nobody wants to rock the boat. There's tremendous dissatisfaction and people feel it's very hard to do anything there. Microsoft has repeatedly reorganized over the past two or three years, tearing organizations apart and re-creating them. That means...long-term planning is destroyed."

The chief example of disorganizational discontent is Brad Silverberg, once in charge of non-NT Windows (until Steve Ballmer decreed there would be one OS), then bumped to IE (until it was decided that IE couldn't be a separate business while Microsoft was arguing to the DOJ that it wasn't even a separate product).

Rumor has it that Silverberg's subsequent "sabbatical" was Microsoft's way of keeping Silverberg on salary and on his executive vesting schedule to prevent him from going off into the Big Blue yonder or Silicon Valley and revealing all the empire's tricks. Silverberg returned recently on a "consulting" basis, but our Skinformant reports that he's not for long even in that flimsy position.

"Executives regard the company as being very stagnant," added those executives' confidant. "Expect to see more departures over the coming months."

Microsoft tells our reporters that its attrition rate is below average. But maybe that's because Microsofties never die, they just go on sabbatical!

But enough about people. What you really care about is Linux, right? It's no secret that SGI is among the most enthusiastic Linux boosters, and now we hear that the upstart OS might be winning out over NT at the Unixophilic company. Tipsters report that SGI's new Intel-based servers will debut in July, but that the Linux box will begin shipping several weeks before the NT machine. And another tipster who chatted with SGI chief executive Rick Belluzo reported that the CEO is favoring Linux over NT. "Forget the NT thing we said before," the CEO said.

A D.C. friend was reading Roll Call the other day and forwarded this Y2K item:

"In a letter to House Members, the Securities Industry Association undermined its argument that the industry is ready for the Y2K bug. The letter was sent to 'Members of the Untied [sic] States House of Representatives.' Then the letter noted the association's support of 'The Year 200 [sic] Readiness and Responsibility Act.'" Some are blaming the letter on computer error, others on human error. But I think it was by design as Washington tried to subtly prepare for the prospect of a Quayle administration.

Who am I to talk about spelling when I can't even file a weekly column on time? Help me stay on schedule and send me a rumor

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