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Steve Case, white courtesy telephone please

Last Monday, I got bounced from the red carpet club for carrying fake credentials before I could eavesdrop on anyone important. But as I moped in the direction of terminal A, I nearly aspirated a swizzle stick when the PA system blared, "Steve Case, white courtesy telephone please." AOL's big cheese never turned up at the phone, though a diminutive Peruvian man did. "Does AOL like its eggs sunny side up?" the Peruvian asked, sounding like he'd stepped out of a Mission Impossible episode. "No, they prefer poached," I replied.

    I'm in my element in airports, particularly at San Francisco International, where all of upper Silicon Valley stops for a martini before it jets off to high-tech conferences or to sell out to Microsoft. Inside the VIP lounge at SFO, you can swing a dead cat in any direction and you're guaranteed to nail a Netscape or Intel product manager, all of them mumbling about their crummy vesting periods.

    Last Monday, I got bounced from the red carpet club for carrying fake credentials before I could eavesdrop on anyone important. But as I moped in the direction of terminal A, I nearly aspirated a swizzle stick when the PA system blared, "Steve Case, white courtesy telephone please." AOL's big cheese never turned up at the phone, though a diminutive Peruvian man did. "Does AOL like its eggs sunny side up?" the Peruvian asked, sounding like he'd stepped out of a Mission Impossible episode. "No, they prefer poached," I replied.

    I have no idea what our conversation was about, but my son Vermel and I are getting an unlisted phone number as soon as possible.

    At least my spies aren't quite so cryptic. I heard from one AOL watcher that the company is considering dumping its AOLpress HTML authoring tool just as a development team is completing the 2.0 version of the product. Formerly NaviPress, AOLpress is the legacy of the online service's 1994 acquisition of Santa Barbara-based NaviSoft. But like another ill-fated AOL acquisition, GNN, NaviPress disappeared into the clutter of AOL products and services.

    I hear AOL doesn't even want to give the original developers of NaviPress control of the code so they can maintain it on their own. Instead, it plans on deploying them elsewhere within the AOL armada. Maybe they can fix AOL's busy signals?

    From one easy target to another: Down at Apple HQ, my agents inform me that a group of transplanted Nexters have gotten an early version of Rhapsody up and running. The word from the Cupe is that Apple R&D folks are quite embarrassed that their Next cousins could come up with working code so quickly.

    Apparently, the Rhapsody team is far enough ahead on the project that they're are tweaking the OS to act more Mac-like than they originally expected. Look for an alpha-quality release around June.

    An "alpha quality" release of Internet Explorer 4.0 is already on the Net, even though Microsoft is ambiguously referring to it as a "platform preview release." Some readers have sent in email berating my gullible, less conspiracy-minded brethren about believing that Microsoft "accidentally" posted the software to the Net last weekend.

    Astute readers will recall that Microsoft "accidentally" posted a program called News Viewer on the Net earlier this year. Either the Webmaster in Redmond has butter fingers or Microsoft is trying to slyly seed the market with products without providing customer support for them. I will accept any and all other Microsoft conspiracy theories. Send 'em to me, and I'll put Agents Scully and Mulder on the case.