LOS ANGELES--The only thing worse than waiting for a $12 omelet and $5 thimbleful of orange juice from room service is opening the door and receiving a Microsoft T-shirt from some pimply-faced bellhop. I kid you not, that's what happened this morning. Just as I was lighting my first Garcia y Vega and praying for real butter, the kid sticks out the T--just barely 50/50 cotton-poly blend--and says "Courtesy of Microsoft, Jack." I thought the room was whirling because I inhaled, but it was actually from the spin Redmond was putting on its recent Explerror bug infestation.
The T-shirt read "IE4" with the hope that the upcoming browser--delayed because of extra bug-testing--will be more successful at conquering Mother Earth than those behemoth tin platters, which, uh, finally were destroyed by, um, a computer virus uploaded via a Mac...wait a second, maybe it's not such a good comparison after all. Memo to mktg dep't: think thru all implications of cultural refs before giving T-shirts to press at trade show. (By the way, how did Microsoft know where I and several other scribes who got shirts were staying?)
The spin got worse. On the Internet World show floor, Microsofties were distributing more T-shirts, this time with an IE logo in the center of a bull's-eye. On the back it read "We feel your pain," followed by a list of "IE Bugs of the Week." At least they're saying "bugs" instead of the usual "issues" doublespeak. And no, they were not handing out patches for the T-shirts.
Microsoft has recently taken heat on another front. Its "technology partner" Citrix, which makes WinFrame Windows emulators for dumb terminals (a.k.a. network computers) running off an NT server, saw its stock take a dive recently when MS announced it was working on its own thin-client access solution for future inclusion in NT. The company chairman last week issued an open letter to stem the panic. Rumors abound that Citrix is looking for other suitors; they've already struck a licensing deal with Sun to put WinFrame on the upcoming JavaStation.
One of Skinny's soldiers notes that when it comes to go2net and their anticipated initial public offering, there's been some spark but so far no flame. go2net's main gig is gathering sports, business, and Internet editorial info under one umbrella site. The company, which is HQ'ed in Seattle but incorporated in Delaware, first filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission on December 31, stating its intention to go public with 16 million shares at $7 to $9 a share. They have since amended the filing and added a metasearch service, perhaps hoping, a la Hotwired's Hotbot, to boost its credibility before testing the tepid IPO waters.
One thing you learn after a few days down here in Lotus Land: You ain't gonna win if you ain't got that spin. Even though I've got major talent lined up behind my bio-pic, Let's Get Skinny, none of the studios are biting. "It just doesn't have, you know, that Private Parts thing going," said Jeffrey Katzenberg. I'm getting desperate. If you want to help fund my movie, send me digicash attached to an email. And add a rumor or two while you're at it.