In this line of business, you often need friends in disreputable places. I couldn't catch a flight down to San Diego last week, so I dropped a couple of dimes and beeped my main man in Tijuana. He was more than happy to take a few hours off from his smuggling duties to check out David Coursey's Internet Showcase just over the border. His report, which came in via "international courier," described Microsoft officials doing their best impersonation of barnyard poultry.
When MC Coursey asked the 'Softies to join a "groupware faceoff" against Lotus, Netscape, and underdog SoftArc, MS clucked and pecked at the ground and finally said they didn't have enough time to prepare. But Tijuana Slim told me that MS was already listed as a faceoff participant on a schedule faxed to reporters a week earlier. "I smell a raton," Slim said.
Word on the street on both sides of the border is that MS was afraid to go up against David Barnes, the Lotus Demo God who grinds mortal flesh to silicon dust.
"Going up against David Barnes is not my idea of a good time," said one observer while the desert wind cried "Pollo."
Redmond's fears were justified. Barnes roasted the competition with a 7.8 rating, while upstart SoftArc CEO Scott Welch edged out Netscape for second place, 5.8 to 5.6, according to the international panel of accredited judges who perhaps thought they were sitting in for the Figure Skating Championships. I guess Netscape was unable to pull off the double salchow.
Microsoft may have shied away from the San Diego spotlight, but it was no secret that Bill Gates and his old flame Paul Allen were sitting cheek to cheek at the Portland Trail Blazer basketball game last week, no doubt discussing the finer points of boxing out for the defensive rebound and Shaquille O'Neal's puny annual income. The Shaq smacked around Allen's Blazers, but Bill and Paul's excellent behavior put an interesting twist in Ticketmaster's lawsuit against Microsoft. Obviously, the wrangle is nothing personal: Allen owns a chunk of Ticketmaster (and the Blazers, and the Seattle Mariners baseball team, and CNET...waitaminnit, maybe he thinks we're an aquatic hoops team).
While Bill and Paul listened to squeaky sneakers, another CEO was sharing grass with his employees. The good doctor Gil Amelio showed up last Wednesday unannounced at a Newton group picnic in a Cupertino park. The picnic was an informal get-together, but as happens frequently in the House of Pomme, the Newtonians sent all the brass an invite--just for the taste of it. When Gil stepped out of his ride in a suit and tie, the handheld hardcore had to put away their gallows humor and press some flesh. No, Amelio didn't offer any golden handshakes.
One last thing--I have to apologize for reporting last week that Starfish Software was in a firing mood. Apparently my source has a problem substituting "f" for "h," because Pfilippe Kafn--I mean Philippe Kahn--the biggest barbarian in the Starfish tank, wrote to say that his company is in fact hiring engineers right and left. Remember, kids, when you email your juicy rumors, it's not wise to mess with Uncle Skinny. I have friends in Tijuana who owe me some favors.