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Culture

Gates sings the Big Blues

According to a fly on the Redmond walls who regularly reports to the Rumor Mill, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is said to have blown up at a recent strategy meeting, demanding despairingly, "When did this company turn into IBM?"

According to my mail, I haven't written this column in two months.

"Are you dead?" a concerned reader inquires. "Your corner of CNET is gathering dust quicker than a flytrap in a Saharan sandstorm."

I couldn't have put it better myself. But I have an excuse! While Yahoo and other Web attack victims had to contend with the mere nuisance of "denial of service" attacks, the DuBaud household was afflicted with the dreaded denial of dinner service attacks. Some of you may think it's possible to write a column without the proper place settings. You are mistaken.

Net access seems to have been restored just in time for the Carlos Santana concert here in San Francisco, where Windows 2000 made a special guest appearance. The new operating system was called in to generate excitement for the local rocker, but proved superfluous: The crowd went wild as Santana leaped out of a giant laptop (fellow Microsoft associate Patrick Stewart's puns on "enterprise" and "next-generation" were cause for less enthusiasm) but seemed to doze through the rest of the day's events.

According to a fly on the Redmond walls who regularly reports to the Rumor Mill, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is said to have blown up at a recent strategy meeting, demanding despairingly, "When did this company turn into IBM?" Perhaps when Microsoft minions started doing "the wave" at product launches? Just a thought.

At least Microsoft has taken a balanced approach to disseminating its Windows 2000 press coverage. Included in Microsoft's Windows 2000 news page are some reviews with reader comments that would warm the heart of Linus Torvalds. Here's to truth in marketing.

Several of you have written in, musing that following Windows 98 successor Millennium Edition (ME), Windows CE could be rechristened "Mini ME." Behave!

Is there any truth to this marketing wrinkle? At the Windows 2000 event, the press room was sponsored not by Wintel's "other half," but by competing chip maker AMD! "Kind of like showing up at a cocktail party with a woman not your wife," observed one toner-stained wretch. Considering Intel's dalliances with Linux, maybe this coup evens the score.

Speaking of Linux, fellow scribe Mike Drummond, whose book "Renegades of the Empire" chronicled the fun-loving exploits of Microsoft's DirectX inventors, has done just what he was rumored to be planning: He launched a Web site with material that was purged from the book under the cloud of legal threats from a Microsoft source who has since left the company. The Linux angle: Drummond reports that Eric Engstrom, of DirectX and witness-stand fame, has left Microsoft a wealthy man, flown to India to do some tech head-hunting, and is laying the groundwork for a start-up.

"Don't be surprised if you see him in the Linux space, or he just may pick up his lance and joust at the multimedia windmill again," Drummond's site says. Consider yourself advised.

Our last item concerns the recent marriage of investment houses Prudential Securities and Volpe Brown Whelan. The layoffs and defections have already been announced, but disgruntled insiders say reports glossed over the demoralization of layoff survivors.

According to one of the dearly departed, close to half of the analysts have moseyed on to competing pastures, and Prudential was forced to come in with ameliorative packages to try to stop the hemorrhaging while acknowledging that the acquisition had been mishandled.

"In a heartbeat they destroyed a franchise that was building a lot of momentum," laments the defector.

Prudential denies all of it, ascribing layoffs and related tensions to the inevitable pains associated with acquisitions, and conceding only that "a very small number of people who left, we wished had stayed."

I'd like to stay, too, but now that dinner is here I've got to scram. Meanwhile, help me help you by sending me your rumors.