Like any grandmother worth her salt, Grandma DuBaud occasionally puts the screws on me to get married. Neither the abject failure of my first marriage nor her vehement dislike of my former wife seems to dissuade her; the woman is obsessed with mergers and acquisitions.
"Netscape and AOL got hitched," my grandmother observed ruefully. "Why can't you?"
Calling the Netscape-AOL deal a "marriage" is a stretch, if you ask me, though I suppose some more chauvinistic versions of the institution could support the analogy. While Netscape prepares to submit to its new master, Microsoft is apparently contemplating the prospect of getting a divorce--from itself.
It's no secret that divvying up Microsoft is a possible, however unlikely, outcome to the Justice Department's antitrust trial. Nobody knows what's up the government's sleeve--but MacInTouch readers got a quick glimpse of what's in Microsoft's nightmares this week when the site posted letters from participants in a recent opinion poll about--and presumably sponsored by--Microsoft.
The questions hardly amounted to scientific research, according to those queried. Questions, the lab rats report, were along the lines of: "Should Microsoft be punished despite the fact that they are providing software that improves so many people's lives?" and "Should the judge be allowed to make an order that will only benefit a few companies that are unable to compete in the marketplace with a very popular company?"
Sounds like they're leading the witnesses to me. But if Microsoft wants to pay for worthless data, that's its own business. What concerns us comes with the following report from a survey participant:
"A number of the questions referenced a possibility I have not heard discussed before (and I AM following the trial closely)--that Justice would recommend that MS be split into three companies, EACH able to sell a different version of Windows."
Three companies and three OSes--a platform extravaganza! Microsoft won't comment on the specifics of its recent surveys--though it recently owned up to conducting some. So we're left to wonder--do Redmond and Justice know something about the magic number three that the rest of us don't?
Another mystery: Did Marc Andreessen plan his sabbatical to coincide with Netscape's AOL nuptials? Last week we noted skepticism among Netscapers that their fearless founder would return after his vacation. Now we're hearing reports that the Web pioneer's wandering corporate eye has led him to sit in at meetings at venture capital powerhouse Kleiner Perkins. "As an observer," reports our Skinformant with a smirk. Observer, apprentice, job applicant--what's the difference?
I fear my young friend Ammonia Blossom has become obsessed with Mr. Andreessen. Last week, she was concerned about the Net heavyweight's weight loss. Now she's got a bee in her bonnet about his yearbook picture.
When 13-year-olds are talking to you in hyperlinks, you know the industry is having a corrosive effect on our youth. Meanwhile, there's still more Netscape leftovers--a now obsolete but choice rumor had Netscape trimming the fat off Netcenter and spinning it off as an independent unit. The offspring would have an IPO date in the second half of 1999 to raise between $30 million and $50 million. The point? Let Netscape focus on what it was put down on this earth to do: write code.
More follow-up from last week: Martha Stewart's Microsoft sweetie is rumored to be programming whiz Charles Simonyi. If he moves in, will she let him use the "MS"-monogrammed towels?
Speaking of socializing, the weekend brought to Cupertino's Flint Center what should have been the ultimate Sillywood event--Steve Jobs's bash for the premiere showing of Pixar's A Bug's Life.
Silicon Valley did its part, but the Hollywood contingent was pretty much AWOL. Joan Baez can't be called Hollywood, and motor-mouth Mike Slade, an old Jobs pal who ran Paul Allen's Starwave until it was sold to Disney, counts even less. Personally, I'd rather listen to protest songs.
But the Valley elite came in force. Jobs hiking buddy Larry Ellison was there. So was Andreessen--a Mac-olyte who's sweet on Jobs's other company, Apple--and ex-Apple CFO Joe Graziano, a pal from Jobs's first term at Apple. VC to the stars John Doerr was seen checking out the sushi. On the flak front, we saw Pam Alexander, who just sold her Alexander Communications PR firm to Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide.
That's it, I can't drop another name. Send me a rumor and I promise I won't drop yours.