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Tellme no rumors, I'll tell you no lies

Skinformants say the relationship between e-tail giant and Web-info-over-the-phone start-up is getting cozier, with a collaboration now in the final testing stages. Naturally, I phoned both companies and asked them about their new offering, but they wouldn't, er, tell me.

The mail indicates that readers are not happy with our new every-other-month publishing schedule. I don't know--I kind of like it. It gives me time to reflect on my visits to Dr. Helmut Fraeme-Relais, shrink to the rumor-plagued, whom I now see four times weekly.

He has me on an experimental antidepressant, Innuenda, which is supposed to help me deal with the guilt common to columnists who get paid full-time salaries to produce six columns a year.

"Tellme about your motherboard," Fraeme-Relais demanded the other day. "Eez eet emotionally vithholding?"

And how. Meanwhile, the new schedule is sparking greatly exaggerated reports of my death. The latest development is that one of those old-media types (peskius paleojournalist) has been quizzing my editors re: my whereabouts. This brings to mind that great journalistic and digestive maxim, that he who is without irregularity should cast the first stone.

A history of the aforementioned reporter's news organization, published on its Web site, hasn't been updated since the paper agreed to be sold to a big rival nearly a year ago--which deprives us of all the most fascinating details of that transaction. But that's neither here nor there. The point is, if the best tip in the in-box is the sporadic posting schedule of an Internet rumor-monger, it's better to wait until next week to write. It's always worked for us!

Here's a more interesting tip: Skinformants say the relationship between e-tail giant and Web-info-over-the-phone start-up is getting cozier, with a collaboration now in the final testing stages. Naturally, I phoned both companies and asked them about their new offering, but they wouldn't, er, tell me.

That leaves our own powers of deductive reasoning. Like the Web, Tellme gives us access to information such as stock quotes or movie reviews -- but over the phone; Amazon lets us buy books, Crock-Pots and buzz saws online. So presumably, the joint venture will let us buy CDs and salad spinners over the phone.

Tellme is working on a business strategy that will allow outside companies--such as, say, Amazon--to create their own versions of voice sites. Call up Tellme six months from now, say "Amazon" or "books," and you just might be directed to a friendly voice asking which bestseller you'd like to put on that overburdened credit card. Tellme hopes to capture a bit of this commerce revenue stream, as well as host the big corporations' voice sites.

Amazon has an "Amazon Anywhere" initiative that already lets us buy wire cutters through Web-enabled cell phones. But Tellme would allow the company to reach cell-phone callers who would prefer to talk to their phones instead of browsing Amazon's site on their phones' four-line text screens. The companies are also cousins of sorts, sharing Kleiner Perkins as an investor.

Now, for those of you who have been waiting for phone access to start your online shopping adventures, I already have more drill bits and vermouth-sprayers than any rumormonger deserves. But if anyone can find the complete works of Dr. Fraeme-Relais on CD-ROM, go crazy with that cell phone.

During his keynote address at Sun's JavaOne conference, which coincided with Judge Jackson's ruling to break up Microsoft, Sun CEO Scott McNealy couldn't resist a few barbs aimed toward Redmond. In addition to blasting into the auditorium Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do," McNealy tweaked Microsoft for its security woes by crooning an "I Love You" virus version of the theme song to the Barney TV show theme: "I love you, you love me, look what happens with VB."

If Microsoft gets split in two, will McNealy have twice as much fun as he's been having all these years with just one?

Speaking of Microsoft nemeses, Marc Andreessen sounds like he's back on the prowl. When a reporter asked what stories the news media had not investigated thoroughly enough, he eventually responded with a cogent complaint about the media hype that made B2B God one day and the devil the next. But we liked Andreessen's first answer better: "the lack of women in Silicon Valley!"

Being a single gentleman myself, I feel Marc's pain. It's been about a year since the Netscape founder and browser co-inventor broke off his five-year marital engagement, and in that time the engineer/entrepreneur/policy wonk has virtually wasted away. Trusted Skinspectors report that the formerly portly Marc is looking fit as a fiber-optic cable.

That, along with his rapier wit, Midwestern charm and unspendable wealth should fortify him in one of the tightest heterosexual dating markets in the storied history of thwarted male lust. According to some estimates, roughly 80 percent of professionals in the tech-heavy Silicon Valley are men--that even includes PR! The Old Media have done their best to help these poor rich men out, however, with that recent rash of "most eligible Silicon Valley bachelor" and "sexiest geek" cover stories.

Because we, who remain single after nearly four years of griping about our love life in these pages, were pointedly excluded from each of these exposés, we naturally discount their journalistic merit.

Help me keep the paleojournalists at bay, or just ask me out. Tellme your rumors.