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Culture

Apple lets it Be, Microsoft gets chatty

With stories about an Apple-Be marriage running like grunion, I couldn't help but poke my nose into the matter.

With stories about an Apple-Be marriage running like grunion, I couldn't help but poke my nose into the matter. The companies are indeed locked in serious negotiations over an Apple acquisition of Be's chief asset, the BeOS. Gil Amelio and Be's Jean-Louis Gassee apparently met in Honolulu last week for a power meeting under the tropical sun.

But is Jean-Louis holding the negotiations back? I hear the flamboyant Frenchman is reluctant to return to the Apple orchard, having fled its relatively stuffy corporate atmosphere once already to found Be, a start-up company more in-line with Jean-Louis' maverick temperament. If the Apple talks bear fruit, Be's boss may prefer an option that lets him take the money and run, off to fuel another start-up or buy an island of his own. After all if the numbers being bandied about are on the money, our Frenchman gains to pocket the bulk of the $100 million.

Some rumors are accurate, others are most definitely not, though I'd love for them to be. In the latter "sadly untrue" category is an email message that circulated primarily among college students last week warning that the Net would be shut for an annual house-cleaning. During a vigorous 24-hour scouring of cyberspace on October 31, "five, powerful Internet searching servers" were to eliminate "dead email and inactive FTP, WWW, and gopher sites, [allowing] for a better-working and faster Internet." As much as I like the idea of giving the Net a good wringing out now and again, I think we have to toss this one into the Halloween hoax category.

One part of the Net--Internet Relay Chat--has been begging for a wringing out for sometime, and it may finally get it. Unlike the Web, IRC--the Net's equivalent of AOL chat rooms--has remained virtually unchanged for the past several years. My sneaky international operatives tell me that a number of European and American ISPs may soon be joining forces with Microsoft to announce a new and improved global chat network.

The system will be based on Microsoft's Normandy chat server and will attempt to put a kinder, gentler face on Internet chat than current IRC software does. More details could show up on plan as early as this month. I visit chat rooms, but only to lurk. You can have a private chat with me if you just send me a rumor.