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Microsoft tips the scales, pushes the press

It's hard to say what's more invigorating: getting a free lunch or having your brain washed by Bill Gates. For the cheapskates in the audience, the bliss of free lunch should be apparent. But the joy of a good Microsoft mind meld needs a little explaining. Once the Redmondians finish with you after a symposium on the Win32 API set or a congress on intranet management, the world seems serene and uncomplicated, like the sky on a Windows 95 start-up screen. Contradictions dissolve, tension subsides, and one's face brightens like the Bob logo. Bill is good! Bill is dog! Bill is God!

It's hard to say what's more invigorating: getting a free lunch or having your brain washed by Bill Gates. For the cheapskates in the audience, the bliss of free lunch should be apparent. But the joy of a good Microsoft mind meld needs a little explaining. Once the Redmondians finish with you after a symposium on the Win32 API set or a congress on intranet management, the world seems serene and uncomplicated, like the sky on a Windows 95 start-up screen. Contradictions dissolve, tension subsides, and one's face brightens like the Bob logo. Bill is good! Bill is dog! Bill is God!

Conveniently, Microsoft brainwashings and free lunch are inseparable events. This week the company held bicoastal indoctrinations for press and analysts--a "push panel" in San Francisco and the queerly named Scalability Day in New York. My agents tell me the left coast sit-down wasn't much of a panel discussion at all. Sure, Microsoft trotted out a dozen or so publishing partners who've cast their lots with Explorer 4.0, but voluble Microsoft veep, Brad Chase, barely let them say a word.

While the peanut gallery sat in virtual silence, Chase intercepted questions from the press and tossed back canned Microsoftisms in reply. Now, if he could just work on his ventriloquism the whole panel might have seemed a little more authentic. I hear a low point came during a software demonstration when a Microsoft product manager mispronounced the headline of an article about the shameful Tuskegee experiment which appeared on the Wall Street Journal Web site as ("Tuska-gee"). Must've skipped history class.

Scalability Day must have been more effective; I haven't heard from my moles since. However, I did hear from a number of readers that Microsoft's Windows NT-powered Web site was coughing up error messages saying "HTTP Server Too Busy" just as Gates, in New York, was glorifying the vigor of NT. Maybe the irony of that situation could have been averted a little with a big iron?

Apparently ABC isn't losing sleep over the scalability of Microsoft's software. The network is running its ABCNews.com site off of a Windows NT Server and Microsoft's Internet Information Server. That's an interesting choice of software given the site's supposedly chummy relationship with Netscape. "Netscape is the preferred provider of client and server software for ABCNews.com," a press release from Netscape proclaimed last April.

Guess not. Astute readers of the Rumor Mill will recall that another Netscape compadre, Yahoo, is using the Apache freeware server to run its site, including Netscape Guide by Yahoo. Do I smell a trend here?

Speaking of Yahoo, the company will take classified ads from virtually anyone--including, of course, its own competition. Until very recently, Excite was advertising several job openings in its rival's listings. That's a curious tactic: attract employees who already have a demonstrated loyalty to a competitor's service. I have a demonstrated loyalty to anyone who emails me their best rumors after reading this column. Don't make me beg.

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