"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 16 November 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Redmond Blues



Poor Bill Gates. First Judge

Jackson finds that his company's

a monopoly. Then Fortune passes

him up for Industrialist of the

Century. Only Dow Jones deemed

Microsoft industrial enough to

be included in its venerable

basket of steel- and



Indeed, Microsoft's inclusion in

the Dow Jones Industrial Average

may have delayed but not

dissuaded Jackson; promised for

a Friday, any Friday, his ruling

didn't come out until after

Halloween. Fear of a day-trading

debacle that would pull down the

Dow also delayed the findings

until 6:30 p.m., well after not

just the close of regular stock

markets but after tech-heavy

extended-hours trading.



Why the wait? Jackson's

fact-finding mission didn't

knock Microsoft stock. Was any

of it a surprise? Internet

Explorer crushed Netscape's

business. Microsoft kept Intel

out of the software business.

Gates & Co. used Office as a

club to keep Apple in line.

Though pundits frothed at the

mouth over Jackson's severe

language, Microsoft shareholders

took it all in stride. Instead,

stocks of Microsoft's

competitors went on a bull run

of their own, showing this

economy's permanent

Panglossianism. Even Apple was

declared a winner, its stock at

an all-time high. Perhaps that's

what kept Microsoft afloat: It

owns a chunk of Apple now, if

you haven't forgotten that

"Bill as Big Brother" episode.


The best thing for Microsoft

might be a massive fine, in

fact. It has no idea what to do

with its billions of dollars in

cash and is running out of

places in which to stuff it. A

billion here, a billion there,

and soon you're talking about a

real stock portfolio. But Bill

Gates hasn't figured out how to

turn his founder's shares into

market share off the PC's

desktop. (We feel obliged to

point out that we predicted

in jest, mind you —

that Microsoft would put its

Office suite up as a Web




The truth is, most of

Microsoft's attempts at

diversification have been flops or

are far from proving themselves.

MSN? It couldn't hire a real

media guy, so instead, Steve

Ballmer hired his pal Rick

Belluzzo, who had grown

accustomed to stalled projects

going nowhere fast at Silicon

Graphics. MSN's turnaround will

look a lot like SGI's. Windows

CE? Handheld buyers have been

shoving their palms in

Microsoft's face, and big

manufacturers, like Philips,

have dropped their lines. CE was

supposed to be incorporated into

Sega's Dreamcast, but it looks

like the consolemaker isn't

playing ball. Microsoft wants to

make a Windows-based game

machine, the X-box, but the

big-dream wunderkinder who could

have spearheaded such a project

— Karl Jacob and Steve

Perlman — have bolted. And

Microsoft's 3-D wizards? They're

still polishing Chrome.



The barbarians led by Bill Gates

have settled down. Seattle's a

good place to raise kids. And

after awhile, even for Redmond's

nerd-studs, raising kids gets

more interesting than raising

Bill Gates' net worth. Sure,

they're rich in options, but

that particular financial

pyramid is looking more

precarious every day. Options

look like a cheap way to pay

people, until you realize that

the corporate treasury will one

day have to buy back those

shares, at inflated prices. No

wonder Ballmer's been rolling

around like a loose cannon,

trying to knock some sense into

the market.


But Bill is the real problem. At

a recent shareholders' meeting,

Gates said he wouldn't back down

and let PC makers customize the

Windows desktop. That would be

fine if Microsoft were actually

making anyone besides its

unfortunate army of certified

systems engineers happy.

Instead, Gates' stubborn stance

reminds one of Henry Ford's

dictate that customers can have

cars in any color they like

— as long as it's black.

And when your computer crashes,

you can have any screen — as

long as it's blue.

courtesy of Jonathan Van Decimeter