Operator No. 9: April 9, 2001

In a somewhat spiteful gesture, the Recording Industry Association of America last week launched a new Web site: Nofreelunchster.com.

No Such Thing as a . . .

In a somewhat spiteful gesture, the Recording Industry Association of America last week launched a new Web site: Nofreelunchster.com. Its supposed to be a humorous attempt to soften the RIAAs image as a bunch of greedy SOBs. The message is that the music industry is not all about profit; its about an abiding passion for music. But really, the site all but gloats over the RIAAs legal knockout punch to Napster — for example, check out the parody of the Napster kitty scarfing down a burger. Nofreelunchster.com also includes a downloadable MP3 file of aging rocker Ted Nugent, who says: "Im just an old greasy guitar player, but it seems to me that logic, common sense and common decency would dictate that at the end of the day, if you have a product in your left hand, you better have a receipt in your right hand." Middle finger should not be extended.

Welcome Dr. Doom

Tom Siebels new nickname should be Dr. Doom. Invitees to a Forrester Research conference on business-to-business commerce last week settled in for a keynote by the chairman and CEO of Siebel Systems, expecting to hear him pontificate on the role Siebel would play in the new economy. They got some of that, along with an earful of Siebels predictions for the devastation of the B2B software sector. Ninety percent of B2B software companies will be gone a year from now, he predicted. E-marketplaces? Dead, dead, dead. When the war is over, highly profitable Siebel will be there to sweep up the pieces. "The worlds going to be a better place when its all over," he said. A better place for Siebel, Im sure, but the rest of the attendees at the Forrester conference werent so delighted.


Tom Siebel also had a few choice comments on the current state of the application service provider industry and why it has failed to meet projections. He said Siebel Systems was one of the early believers in hosted applications, forming partnerships with a number of providers and even taking out equity stakes in some of the pioneers. But when the market failed to materialize, Siebel began scaling back its ASP initiatives and even sold its equity stakes. "The fact of the matter is, theres very little market demand for it." Siebel said he even suggested his own company use ASPs to outsource noncore apps. My IT people went crazy," he said.

A Battle of Wits

Thats how one Oracle flack described the latest billboard war on Highway 101, a main drag through Silicon Valley. In March, IBM put a billboard next to Oracles headquarters in Redwood Shores. The sign shows two astronauts and the text reads: "They have come in search of better software . . . IBM." "One could read this and think that IBM has come to Oracles backyard looking for better software," an Oracle PR rep told me. So Oracle posted its own sign: "If youve come in search of better software, youve come to the right place . . . Oracle." The retort is in Big Blues court.

Generation Gap

What does Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., know about the Napster controversy that seems to be cropping up regularly before the Judiciary Committee on which he serves? Seems his education came from his job as a parent. "My 16-year-old daughter banged on my door a few weeks ago and said, Dad, you have to pass a constitutional amendment to protect Napster! Its the first political statement out of her mouth in all her years," he told a packed hearing last week. Napster CEO Hank Barry was present as a witness. On his last birthday, the same daughter asked Schumer for his favorite songs, downloaded them from Napster and turned them into a CD. "That was a year ago, so I guess it was OK then," he said. He said he loved the CD because it included a hard-to-find tune from his high school days, Walk Away Renee by the 60s band The Left Banke. Unfortunately, Schumer called it, "Dont Walk Away Renee." Witness and 70s rock musician Don Henley replied, "With all due respect, Senator, theres no dont in the title." Schumer agreed. "I didnt want her to walk away," Schumer said. "But she only went out with college guys."

Name Game

One network operator suggested the Baltimore Ravens change the name of their arena from PSINet Stadium to PSINet Memorial Stadium. PSINet is expected to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy later this month.

The Palm Before the Storm

When I first saw this, I had to check to make sure this wasnt just another April Fools joke: Palm and Sanyo Fashion House, a Japanese-owned apparel maker, said last week they have created a new "handheld-ready line of spring raincoats" with a "Designed for Palm Handhelds" pocket. The waterproof pocket, which has a laser-engraved Palm logo on it, is lined with a static-shielding material. The Palm-ready outerwear, at prices ranging from $185 to $695, will be available at specialty retailers nationwide. A fashion must-have? I think not.

Going, Going, Gone

The Burnsville, Minn., Senior Center is doing its share to make sure at least one dot-com company finds new sources of revenue. The center is offering a class to help seniors learn to navigate and sell stuff on eBay. The class description says it offers a way to "clean out your attic," by targeting a "larger garage sale audience than any one city, or country, can hold!"

0 8 0

The number of days — as of April 9 — that President George W. Bush has been in office and without a technology adviser.

Let the Healing Begin

Despite its legal woes, Napster is helping to boost the career of at least one unlikely songwriter and musician: Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. The chairmanof the Senate Judiciary Committee has recorded CDs of religious compositions. After a hearing last week at which he and other lawmakers and panelists beat up on Napster and CEO Hank Barry, a reporter asked Hatch if any of his tunes were available on Napster "I dont know," he said. "probably." Some of his songs turned up during my brief search of Napster - as did a couple of copies of a not-so-religious tune, Frank Zappas Orrin Hatch on Skis. Tree ahead!

Back to Beirut

Intel is sorry. Just a few days after it said it was halting construction on a 10-story chip-design center in Austin, Texas, company officials met with residents to apologize for its actions. "Texas is too good, too big and has too big of a brain trust to walk away from," Intels Austin site manager, Bill Westmoreland, told an angry throng of residents. Intel, which got $2.56 million in fees waived by the city as an incentive to lure it to downtown Austin, stopped work on the building with only six stories completed and put up a chain-link-and-barbed-wire fence to keep out passersby. One city council member, I recently noted, said the site resembled "Beirut." Well, the companys apology didnt impress Austin City Council Member Jackie Goodman, who said if the city ever did a deal with Intel again, it would "make them give us a backup plan." Meanwhile, Intel made clear it wont revisit its plans for the site until November or December, the same dates it gave the city when it originally stopped construction. But Intel really is sorry. No kidding. Honest.