Operator No. 9: July 2, 2001

Harry Potter fans got a treat when America Online offered its 30 million subscribers an exclusive look at the new Harry Potter movie trailer.

Muggles Get Real . . . Sort Of

Harry Potter fans got a treat when America Online offered its 30 million subscribers an exclusive look at the new Harry Potter movie trailer. Harry Potter and The Sorcerers Stone will hit theaters Nov. 16. But you had to have RealNetworks RealPlayer to view the trailer — a fact that probably irked Microsoft. If youre just tuning into the online audio/video drama, it was AOLs continued endorsement of RealNetworks media technology in its client software that scuttled a new licensing deal with Microsoft. Big Red wants its Windows Media Player to be the de facto standard. The thing is, the AOL and RealNetworks exclusive didnt last long. The trailer was "leaked," andwithin a few days it popped up at various sites, available in RealNetworksformat, Microsofts format and Apple Computers QuickTime format. Thats what happened, after all, with the trailer for Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace, even though it was supposed to be available only as a QuickTime movie. So the intended promotional boost for AOL and RealNetworks ended up being a boost to Harry Potter fans. After all, its content that matters, right?

IM Hits Teen Pop

Oops! She did it again. Wait, not that Britney. A new Brittney has hit the scene and, at 13 years old, shes probably not ready to be the temptress starlet her predecessor has chosen to be. So what else could she sing about? How about instant messaging? I.M. Me, the debut single by Brittney Cleary, has already made the rounds on the Internet, and is due out in stores in a few weeks. Given all the attention over IM — Microsoft says that its going to bundle its IM software into its upcoming Windows XP operating system in a bid to outdo IM rival and market leader America Online — I just had to get a copy of the song. Heres the chorus: "Hey, LOL, G2G / I gotta go, but watch for me / cause Ill be right back, BRB / So sign on, and I.M. me." Whats the word Im looking for to describe this? Inspiring? No . . . no, thats not it. You can hear the song at www.brittneycleary.com/music.html.

"Although Theyre Inventing All This Amazing Stuff, Theyre Not So Eager to Live With It. Theyre Just Preparing It for the Next Generations."

Architect Frank Gehry, explaining to Esquire magazine why Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers who are developing controls for heating, cooling, telephones, lighting and communications said that they wanted old-fashioned thermostats and light switches in the new computer science lab.

The Linguistic Bell Jar

Its not just IBM, Microsoft and Oracle that are banking their future fortunes on an eXtensible technology — in their case, eXtensible Markup Language, or XML. Now add Eddie Bauer to the list. The sportswear retailer started making its stretchy cotton twill khaki shorts "extensible" — theres a label right there on the pants that says so. What do they mean? XDS — eXtensible dress-up shorts. Shorts that look as good on a person who carries a Palm personal digital assistant as they do on a person who limits himself to a cell phone? Spare me the flames that "extensible" has been a perfectly serviceable word in both French and English since the Renaissance. In modern history, this is a word that has correctly been confined to the computer science labs. Bad enough we use it to describe technology. Outerwear is too much.

Handheld Hearsay

From The Chronic Idle Chatter Department: Handspring has been the subject of ongoing speculation that its developing a handheld computer running something other than the Palm operating system. "Just about every week someone calls up and says they have it on very good authority that we are building Pocket PC or Linux products," reports one amused Handspringer. For the record, Handspring does not have any Pocket PC or Linux development in progress, a spokesman says. He adds: "Our Palm OS license [which has been extended through April 2009] is not exclusive, but we dont feel that Pocket PC is a good solution for the kinds of products we have in our pipeline." A Microsoft exec says that Handsprings choice of the Palm OS "is kind of a religious one." I think Handspring is developing its own OS. But then, no ones ever called me a "good authority."

1 5 7

The number of days it took George W. Bush to appoint a director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. John H. Marburger was nominated June 26. Marburger, a physicist who has been director of the U.S. Department of Energys Brookhaven National Laboratory, will head an office charged with prepping and advising the president on matters pertaining to science and technology. And so I retire this counter.


For the love of all thats decent, somebody please tell Michael Wallent, "product unit manager" of Microsofts Internet Explorer division, how to . . . um . . . speak. English, that is. Wallent, who appeared recently at a House of Representatives subcommittee meeting on privacy, wouldnt directly answer questions from lawmakers about whether the feds should pass privacy legislation. Wallents coyness prompted Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., to quip: "We need to put you over in the State Department. There is always an answer behind an answer, somewhere." Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., pleaded with Wallent to answer questions "as a human being, as an American" — as opposed to a cog in the Microsoft machine. But the worst part: Wallent prefaced almost every answer or statement with the word "so." Hence, a lawmaker would say something like, "Mr. Wallent, do you think federal privacy legislation is needed?" To which Wallent would respond with something like, "So, Microsoft is a big company with a lot of concerns." So, its called English, Mr. Wallent. You might want to bone up.

Im So Over Black

If you dont care a fig about whos going to win the online audio/video format wars and just want to view good content, then go to BMW of North Americas site, www.bmwfilms.com, where you can view four "shorts" made by well-known directors, including Ang Lee of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame and Guy Ritchie. The shorts are part of a series called The Hire, and they all feature a BMW, an unnamed driver played by Clive Owen, and lots of spinning wheels and squealing brakes. Ritchies short features wife Madonna, who utters a great line about being "over black." For those of you who do care a fig about the format wars, BMWs Interactive Film Player uses Apple Computers QuickTime — though all of the films are available in RealNetworks and Microsoft Windows formats as well.

$1 Billion

The amount of money that Intel, Microsoft and PC makers say theyre going to spend promoting Windows XP, Microsofts new operating system, due Oct. 25. Too bad Microsoft couldnt have put some of the money it plans to spend on getting the world to do Windows again into making its current software more secure.