Operator No. 9: October 22, 2001

Microsoft is reportedly paying Madonna $15 million to use her song Ray of Light for the launch of Windows XP.

Its Got a Good Beat . . .

Microsoft is reportedly paying Madonna $15 million to use her song Ray of Light for the launch of Windows XP. The tune — originally selected by Microsoft to go with the marketing tagline "Prepare to fly," which was scrapped after the Sept. 11 plane attacks — is certainly uplifting. But might Microsoft have unintentionally alluded to the imminent end of its monopoly? One verse of Ray of Light goes like this: "Quicker than a ray of light then gone, for someone else shall be there through the endless years." Well, that certainly might be the Department of Justices wish, but my guess is Microsoft wants Windows to stick around through the endless years. By the way, if youre in New York and have a few minutes, Windows XP will be launched in Times Square on Oct. 25 at the theater where Annie Get Your Gun is currently playing. One of my favorite show tunes is Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better. Sort of sums up the Microsoft philosophy.

Truth in Advertising?

When do advertisers ever let the truth stand in the way of their pitches? When a federal judge steps in. Southwestern Bell got a preliminary injunction slapped against it by a U.S. District Court that found that the "central message" of its Cable Modem Slowdown ad campaign "is simply not true." Southwestern Bells ads claim that high-speed cable modem Internet services get bogged down during peak usage times. To make its point, the company created commercials showing a bunch of sleepy kids, working on their computers late into the night to get high-speed access. Cable modem service provider Charter Communications sued Southwestern Bell, which offers rival high-speed DSL service, arguing that cable modems are no more vulnerable to peak-hour slowdowns than the DSL service offered by the phone company. Not that I would know either way; some of us in Silicon Valley still cant get high-speed access of any kind.

Back to School

Lost in the tragedies of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks was the back-to-school move by SuSE Linux to put 2,000 copies of the Linux operating system in public and private high schools throughout the U.S. The move is actually a follow-up to the distribution of 2,500 copies earlier this year. "We received enthusiastic e-mail stating that students were very excited about their first experience with Linux and open source," said Holger Dyroff, SuSEs director of distribution. The response at Montini Catholic High School in Lombard, Ill., was typical: Its computer club set up a dual-processor Linux server and attached five workstations with old, donated PCs, according to Peter Farina, Montinis faculty supervisor.

Details, Details

Everyone in the technology business has a short memory. But Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy may need some remedial history courses. A few weeks ago, I noted that while launching Suns newest Unix server, the Sun Fire 15K, McNealy railed against the competition, saying, "Your choice is an unfettered monopolist [Microsoft], a convicted monopolist [IBM] or us." While arguments can be made about just how "unfettered" Microsoft is these days, it has never been true that IBM was "convicted" of any monopolistic tactics. Indeed, the history of the IBM case should give McNealy pause — particularly if he thinks the Department of Justice is going to prevail against Microsoft. The governments antitrust action against IBM was filed on Jan. 17, 1969, the last day of the Johnson administration, by Attorney General Ramsey Clark. The case eventually involved 66 million documents and 2,500 depositions. Depositions of IBMs chairman, Frank Cary, stretched over 45 days. The trial lasted six years, and featured internal IBM memos that talked about "death-level" price-cutting to drive away competitors. But on Jan. 8, 1982, after 13 years of battle, the DOJ, under President Ronald Reagan, quietly dropped the case with no admission of guilt by IBM. So what does Big Blue have to say about McNealys historical musings? "We wouldnt want to comment on that," one IBMer said.

Worth Screening

In addition to the American flag screen savers being distributed on the Web, those who want to remember Sept. 11 can also check out the screen savers at www.edu4kids.com/special. They show the World Trade Center when it was still a glorious part of the New York skyline. The screen savers are offered by Education 4 Kids, a nonprofit resource for students that says its unable to get funding to continue much longer. Too bad. I liked the U.S. geography game and some of the math drills; wish I had access to those kind of learning aids when I was a kid.

Its a Handheld Computer! No, Its a . . . Body Massager?

Yes, seriously. Singapores Raynet Technologies is selling a $99 module that converts a Handspring Visor handheld into a massaging device. Ill let this fascinating innovation speak for itself: "The massaging module provides Electronic Muscle Stimulation (EMS) through two gel pads that are attached to selected areas on the body. It comes with a selection of three basic massage modes, consisting of squeezing, chopping and tapping, along with three different programs for the back, shoulders, arms and legs. Adjustment capabilities are designed to meet peoples various builds and desires." Check it out at www.palmgear.com/hs.

Stock Worth

I heard a radio commercial yesterday — cant remember the company it was about — but the announcer was trying to make the point, "And if you believe that, Ive got some swampland in Florida Id like to sell you." But instead of swampland, he said, "And if you believe that, Ive got some dot-com stock Id like to sell you." Oh what a difference three years make.

Safety Last?

Late last month, cell phone companies asked the Federal Communications Commission to extend the Oct. 1 deadline the agency had set for them to have systems in place that will enable emergency workers to pinpoint the location of a 911 call from a wireless phone. The companies claim the technology isnt ready to support an Enhanced 911 service.

. . . and You Can Dance to It

While Im on a musical bent, thought Id share the Top 10 Rejected Songs for Microsofts Windows XP Launch. No. 10: Earth Wind & Fire, System of Survival; No. 9: Santana, Persuasion; No. 8: John Fogerty, Mr. Greed; No. 7: Rolling Stones: Under My Thumb; No. 6: Rolling Stones, You Cant Always Get What You Want; No. 5: Mary Poppins, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious; No. 4: Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced?; No. 3: Janet Jackson, Control; No. 2: Dire Straits, Money for Nothing. And the No. 1 Rejected Song for the Windows XP Launch? Britney Spears, Oops! . . . I Did It Again.