The Packet Rat | Will another shoe drop

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

Word had been circulating that a big change was going to be announced in the wake of the recent Microsoft TechEd conference. So the Rat ducked out of his World Cup watching party to tune in to the webcast, just in time to hear that Bill Gates is leaving ... in 2008.

'Maybe that's Vista's new ship date,' cackled the Rat as he heard Chairman Bill announce his impending departure.

The announcement came at the end of a fairly news-free TechEd, which had been hobbled to some degree by Microsoft's ongoing battle to get Windows Vista out the door. While the Boston meet-up did have some decent technical sessions, the Rat had found himself wandering the hallways in search of something compelling enough to grab his short attention span.

But it wasn't until TechEd was over and the troops were all safely back in Redmond that Gates made his announcement. 'Maybe the Tech Ennui drove him over the edge.' The Rat reflected as he shut down the webcast.

'I bet his departure date will slip just as many times as Vista's,' his desktop support chief said, slapping his forehead. 'He's never made a date he couldn't break ... except that one with Melinda.'

'I dunno,' the cyberrodent countered. 'I think that was mostly Jim Alchin's department. They might still be able to tag the Vista slips on Alchin'his chair's still warm.'

With Ray Ozzie now ascending to Chairman Bill's chief software architect chair (or at least sharing it), and chief technical officer Craig Mundie picking up the title of chief research and strategy officer (the other half of Gates' portfolio), the stage has been set for the founder's departure.

Some folks would prefer it happen faster than the two-year timeline'and that Gates take Steve Ballmer with him as a going-away present. Ballmer, known by many as Monkey Boy for his infamous videotaped antics at Microsoft's 25th anniversary event, has been called Microsoft's No. 1 liability by some industry observers.

The Rat isn't sure that's true, but he certainly doesn't want to be caught alone in a room with Ballmer while wearing a Google T-shirt'especially if there are any office chairs left unsecured.

Ballmer has been the man responsible for how the company has projected itself on the marketplace for the last six years'including all of its licensing miscues, and its legal posturing with its competitors and the European Commission. So, Ballmer stepping down would have a much greater impact on the company's business operations than Gates'.

But the personality of the company itself comes from Gates. And his departure is going to shake things up on the inside in at least one way, as Microsoft's anonymous blogger Mini Microsoft observed: 'We're going to need a Bill Gates action figure for those future program reviews, one that has the recorded line, 'That's the stupidest bleeping thing I've ever heard!' '

'Sounds like we've found a vacancy that Dick Cheney can fill in a few years,' said the Rat.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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