Apple-Next merger makes Jobs the Jezebel at Microsoft's cotillion

While the rest of Washington recovered from the Inauguration, the Rat's attention
stayed focused somewhere out West.


In fact, he's been transfixed since Christmas, waiting for a wandering star to settle
over Cupertino, Calif.


Some irritated readers have called the Rat to task for his disrespectful comments about
Apple Computer Inc., and he pleads guilty. But like most techies, the Rat is a true
apostle of the Next cult. To him, word of the Next Software Inc. merger with Apple was
almost as good as news of the coming Mouseiah.


The Rat doesn't normally ponder deep questions of human development. But recent
disclosures about the personal lives of top digerati Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have led
the Whiskered One to muse on the great nature vs. nurture debate. That debate carries over
to their respective creations: the Apple-Next amalgam and Microsoft Corp.


Consider Steve Jobs, an adopted child of working-class parents, vs. Bill Gates III,
known as Trey by his blue-blooded father. Jobs rebelled by building and selling hackers
blue boxes designed to steal service from phone companies. Gates rebelled by not studying
for tests, then getting A's on them anyway.


Jobs and his partner, Steve Wozniak, built their first Apple computer in a garage.
Gates bought MS-DOS from someone else and licensed it to IBM Corp.


Jobs was a hippie; Gates was establishment. Jobs said of Gates, ''He'd be a broader guy
if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.''


Although the Rat did neither of those, he's inclined to agree. Of course, Bill would be
a broader guy if he ate in the Senate cafeteria, too.


Fighting the establishment has always seemed more of an Apple thing--especially among
Macintosh users.


When NASA recently tried to toss out its Macs in the name of standardization, the
Macolytes at Johnson Space Center yelled, ''To the barricades!''


The Rat is inclined to agree with them. He has seen government standardization, and it
is the Z-248 PC. ''Besides,''reflected the Rat, ''standardization is boring.''


Not having any file incompatibilities, interface differences or weird implementations
would take all the fun--and profit--out of systems integration.


The government continues to honor a long tradition of supporting computer technologies
that don't catch fire elsewhere.


The Cyberrodent himself has a subbasement full of them. Ada manuals make especially
good sound insulation for his cubicle.


So the Macintosh fits right in with government tradition. Moreover, the Rat is hopeful
the Next-Apple deal finally will kill the endless speculation on Apple's future. His
favorite rumor was that Sun Microsystems Inc. would merge its computer division with Apple
and rename it Snapple.


Still, based on the recent MacWorld speech by Apple chief Gil Amelio--Mr.
It's-chaos-but-we-love-it--just about anything could happen. The Packet Rat may be rooting
for Apple, but he's not about to invest his stash of shiny disks in it.


Meanwhile on the ratling front, after the reports of Newt Gingrich's intercepted
cellular phone call, those ever-alert rat babes have been tinkering with a police scanner.


The Rat went to put a new backup tape in his server's digital audio tape drive, only to
find that the tape already had been used to record an hour of drive-through transactions
at the McDonald's around the corner.


''Hey, isn't that our president's voice?''the Wired One wondered. ''I wonder how much
the networks will pay to hear him order an Arch Deluxe.''


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

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