PACKET RAT

Breakups can be a pain, especially when there are conferences to hit

R. Fink

The legal woes at Microsoft Corp. are having an annoying impact on the Rat's travel plans. All that stress affecting the Redmondians' conference schedules is trickling down to technophiles of the Rat's ilk like a Seattle drizzle.

Images from the introduction to 'The Six Million Dollar Man' echoed through the Rat's head as he waited in line for his latest airplane seat assignment from hell: 'She's breaking up! She's breaking up!'

'It's like they've broken up already,' the Rat complained to no one in particular at the ticket counter.

The consequences of Microsoft's scheduling conflicts were forcing him to grapple with human beings to resolve his travel conflicts.

The first sign of conference fatigue in Redmond, Wash., came early this year when Microsoft announced the date for its Tech-Ed user conference in Orlando, Fla., but didn't reveal a date for the Professional Developers' Conference.

Last year, the software titan gamely scheduled Tech-Ed for the same week as Internet World in Los Angeles'no skin off the Rat's pointy nose, as he didn't go'but at least it wasn't in Las Vegas.

This year, the Microsofties scheduled Tech-Ed for the same week as Sun Microsystem Inc.'s JavaOne conference, where the Rat was booked to present a paper on how he'd built an Enterprise JavaBean to track government surplus cheese storage.

Torqued at Microsoft's ham-handed timing, he had to cancel his tickets to San Francisco for JavaOne, whereupon Microsoft announced that it would hold the Professional Developers' Conference in Orlando a month after Tech-Ed. Plus, Microsoft was supposed to host a bigwig summit called Forum 2000 in Redmond the week before Tech-Ed.

'There goes my productivity for the summer,' sighed the Rat as he booked tickets to Seattle, San Francisco and Orlando and another trip to San Francisco for Lotus Development Corp.'s DevCon conference.

Only afterward did he get the message from Microsoft's press flacks that Forum 2000 would be delayed because of the district court's antitrust ruling. And then they moved the event to June 22, the second day of Lotus' DevCon.

By the time the Rat had recrunched all his travel plans, his agency travel goddess was in tears.

There have been other signs of stress from the Redmondian compound. The whiskered one's contacts at Microsoft have become even more defensive, not to say rabid. They won't say, however, whether the Rat is on an official enemies list yet.

Check it out

'At least they haven't returned my check for the Professional Developers' Conference,' he sighed after yet another flame arrived in his cell phone's text mail.

Meanwhile, the cyberrodent picked up whiffs of other problems in the Pacific Northwest. Apparently the success-story case studies that Microsoft has been touting in the latest set of developer ads are lacking substance. A fellow packet-sniffer reported to the Rat that efforts to get details about how some of the marquee customers are using Windows 2000 and other Microsoft tools drew blank stares.

'Sounds like the Tech-Ed keynote to me,' sighed the Rat as he shuffled to his JavaOne-bound flight. 'Let's see if Scott McNealy has anything better than warmed-over Java.'

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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