PACKET RAT

At Redmond Colosseum, the Rat awards laurels for gladiatorial finesse

R. Fink

Packing his purloined press credentials, the Rat found himself a fat pipe to tunnel westward to Redmond, Wash., for Microsoft Corp.'s Forum 2000.

Emperor Bill had requested the presence of the faithful business and technology press corps for an announcement of epic proportions, much of which had been leaked over the past few months.

Yes, all roads lead to Redmond, or at least it seems that way if you're stuck in Seattle's permanently snarled traffic.

The Rat altered his plans to bear witness to the spectacle that is a Microsoft media event.

Besides, the ultramod digs at the steel-mesh W Seattle hotel were much plusher than those at the Marriott in San Francisco, where the Rat had been holed up with the Lotus faithful waiting to hear Lotus Corp. president and chief executive officer Al Zollar on the same day as the Microsoft fete.

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum, though. It got rescheduled. As Microsoft president Steve Ballmer explained, 'Our public relations people said, 'You can't do it that day!' ' Why? Because it was the day that Judge Penfield Jackson was slated to issue the penalty ruling in the antitrust case.

But when the ruling came down, the judge held it in abeyance to give the Supreme Court a whack at listening to a Microsoft appeal.

So, what had been shaping up as something like Attorney General Janet Reno (to be played by Joaquin Phoenix in the movie) giving Bill Gates a big thumbs-down at the Roman Colosseum now was shaping up to be more like a Bill Clinton victory party with drums and cigars.

'Justice delayed is justice denied,' sighed the Rat, knowing full well that by the time the Supremes finished up their summer softball league play and got back in robes to hear an appeal, any decision on cleaving Microsoft would be moot.

After being kept awake most of the night by the W's gurgling Zen fountain, the Rat rose and rambled over to the long queue at the Microsoft Conference Center. He scurried into the most comfortable seat available as the software titan opened its toga to reveal its well-leaked strategy: Microsoft-dot-net, a new Extensible Markup Language and Web application platform.

Five hours, countless technology demos and several videos later, Ballmer woke everybody up to explain what it all meant. His charisma outshone that of anyone who had come before him, which, the Rat noted, wasn't saying much.

With his bald head gleaming like a laurel wreath, however, he had the look of a conquering hero. As the Rat read between the slides, he began to understand why. Ballmer and Gates had engineered a perfect exit strategy.

Divide and conquer

Microsoft.Net separates the company's application and development platform from Windows. In a year, Microsoft could move its applications and development tools to any operating system the company wants, including Linux. Windows is the premium platform in the current plan, but it doesn't have to stay that way.

The Rat hasn't seen such a well-executed encirclement of an enemy since the Roman victory at the battle of Cannae in 216 B.C.

'Now all they need for total world domination is for Bush to win the election,' the wired one whispered to his fellow plebes. 'Or for Gore to win. Or anyone but Ralph Nader, for that matter.'

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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