Packet Rat: Chairman Bill takes a seat

GCN Illustration by Michael Bechetti

The Rat took advantage of a few comp days plus some high-level connections to get admitted to the hottest show going.

No, it wasn't an orchestra seat for 'The Producers,' and it sure wasn't a ticket to a Washington Wizards game. The hot show on the Rat's agenda last month was in U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's courtroom, where Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates had a reserved seat.

'It's going to be like 'King Lear,' only wackier,' the whiskered one told his better half as he left home. He'd already studied Gates' novella-length testimony'42,000 words' worth'that reprised computing history with a certain amount of revisionism.

'Who ghost-wrote this for him?' wondered the whiskered one. 'Stephen Ambrose or John Jakes?'

Gates conveniently forgot that Microsoft had already been found guilty of antitrust violations. He complained in writing that the nonsettling states' proposed sanctions 'would deprive Microsoft of much of the economic value of its two most important products, Windows and Office.'

'Isn't that kind of the point?' the Rat wondered. 'Oh, well, I'm sure the live version will be better edited and more entertaining.'

Sure enough, the Rat was not disappointed.

Gates took the stand in tailored executive attire, having ditched his historically ill-fitted look. 'Melinda must have dressed him today,' someone in the gallery muttered.

Soon it became clear just how Chairman Bill felt about the rabble otherwise known as state attorneys general. He promised that if the plaintiff states got their way and the judge tossed aside the settlement between Microsoft and the Justice Department, he would just take his ball and go home'that is, pull Windows off the market.

'I guess he thinks the kids on the playground wouldn't find anything else to play with,' the cyberrodent sighed. 'Unfortunately, he's sold them enough copies of previous versions of the ball that they can get along for a while without him.'

A nearby member of the fourth estate whispered, 'Maybe if he takes the ball home, he can figure out how to keep it from blowing up every time someone bounces it.'

The wirebiter nodded agreement. Could Gates actually be threatening to do us a favor?

There were plenty of other entertaining moments. Gates proselytized about his recent conversion to the security religion, warning that modular Windows would create all sorts of new security holes.

He said the modular version of the Windows operating system the states wanted would be impossible to write. Then, under cross-examination, he admitted Microsoft already sold such a version to some customers.

When asked whether such an OS could be made available to a wider audience, he answered, 'Yes and no.'

'Clearly, he's been taking lessons from another Bill,' smirked the Rat to a neighbor. 'But he forgot to say it all depends on what the meaning of 'available' is.'

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

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