Think you've had a bad week, ducky?
Before you feel sorry for yourself today, how about we stage a little pity party for Mr. Richie Rich himself, Gigadollar Bill Gates?
Yes, this has not been a really big week for the $100 billion man. (His Microsoft stake is still worth $83 billion, and his foundation is worth $17 billion. That doesn't count his other stuff, which we'll get to in a moment.)
First, Windows 2000 was launched to the sound of one hand clapping. This upgrade to Windows NT is aimed more at IBM's mainframe business and Novell's NDS directory service than the hobbyists who made so much of Gates' fortune.
Most CIOs interviewed said they were going to wait for some of the reported 63,000 bugs in this "bet the ranch" project to be stamped out. Oh, and Gartner Group said the new OS is going to cost a ton more than most big companies expect - that'll get 'em all in the store.
By the end of the week, Red Herring's panel of Woodside VC horse whisperers were calling Microsoft irrelevant. If that ain't a diss, I don't know what is.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bill faces this ongoing case of the man keeping us down. The man, in this case, is Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. You'll recall that last year he ruled that not only is Microsoft a monopoly, but that a body in motion tends to remain in motion, that time does indeed slow down as you approach the speed of light, and that two balls of different weight dropped from the same height will hit the ground at the same time.
Mr. Bill told Bloomberg he'd be willing to even open up the Windows source code in exchange for a settlement. Just don't take away his "freedom to innovate," he says, by which he means packing copies of anyone else's innovations into the product to drive those creators under.
Speaking of new features, Net2Phone apparently hung up on any talk of selling out to Microsoft, preferring the tender mercies of AOL's Steve Case. (This is like losing the vote for Homecoming King at Geek High to a sack of hair.)
Microsoft has been fighting with its temporary work force for years, and (by the way) the workers won. Microsoft finally responded by saying that from now on temps are on (renewable) one-year contracts. This sure beats offering them the perks or stock options they wanted, doesn't it? (If you follow Ross Perot into politics, Bill, don't count on the labor vote.)
Is it any wonder that as the week ended word got out that Mr. Bill had bought eight percent of Newport News Shipbuilding, a troubled defense contractor? A few more weeks like this and I'd order up a private navy, too. (At least there you get unconditional love.)
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Dana Blankenhorn has been a business reporter for more than 20 years. He has written parts of five books and currently contributes to Advertising Age, Business Marketing, NetMarketing, the Chicago Tribune, Boardwatch, CLEC Magazine, and other publications. His own newsletter, A-Clue.Com, is published weekly.
March 19, 2014