The Winner and Wierd Tales

An old coworker of mine used to work for Unisys Corp. as a programmer. They had a new remote-access box attached to their mainframe, and shortly thereafter, began having problems with the mainframe rebooting.

Tech support removed the remote access box, but no fix.

This went on for several weeks, until someone realized the mainframe seemed to reboot every time they got a support call from another building. This didn't make any sense until another tech noticed that one of their phones in the computer room was missing. They found the phone under the computer room's raised floor, right in the middle of a coil of wire connecting the mainframe to the remote access box. It seems somehow when the phone rang, the coil was picking up interference and causing the mainframe to reboot. Talk about your tech support calls.

The winning entry in the Backspin Tall Tales competition was submitted by Will Kerr, who will receive an antique Apple Newton. Congratulations, Will. I hope you have a boat, 'cause now you've got an anchor.

Thanks to the runners-up: John Garner, Ryan Echlin, Tracey Hetzer, Tom Borton, Ben Hammond, Robert Bellman, Ron Swift, Whitham Reeve, Augustus Carter, Robert Prohl, Kent McSwain, Brian S. Eller and Randy Winn (send a message to me with the subject "Runnersup" to see the rest).

So what's hot? Surely it has to be Microsoft's announcement that Chairman Bill will no longer be CEO, and his incredibly valuable shoes will be filled by Obergruppenfuhrer Ballmer.

What do we make of this, here at the Gibbs Institute of Subterfuge and Misdirection? We think it's all a ploy to line up the politics for the forthcoming breakup of Microsoft. Just think about it: Under the guise of having had enough of fighting with the government, Bill says that he's going to transmogrify into Microsoft's chief software architect. Sure, like he's suddenly had enough of being at the helm.

The way we see it, Bill will get enmeshed in the applications division. When the ax falls, he'll be the logical choice to take over the new company.

Obviously, Ballmer takes over the operating systems company. While the two entities would be effectively separate, don't for a second think that they wouldn't share a common strategic vision.

It wouldn't matter that the two companies won't be able to collude on APIs and other mechanisms to lock up the market. The shared goals about how the market - and not the technology - should be driven will be enough to make the companies increase and hold their share in their respective domains.

Will the Feds turn around and go through the whole antitrust exercise again?

You bet. And the two companies will turn into four, all piloted by Gates/Ballmer clones. Then the government will go back even sooner the next time, and we'll get 16 companies. We calculate that by the 27th iteration, every household in the U.S. will be in charge of some small portion of Microsoft.

How long will this take? Well, it has taken about two years for the first breakup to happen, so if the government returns to the battle in half the time for each iteration, your family will be in charge of a piece of Microsoft in about four years.

Now Microsoft is worth about $600 billion. Let's assume that the market cap increases in line with the share price (about double every year). So in four years, all 100,000,000 Baby Bills will be worth an average of something around $30 trillion. That will make your family's Microsoft company worth around $96,000. And you thought Mr. Kerr's story was odd.

Weird tales to nwcolumn@

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