Microsoft has been stirred and shaken

“Ladies and gentlemen, Steve Ballmer.” So Bill Gates is pushing Ballmer into the CEO limelight. Actually, this is a great idea as far as Ballmer goes: no one, with the possible exception of Oracle’s Larry Ellison, is as entertaining on stage as Ballmer. He yells, turns red and then says something outrageous. Case in point: during the press conference that announced his promotion, Ballmer commented on the rumour that the DOJ will order the break-up of Microsoft. He said, and I’m not making this up, “It would be reckless and irresponsible for anyone to try to break-up this company. It would be the single greatest disservice that anyone can do to consumers.”

I swear I did not make that up.

Despite Ballmer’s blather, what happens if the rumours are true? The unpleasant task of supervising a corporate dismemberment would likely fall on him. Good luck Steve, and keep those quotes coming.

Time-series projections indicate a pending shortage of beets. One of the interesting aspects of the Ballmer business is Gates’ new title: Chief Software Architect. Gates wants to spend more time with his computers. Of his post, the new CSA said: “I’ll be sitting with product teams and talking about how to bring the pieces together.”

Apparently, that sitting has been done around a kitchen table. Microsoft recently announced development deals with Maytag and General Electric. The plan is to add advanced functionality to refrigerators, toasters, microwaves, cupboards, etc. This would, for example, improve your life by allowing the oven to read the Lean Cuisine directions and set its temperature and timer accordingly. This is a silly idea for a few reasons:

My oven and timer already get set, and I use legacy equipment – my eyes and hands – to do it.

Will this functionality ever be worth the incremental cost? I can’t afford new kitchen cupboards now, and that’s without having to pay a Microsoft licensing fee.

What happens when the cutlery door crashes? “I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t allow you to have a fork.”

Someday, I suppose, this technology will be in all our homes. For now, though, let’s work on creating reliable PCs and networks.

You’ve got Time. The irony of the Microsoft break-up rumour is rival AOL just got a whole lot bigger and no one, including U.S. regulators, seems worried. Interpretation of the mega-deal that saw AOL buy Time Warner has ranged from “Whoa Nelly, someone got rich” to “This is the death knell for Canadian content.”

It’s unclear how this one will play out. There is no question Cancon rules are anachronistic in the emerging world of high-bandwidth on-line content. The CRTC simply can’t regulate delivery anymore, and AOL Time Warner is in a position to hurry the arrival of that reality. At the same time, all that really happened was an ISP grabbed a content provider, creating a difference of scope, not kind.

So the crystal ball is a little foggy in this respect, but one thing is clear: the AOL Time Warner pairing will spawn a number of catch-up mergers.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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