It is not often that Mole longs to be at a press conference, but he would have given his eye teeth to hear Steve Jobs break the news of the Microsoft "alliance". The Apple founder's words were drowned out by the boos and jeers of Macophiles, a bunch of lentil-popping losers whose conviction that they are the Resistance of personal computing is as phoney as the worn-out claim that the Mac is the superior platform. In fact, the history of Apple in the past decade is the story of failure, and the company's greatest achievements the sheer scale of its greed, stupidity and arrogance. Chief myth-maker has been Mr Jobs himself, who has now spent most of his working life attacking the dark, satanic forces at Microsoft and whinging about how unfair everything is. Because Bill Gates is so widely disliked, Mr Jobs has never had any difficulty getting support for this point of view, a fact which has encouraged him to believe that he is popular and likeable. He isn't, of course, and now that Apple has sold out, the last reason for tolerating this vile man has gone. He has proved himself every bit the equal of Bill Gates when it came to dissembling, evasion, snake-oil evangelism and populist toadying, and recent photographs of the pudgily bespectacled Mr Jobs even show that he has begun to emulate the sallow, unattractive Gates appearance. Now he has gone one better, adding rank hypocrisy to the list. Perhaps Bill Gates knew this when he fished in his sock drawer for the small change to fund the "historic" deal. $xxx million is a small price to pay to pass on the mantle of the industry's most unpopular figure to someone else, and never was there a more deserving recipient than Steve Jobs.
The lure of a bottle of champagne proved remarkably effective and Mole's competition to suggest the most plausible reason why Microsoft should keep secret the name of the street in Islington where it has been "donating" Internet equipment to the residents, got a record response. PC Week's lovely new editor (considerably less five-o'clock shadow and much firmer breasts than the last one) has agreed to shell out for not one but several bottles and the names of winners will be printed next week, unless, in keeping with the competition, they prefer to remain anonymous. Most of the entries fell into Mole's carefully laid trap and argue that to identify the street would be to issue an invitation to local burglars to do their worst. It sounds plausible enough, but it's the wrong answer. In the first place, burglars in N1 have better things to do with their evenings than heave bulky computers through first-floor sash windows. There are much richer pickings in Islington than a few grands worth of shabby old loan stock. The other reason for rejecting the obvious answer is that it paints Microsoft in far too flattering a light. As one reader put it, "the least plausible reason for Microsoft's concern is that they harbour genuine human feelings towards the people who are participating in the trial".
Here, then, is a small selection of winning entries, starting with a suggestion that the cyberstreet project is a hollow sham designed to try out nothing more than Microsoft's publicity machine. "The main reason is that three rather embarrassed Evening Standard journalists 'happen' to live in Unnamed St, Islington, N1 and have now got loads of Microsoft kit jammed under their beds. Naming the street would give the game away to other residents of the same street who would suddenly notice that they haven't got aforementioned kit as featured in the article in the Standard by that bloke who lives just up the road ..."
The notion of a cheap publicity stunt also appealed to other readers, such as the one who wrote: "Microsoft's Public Relations department is not fault tolerant and is not designed or intended for use in hazardous environments requiring fail-safe performance, such as in the operation of north London communities in which failure could lead directly to death, personal injury, or severe physical, environmental or psychological damage."
A long list of highly plausible reasons from another entrant includes the following metaphysical theory: "MS Autoroute has no listing for the street, so it doesn't exist." The same reader went on to suggest that if houses there were to be burgled, the overall crime rate would actually go down, but only if the burglars used Schedule+ to plan their next job.
Among several conspiracy theories, one goes that this is the next stage in the plan that started with Bill Gates' announcement that he is to build a graduate research centre in Cambridge. "He has now followed this up by wiring up the Islington street with the most politicians in it, and will be emailing them instructions to pass new laws making it a criminal offence to use or peddle products from Borland, Novell, Lotus, etc."
In the scramble for champagne, no one noticed the small, factual error in Mole's piece about Novell. Referring to former chief executive Ray Noorda, Mole wrote "since Mr Noorda's death a few years ago ..." Unfortunately for Mole, but fortunately for Mr Noorda, this is an exaggeration. Despite looking rather dead for the past few years, Mr Noorda is alive and well and working as head of software company Caldera.
The last word on Microsoft's interest in Apple. Rather like "shooting it in the chest and then offering to pick up the hospital bill" was the tearful verdict of one Apple fan.
Send your stories, plausible or not, to Mole at the address above. He can also be reached by phone on 0171 316 9068.
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