It has taken some people a long time to work out how Microsoft has become so successful, but it's really very simple. The company has a secret weapon.
It's called Novell and everything you point it at turns to dust.
Consider the facts. First there was DR DOS, the other, better DOS which should have been a winner but wasn't. Soon after Novell bought the product, DR DOS's appointment with obscurity was brought forward.
Then there was WordPerfect, acquired to fight the battle for desktop applications and groupware. Moments after being absorbed into Novell it was missing in action, presumed dead.
And Unix, the serious heavyweight alternative to NT - another rapid transit from purchase to plughole.
The golden touch applies equally to Novell's homegrown produce. At Netware Farm it just sort of left the gate open one day and came back to find all the sheep had escaped.
And now that Microsoft is on the attack in the browser market, Netscape is seeking allies. Enter Novell on a white donkey trailing rumours of a Netscape acquisition behind it. Somebody had better send for a priest.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has performed miracles in former communist countries where it has been assisting in the noble transition to capitalism. More than 5,000 bankers and politicians turned up to hear how western standards of efficiency are transforming the economies of the old eastern block. Delegates to the conference in London were kept waiting in the street for five hours before the event could get underway.
A far cry from the bread queues of the former Soviet Union.
When Mr Blair starts installing Internet terminals in schools, as he has promised, someone will need to work out how to prevent children using the equipment to download undesirable material. Filtering software is of some use, but you probably wouldn't want to rely on it to guard the moral welfare of your offspring. An IT officer in a school told of the mixed experience of the censorware used by his Internet provider, RM Internet for Learning, which successfully blocked addresses offering free email accounts (and so posing a threat to RM's service revenues) but had no trouble at all with such addresses as www.porn.com. Quite what sort of fuzzy logic was used to sift out mucky sites is unclear, but the school in question had to protest to RM before a filter barring access to the Times Educational Supplement was removed.
A few weeks ago, Mole launched his own modest proposals outlining revenge tactics against those who work in the world of banking. Now he is glad to report a result. Management at Lloyds TSB sent out a memo about restructuring important enough to be addressed to all staff. The memo was in the form of a Word document and the Word document was in the form of a seed-pod for the impressive WMCAP virus. The bank's PR department is understandably reluctant to disburse details, but Mole understands several thousand employees received a program capable of wiping their hard disks. Let's hope that one contains the long-playing record of Mole's overdraft.
Last week Mole made one of his increasingly rare visits to IBM. As he entered the WFGCC's premises on London's South Bank, Mole was taken aback to be confronted by a glassy eyed woman who ordered him to disclose the contents of his bag, a notebook-computer case with the letters IBM displayed fairly prominently. "Serial number?", demanded the stony faced one, making it clear that the question was not motivated by idle curiosity. Mole whipped out his hardware for inspection, and details were noted on a chit.The reason for her interest was clear; to stop visitors nicking IBM's office equipment. Those with bags bearing the Compaq and Toshiba logos are presumably spared this scrutiny. As it happens, Mole's Thinkpad cost about u5,000 and was acquired legitimately. All the more reason to feel grateful that he has been singled out for the valued customer treatment. No wonder it's such a formerly great company.
The "Outlook" feature of the latest version of Excel greatly simplifies the distribution of speadsheet data. Don't underestimate this modest little applet, it does more than you think - more, in fact, than you'll ever know. A salesman who used Outlook to copy and email an extract from a spreadsheet to a valued customer followed up with a phone call. The customer expressed surprise that profit margins on the product in question were so large. The customer might not have been so well informed if it weren't for Excel's helpful tendency to copy entire spreadsheets when the user selects a mere extract.
An MSN customer rings Mole to tell him that connection problems persist.
A call to technical support has revealed that - to quote MSN staff - "the new servers are still settling in". How could this be? Is it working for Microsoft that unsettles them? A valued customer can only speculate about such things and for MSN customers, such speculation necessarily takes place in something of a vacuum.
A bit of overzealous button-pushing has wiped Mole's answering machine.
Anyone who left a message in the last couple of weeks is invited to ring back. The number again: 0171 316 9068.
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