Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates turned comedian for his keynote address to Comdex, a marked contrast to the near demonic image presented by his enemies in recent weeks (see yesterday's story).
He wasn't particularly funny, but when Gates shamelessly ripped off US chat show host David Letterman's Top 10 lists idea, it did mark a shift from the product plugs and Microsoft self-promotion that usually make up his speeches - or it almost did!
All the examples had scarcely hidden alternative meanings or agendas. For example, number 10 on his list was: "I love using Barney software with my 18-month-old daughter. Now I constantly find myself humming Barney songs."
Barney is a purple dinosaur on US children's television, which is currently being used to sell new Microsoft education software for kids. A major TV advertising campaign is underway to sell the product in time for the Christmas season.
Number nine on Gates' list was: "Every function in my new house is managed by the PC", although he was honest enough to add "...and sometimes it works".
Number eight was another testimonial to the PC when he asked: "What other machine allows you to 'plug and play', 'embrace and extend', and 'link and embed'?".
"With electronic mail, anyone can send me their thoughts with the click of a button," he noted as his seventh choice. Email also featured in his number five item: "In just one weekend, I can sit at my PC, collaborate with attorneys all over the world, comment on a 48-page legal brief, and email it to the Department of Justice."
This was the only reference to the Justice Department's current war with Microsoft, although another battle - with Sun over Java - was alluded to none too subtly as the number six choice: "I can program in any language I want."
"I can gather information on the Internet so I make sure never to repeat myself in speeches," he put in fourth place, reassuring the audience that this would never happen again.
By number three, Gates was clearly getting desperate. "I do my best work using my laptop on the airplane, and I don't have to store a server under the seat in front of me," he said. Quite....
For his number two choice, there was a return to platitudes with: "The PC empowers everyone in the world to publish their ideas, opinions, and dreams of changing the world."
Finally, Gates' number one favourite thing - " can use Microsoft Car-Point to show Ralph Nader my Corvair collection." Consumer rights advocate Nader was the organiser of an anti-Microsoft conference in Washington last week.
While the list did attempt to make Gates come over as a more amusing figure than is usually the case, the Microsoft boss might have been less inclined to participate had he realised that arch enemy Scott McNealy of Sun used exactly the same top 10 idea at Computer Associates' New Orleans conference earlier this year.
But he was funnier.
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