Comdex 97 : A new venue for an ongoing battle

I had an interesting response to last week’s article on Microsoft. From warnings about being run in by the Microsoft Mafia to a request for a radio interview, there certainly are a number of people interested in the fate of Bill Gate’s company. While not wishing to predict the downfall of the software giant, I did imply that some of the challenges it was currently facing may lead to major changes at the company we have all come to know and love.

Last week the battleground moved to Comdex 97 in Las Vegas which was inundated with 215 000 people who pay up to $895 to make their way through 2 100 exhibition stalls, keynote addresses and parallel events. Bill Gates kicked the event off on Sunday night with a rather light-hearted look at the 10 reasons why he loves his personal computer. Lighthearted in delivery maybe, but he used the opportunity to subtly let off some steam.

Making light of the department of justice investigation into Microsoft, Gates 5th reason why he loved his PC was because he could, in one week-end, “collaborate with attorneys all over the world, comment on a 48-page legal brief and send it all to the Department of Justice.” He went on to take a glancing blow at network computer (NC) proponents by remarking that he does his best work using his laptop while on an airplane – and he doesn’t have to store a server on the seat in front of him.

There were clearly two camps at Comdex. Microsoft coughed up for nearly 3500 square meters of space so as to offer it at a better rate to 280 or so software vendors who sell Microsoft products. CNN reported that amongst these exhibitors, there was barely a mention of outstanding lawsuits or trouble in the Microsoft camp. Grouping all their supporters in one camp certainly worked, an estimated 80 percent of all attendees made their way through the Microsoft pavilion.

The ‘everyone but Microsoft’ contingent made a few announcements of their own, including a car that integrates the best of all of their technology (including Sun’s much publicized Java, IBM’s voice recognition and Netscapes’ browser and collaboration tools) to provide a 21st century car. Although innovative, the ‘cyber car’ didn’t get much coverage other than on their own web sites.

It seemed it was business as usual by the end of the week though. In their ongoing battle due in court on December 5th, The department of justice fired back at Microsoft, addressing most of the companies earlier submissions. They also cited a number of documents from within Microsoft and an eMail between two senior Microsoft employees stressing the importance of leveraging their ‘Windows advantage’ in beating Netscape in the browser wars.

You can get a lot more information by following the links below. I’m going to close with a quote. See if you can guess the company to whom it applies.

“In the United States, public opinion and the political process would revolt against combination and monopoly, and what came to be seen as unacceptable arrogance and immoral business behavior. At the same time, new individuals and new companies – operating beyond Rockefeller’s reach in the United States and in faraway places like Baku, Sumatra, Burma, and later Persia – would rise up to prove themselves hardy and persistent competitors.” – Daniel Yergin in ‘The Prize’

Ok, Rockefeller was a dead giveaway but Standard Oil Company in the late 1900’s certainly sounded like someone I knew.

Author: Dale Williams

Dale is based in Cape Town on the southern tip of Africa from where he maintains connections with people all over the world through his portfolio life.