Notes from the field: Bobby is feeling a little down

Notes from the field: Bobby is feeling a little down

I'm feeling very depressed. After Rose put all that effort into our Mexican vacation, I pulled the classic "thoughtless man" stunt by forgetting her birthday. She didn't say anything, but has flown to Vancouver to stay with her sister - without telling me she was going. So I'm stuck at home with plenty of time to consider my thoughtlessness.

While I'm stuck at home, other people are stuck with @Home's new upload policy. Apparently, the company has put a cap of 128Kbps on uploads, without telling any of its subscribers. The suspicion is that the company has taken this action with plans to launch a new "higher-level" service, that will presumably give them the same upload capabilities they previously got for the lower price. I was forwarded an e-mail, purporting to be an internally circulated @Home memo, that specifically said the upload cap was not to be mentioned to subscribers.

It also said that the company's marketing claims that offer a service giving "peak speeds over 100 times faster than a 28.8Kbps modem" would remain. So @Home seems to think that not only are its customers too stupid to notice the cap, but that they are too stupid to do the math also.

While uploads are causing controversy for @Home, it's downloads that are raising eyebrows for users of RealNetworks' RealPlayer. Anyone who has let their RealPlayer upgrade itself automatically over the Web will also find they have downloaded America Online's Instant Messenger. Apparently, it's the result of a "business deal" between RealNetworks and AOL.

Of course, that's the kind of business deal that got Microsoft in trouble with the Justice Department (maybe RealNetworks will start claiming that Instant Messenger is an integral part of RealPlayer).

But I think the tide has turned for Microsoft - especially now that we're seeing companies bragging that they were on the enemies list that Bill Gates and company kept. There was a time when smaller companies cowered in fear of being noticed or envied by Redmond. But last week embedded OS-maker Wind River Systems put out a press release that, in essence, says, "They wanted us dead - we must be good." I call it goosing the ogre. The press release, in part, reads: "To hear about why Microsoft has its eyes on us and what our founder, Jerry Fiddler, thinks about Microsoft and the 'small but strategically crucial market' we dominate, please call or e-mail." Thanks. I most certainly will.

While Wind River goes on the offensive, Microsoft is still trying to make itself seem friendlier by having its president, Steve Ballmer, make warm fuzzy noises about using an open-source model to help stabilise driver development. However, the reality is that Microsoft doesn't own the driver code. The drivers are developed by third-party hardware companies that have no interest in sharing it, I'm told.

Well, I'll have to start making with warm fuzziness when Rose gets back. I get the feeling it's going to take more than a vodka tonic to bring her around this time.

Robert X. Cringely is a regular contributor to ARN's sister publication Infoworld.

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