Bay's secret deal

Bay's secret deal

My older brother, a systems analyst for an enormous European financial conglomerate, is fond of pointing out there's a worldwide shortage of human competence. Look around your own company. Once you've separated the criminally ambitious, the technically illiterate, the unfocused, the foolish and the vague, the people with any real brains left six months ago.

Take, for example, the hapless road warrior on a recent flight to ComNet in the US. The details of Bay Networks' partnership with a major ATM switch maker have not yet been announced, and you might think everyone working on the deal with the company's secret partner (hint: the code name of Bay's new friend is "Iron") would be advised to be discreet. However, I had a good time reading the documentation about the deal from the seat behind.

Beware the Curse of Cringe. I seem to remember pointing out that the, uh, marriage between Novell and Novonyx was going through what close friends called "a difficult time". It would be unprofessional and downright rude to suggest that Novell is taking control of the joint project because Netscape Communications has been blowing it all at the track, staying up late, and spending a little too much time on the Internet.

OK, we know that everyone wins now that Compaq has bought Digital, but don't forget Compaq's recent entry into the networking business. Digital's integration division is a major reseller of 3Com's gear, and apparently there's no love lost between Compaq and 3Com. Small children tell me there's going to be a significant impact on both 3Com and Cabletron, because they're significant resellers to the Digital integration channel. Compaq may not have all the networking gear its customers need, but I'm sure some of the company's superb Wonder Toys will keep people happy until it gets its arms around high-end data networking.

I mentioned a while back that we would be seeing a lot more pictures of Bill Gates kissing babies and patting little doggies on the head, as the company tries to reverse decades of ill feeling.

As if by magic, here's the great man himself appearing on 20/20 with Barbara Walters, singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star". I thought this guy didn't watch television because he was so super, super smart, and it wasn't an efficient use of his time? It's good to see such manifest competence collide with the broadcast universe of Xena, Warrior Princess. Let's hope he's on the last episode of Seinfeld.

It's time to hack in, derm up, and hold on tightI know that by now every self-respecting geek has read and reread William Gibson's Neuromancer, the 1983 science fiction novel written by a then unknown Canadian writer. This awesome book predicted pretty much the entire virtual reality cyberspace zeitgeist, as well as anticipated every other major social trend of the past 15 years, from corporate domination, to global economic integration, to black denim. It's a wild ride. Rereading it this weekend reminded me that this insane pace of technological change has only just begun.

Corporate domination

I hear from a university researcher who's been posting details about year 2000 issues on an academic Web site -- giving people a heads-up on which products are not yet Y2K-compliant. It seems there's a fairly long list of Microsoft products on the site. Microsoft's response? Heavy-handed calls from Microsoft's legal department "encouraging" this researcher to withdraw details of Microsoft products from the site. In Neuromancer the evil conglomerates hire ninja hit-men to assassinate their enemies. I guess we're not quite there yet, but you get the idea.

Note to myself: don't annoy powerful US business interests.

Only a few weeks after I raised an eyebrow over Netscape's future, the company bailed out of managing its Novonyx venture with Novell. Now rumours are appearing that the company is ripe for acquisition. If the silver-tongued Barskdale finds a backer or buyer, Netscape will have gone from visionary gleam to takeover dream in less time than it took me to drop out of college.

So what are Netscape's assets? A Web site that would be a nice property for America Online, a browser that would be a nifty integration tool for IBM or a nice front end for Oracle, and a confused Java strategy that Sun really ought to clean up, plus a whole load of very smart people who thought they were working for the next Microsoft and have discovered they're working for the last Apple.send e-mail to me at and I'll see you on the matrix

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