At Large: Is this a dagger I see before me?

At Large: Is this a dagger I see before me?

If it were done, thinks Matthew JC. Powell, then best it were done quickly . . .

Last week I told you I was being driven crazy by that 3D baby in the "ugachaka" clip, which was at the time stuck immutably in my head - a fragment of a tune on an endless loop accompanied by some completely unlikely gyrations on the part of one so young. I may even have implied that I wished the virtual youngster some harm.

Naturally, I regret any such implication. Our children are our most valuable natural resource, the future belongs to the young, and so on and so forth. Even irritating little brats with a taste for '70s music deserve to be nurtured.

I'm telling you this now because I've realised that the opinions expressed in that article were not necessarily my own. The same malevolent subroutines that Microsoft has implanted into my word processor and Web browser, to make me unable to think about anything other than that company's current battle against the US Department of Justice, are also manipulating my thought patterns so that I will be sympathetic towards the software leviathan.

Sounds unlikely? Sounds completely irrelevant to Autodesk's boogy-woogy juvenile? I would have thought so too, if not for further bizarre evidence given at the Microsoft trial, this time by Apple's vice president of software development, Dr Avadis Tevanian Jr - "Avie" to his mates.

The summit

Avie told the court that a meeting between Microsoft's and Apple's multimedia software development teams had culminated in a request by Microsoft that Apple should "kill" the playback facility of QuickTime on the Windows platform, to allow Microsoft's own Video for Windows to become the standard. In return, Apple could have the multimedia authoring software market to itself.

A very generous offer indeed, coming from a company that has effectively no presence in the multimedia authoring market and made to a company that owns the software used through most of the multimedia industry. As leverage, Microsoft allegedly made veiled threats about killing off other Mac-related development projects, a move that would almost certainly have been fatal to an already (at the time) ailing Apple.

That may seem bizarre and perhaps a little unpleasant in and of itself, but it gets even better (or worse, depending upon your perspective). The really bizarre part of all this is the language Microsoft used in making its request. According to Avie, an exchange something like the following took place:

Microsoft dude: You could have authoring on both Windows and Mac platforms to yourselves, if you would remove the playback facility on the Windows QuickTime client.

Apple dude: You want us to kill playback?

Microsoft dude: We want you to kill playback.

Apple dude: You're talking about knifing the baby.

Microsoft dude: Yes, we're talking about knifing the baby.

That's right, you read it here first (unless you read it somewhere else earlier). Both Microsoft (the Evil Empire) and Apple (the Friendly Giant) are prepared to discuss openly their thoughts of taking a blade to an infant and ending it thusly. If you were not already concerned about the motivations and intent of the companies producing the software you use and sell, you should be now.

Even in all seven instalments of the Halloween film franchise, with their gratuitous use of knives and sundry assorted cutlery to terrorise and fillet nubile teenagers, babies are safe. Babysitters are another thing completely. In nine Friday the 13th movies, not a toddler is harmed. Even children as old as 16 are relatively immune to the ravages of mask-wearing blade-wielding psychopaths. It's the rule, you know.

But not, apparently, in Silicon Valley. Nor in Redmond. And because of the hidden code I've previously discussed, which is passed into my mind by signals emanating from the monitor whilst I work, these same unthinkable thoughts manifested themselves in my own head. Presumably this was done so that I would not be horrified to read of Microsoft's intentions when they were revealed in open court.

So there I was, labouring under the delusion that I merely harboured feelings of resentment towards a computer-generated toddler, toddling to Blue Swede's Hooked on a Feeling, when in fact I was subconsciously internalising the infanticidal metaphor of Microsoft's anticompetitive desire to eliminate the primary alternative to its own video playback technology. Clearly, some kind of therapeutic intervention is called for, and urgently.

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