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Weekly Alibi Deal With the Devil?

Microsoft Buys In.

By David O. Dabney

AUGUST 18, 1997:  As the Apple Turns: The soap opera that is Apple Computer has now taken a turn nobody would have expected. It seems that Microsoft, among other things, will now buy $150 million of Apple stock, which is about 5 percent of the company. This, along with an announcement by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates that Microsoft will continue to develop software for the Mac for another six to eight years, the signing of an agreement to share technology and a promise by Apple to drop its patent infringement suits against Microsoft, sent Apple's share price up more than 40 percent in only two days. Microsoft will buy specially issued version of nonvoting stock directly from Apple. However, the shares become voting shares after three years.

Apple not only gets $150 million out of the deal but it also gains a de facto vote of confidence from the largest software company in the world, and the second largest developer of software for the Mac market, after Adobe. Sales of Mac software typically make up about 10 percent of Microsoft's revenue. Even considering that the future fate of Apple has been the topic of rampant speculation and rumor mongering, this turn of events was completely unexpected.

It signals a warming of relations between two traditional antagonists, with Microsoft realizing the Mac market is still an important one and Apple realizing that, in order to raise industry confidence, it needs a vote of confidence from its archrival. But Apple and Microsoft were strangely silent on whether Microsoft would support and develop applications, especially the very popular Office, which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint, for Apple's new operating system, code-named Rhapsody. Microsoft considers Rhapsody to be a direct competitor to its own line of operating systems like the upcoming Windows 98 and Windows NT. "We have not formally agreed to release Office for Rhapsody," said Greg Maffei, Microsoft's Chief Financial Officer, fueling more speculation.

The deal could also be more bad news for Netscape. A commitment was made by Apple to Microsoft that it would make Microsoft's Internet Explorer the official browser for the Mac. Netscape, with almost 90 percent of the browser market two years ago, has seen its market share slide to a little over 60 percent in recent months because of deals like this one. The deal also seems to help Microsoft with its antitrust troubles. Coming in and helping a competitor like Apple certainly gains them some chits in their dealings with the Justice Department. "This is excellent insurance against a Justice Department antitrust suit," said David Coursey, editor of the coursey.com newsletter. "If Apple goes down, then Windows becomes a monopoly. It's more efficient for Microsoft to keep Apple alive, because it avoids the antitrust lawsuits from the Justice Department, it kicks Netscape and comes out looking like the good guy."

Spam I Am: Sanford Wallace, aka "Spamford" Wallace, is back in the news again. This self-proclaimed "King of Spam" is now in hot water with Hormel Meats, the makers of the real stuff. They've started rattling their legal sabers about suing Wallace over copyright infringement. Wallace thinks they're full of it: "It's a common word used by everyone on the Internet." Maybe so, but no one else calls themself the Spam King or uses the name to sell their ability to send junk e-mail or post useless crap to Internet newsgroups.

Getting the idea from Hormel's threatened lawsuit, someone decided the Internet needed a pledge drive to goad Hormel into really taking action. Thus the Spam Pledge Page was born (antispam.shmooze.net). Here you can pledge how many cans of Spam you would buy if Hormel decides to actually sue Wallace. I've pledged 10.

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