Microsoft vs. the DOJ

A little background for those who don’t have time to keep up with Microsoft vs. the DOJ. Due to pressure from the courts to show why the Gates’ guys shouldn’t have to follow the rules like the rest of us, Microsoft has decided to beef up their public image. And who knows better how to affect the minds of millions than America’s PR men.

Seems Microsoft has hired some of the best of the best to orchestrate a vigorous campaign targeting the nineteen states that filed antitrust suits against Microsoft. One plan, so we hear, was to encourage a deluge of agency originated, ‘unsolicited, grassroots support’ for Microsoft and Windows in the local press. They’ve even had form letters written for the digital bigwigs to sign and held a pep rally in the Big Apple with Big Bill as cheerleader. ‘Gimme a ten! Let’s hear it for M!’

And the chips and slicks? Well, in order to encourage a swing to Microsoft Explorer as the nation’s number one, bar none browser, Microsoft intends to give away NT 4.0 Server software and assorted goodies to ISPs able to sign up at least 500 subscribers using a new customized MIE browser.

“Wait just a minute,” says someone. “Isn’t that sort of thing considered illegal dumping?” No, says Mr. K (another Bill). “It’s like taping a package of snack chips to a bottle of Coke.” (CNET News.Com, 4/10/98) ‘Hey! Hey! Hey! Gimme a K!’

While we doubt the world as we know it will cease to exist if Win 98 misses another deadline, you gotta admire their spunk. So today, let’s celebrate that die-hard spirit in this, a modern musical, untouched by Disney.


Big Bill...

The scene opens in 24 bit Color and 3D Surround Sound. A line of Trolls, marching in time, stretches from the top of MicrosElf Mountain to the courthouse below. No picks and shovels today, folks. It’s all picket signs and briefcases. An oldie but goodie sets the mood. You’re welcome to sing along.


Heigh Ho Heigh Ho
It’s Off To Court We Go
It’s Boom Or Bust
For Antitrust
Heigh Ho Heigh Ho
(We Want that dough!)Signs, swung across each burly shoulder, say things like: “98 Rules!” And: “Don’t Delay / The World Will Pay!” Or: “2 4 6 8 / Gotta Be Free to Innovate!” And the favorite: “Monopoly? Who Me?”

Their briefcases bulge with papers that proclaim: ‘It’s not the Power. It’s the Principle!’ Or: ‘Freedom to Innovate. That’s what we’re all about!’ Along with the erudite: ‘Throw no Sand in the Gears of Progress!’ And dire warnings that threaten: ‘Scratch MicrosElf and the Whole World Bleeds.’

As the endless line of Trolls snakes down the mountainside, the scene fades to a cave deep beneath a grassroots meadow where a Dwarf called Docket trundles a wheelbarrow loaded with books and briefs toward a long wooden table. A group of Elves are clustered around the table, up to their pointy little ears in chips. A few seasoned Dwarfs oversee their efforts.

“You there, Grumpski,” says Docket, tossing a bundle of papers onto the table. “Take a letter.”

“Me!” Snaps Grumpski. He waves fingers plastered with Nachos and licensing agreements under Dock’s nose. “You ever try to stick a chip on a disk? Get Dumpski.” But Dumpski’s stuck fast in a soda slick, his turned up toes mired in congealing Coke syrup.

“How come we’re stuck with all this stuff, anyway, Dock?” Dump wiggles a toe loose and grins. “Duh, that’s a joke, folks.” But Dock’s in no mood for jokes.

“The DOJ!” He says it like a four-letter word. “Bloody busybodies! This antitrust stuff oughta be against the law. Mess with Big M., you mess with destiny.”

Grumpski nibbles a Nacho off one gnarled finger. “I remember the old country. We invented everything. Everything! And no bumble-headed busybodies around to say nyet. Da! Those were the days.” Grump sighs. Visions of work camps dance in his head.

Dock nods. “Ah, Siberia. And they call this progress. If it weren’t for the DOJ, we’d be in scurrying through dark corridors and lurking about digital corners right now. Sniffin’ out all those great ideas and in-no-va-tions for Big Bill.”

Just the thought makes his nose twitch. “As it is, we gotta waste all this time on paperwork. And speaking of paperwork…”

He shoves a packet of letters down the table at Snuffle and Snorffle, catching Snorf head down and hard at it. “So! Sleeping on the job again! What’s Big Bill gonna say about that?”

“But, Dock,” says Snorf, “we’ve been on overtime for months. Hidin’ under beds. Diggin’ up the dirt. Layin’ down the doubletalk. I’m bushed.” His eyelids begin to droop.

“Well Gents, we’re going to be on triple time before we’re done. Quit your grousing and take a letter.” Dock drops a dozen or so phone books onto the table, bringing Snorf back with a start and sending Snuffle into a bout of wild sneezing.

“Hey, watch it, Dock,” says Snuffle through a cloud of dust. “What kind of letter? Better be DOS Talk.”

“Well, it for sure ain’t Apple Talk,” says Dock, wheezing at his own joke. “It’s People Talk.”

“People Talk!” Heads snap up around the table. “We can’t hardly think in People. Let alone write the stuff.

“No need to think. It’s all here.” He waves a fat brown envelope. “Yessiree! Dozens of unsolicited, heartfelt psalms of support for MicrosElf and Big Bill. All from the grassroots of America. Made ’em up myself this morning. All you gotta do is look through the phone books for some classy human sounding names and sign the things. Grab a quill.”

“And me allergic to feathers,” says Snuffle, blowing a particularly wet sneeze on one of Dock’s psalms of support. Snorffle is quietly nodding off again.

Dock snatches his handiwork from beneath Snuff’s nose just as Shuffle slips past in the shadows. “Hey! You there! Take a letter!” But poor Shuffle turns bright red and sidles off to poison another batch of apples.

Down at the end of the table, SlapHap and and some fledgling Elves are deep in a game of Monopoly. Dock hesitates. “Beg pardon, Boys, but I could use some help. Sorry to louse up your game.”

And he is, too. Monopoly is serious business around here and the boys need all the training they can get. Still, this is an emergency. Big Bill could be headed for a humdinger of humble pie in the eye.

“Sure thing, Boss,” says Hap. “Whatcha need?” And soon SlapHap and his merry men are busy putting the finishing touches on stacks and stacks of spontaneous, from the heart, testimonials, opinion pieces and letters to the editor.

Shuffle tiptoes round the table with a bag of chips and a basket of apples. As the scene dims the only sounds are those of quills scratching and the crunch of an occasional apple.

Sometime later: We rejoin Countless Trolls, Umpteen Elves and Seven Digital Dwarfs emerging into the 24 bit sunshine after a long day in court. Everyone’s singing and dancing in the streets. (Well, this is a musical.)

An enormous circle soon surrounds the courthouse and the whole lot of them throw their hands in the air and begin to shake from head to toe. Hey! We know this tune! We find ourselves humming along.


You put your MicrosElf in
You put your MicrosElf out
You put your MicrosElf in
And you turn the Judge aboutYou do the Hocus Pocus
And you give a little shout
‘Two Four Six Eight’
‘Gotta Be Free to In-no-vate’
And that’s what it’s all about

As the sun sinks behind the mountain, they weave their way home, legs and bodies bouncing up the trail in what looks suspiciously like the Conga with a little Bunny Hop thrown in. Big Bill is leading the way.

Our movie ends with a multitude of extras, silhouetted against a Technicolor sky. They’re streaming through the MicrosElf portals, singing as they go. And everyone, well almost everyone, lives happily ever after.

But wait. Just as the credits start to roll, the picture changes. The scene fades to a lone minstrel on a darkening hilltop, strumming his lute and singing the blues. This bleak, black and white landscape has no hint of Disney. And the minstrel’s voice is the voice of the people. We can barely make out his words over the distant sounds of revelry.


Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to choose
Nothing’s worse than nothing new around
Ah yes, freedom’s just another word for nothing left to use
Now that Microsoft’s the only game in townAnd we fade to black.

Susan Howerter

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