What is all this hype about the Internet? Do you really have to be on the Net to be ‘with it’? The recent takeover of Time Warner by AOL threw the American news media into a frenzy of speculation over this latest and biggest merger. To hear the news reports, Big is good, Big is better, Big makes more dividends. Maybe. What it certainly will do is to act as a catalyst to cause more mega-mergers. This is a given. So, listen and learn, baby. This is money in your pocket.
“Pssst! Hey, buddy. I’ve got a stock tip for you on a sure thing. No bull. Buy Internet.
“Internet, what? Oh, you are a neophyte. Let me take you by the hand and show you this brave new world. What you require, though, is access to the Internet. You got an ISP and a modem?
“Wadda ya mean, what’s a ‘modern ISP”? Not modern, modem. They are two separate items.You gotta have both to get on the Net. You can’t just hail a cab or jump on a tram and suddenly you’re in cyberspace. So, you need an ISP and the modem is your traffic cop, connect device.
“You feel threatened because you don’t understand how it works. No problem. It’s a breeze. A five year old child can get on the net and they do! You know any five-year olds?
“You think Groucho was funnier but you still wanna know what ISP stands for. Ah… well, let’s say it means International Space Protocol. It’s one of the thousand alphabet soup terms you’ll run into, so, whatever you do, don’t get hung up on them.
“No. No, an ISP is not free–yet. You still have to fork out anywhere from 10 bucks to 40 bucks a month. You pay the money to the ISP and in return you get access to the Internet and anything your little heart desires.
“What sort of things? Why, as I just mentioned, anything. News, music, stocks, weather. You want music? What kind? You want to improve your mind or body? Go for it. You have a question or something you would like to learn about? It’s a snap. It goes on and on.
“Well of course you get what you pay for. For 10 bucks you will be limited in the number of hours you can use. Also the speed of access varies from painfully slow telephone to blazingly fast cable. For 40 bucks you would get the fastest unlimited service and all the bells and whistles.
“AOL? You heard of them, have you? Oh right, you got a stack of floppies and now twice as many CDs from them. You’re right. It seems that even gas stations and supermarkets hand them out. They are very big this month. Recently they took over the largest media company around. Maybe now they’ll get some speed into their system and not cut you off.
“Are they any good? Well, let me say that they have the largest customer base of any ISP. So you know what that means.
“You don’t? Let me explain. In a nutshell, the most popular system is always the best. Take computers. Windows has more users by far then all the other systems combined. So that makes them very good. In fact, it makes them the best. Get it?
“Oh! You don’t use Windows. You don’t even use a computer. You were intimidated when you found out floppy disks were no longer floppy. That is understandable, but how in the world do you balance your checkbook?
“Very easily, you say! And you have never been overdrawn? Well, good for you. I have to be honest and tell you that, even with Quicken, my accounts are a mess. But Quicken is the best (biggest) money managing program, so they have to be good. They have versions for PCs and Mac. They waffled on the Mac version even though their CEO was on Apple’s board of directors. Can you imagine the gall? But Apple ‘Steved’ them and they’re online again with a new edition. Which reminds me, I have to get the latest upgrade. All the companies are releasing software upgrades and programs with the issue year as part of the name now. Just like Ford and Chevy have always done with cars.
“It’s the ultimate in encouraging faster turnover of programs and upgrades. For example, the new Quicken is called Quicken 2000. The old way of identification would be something like Quicken version 3.5, or some such notation. You can see how the year date is the apex in planned obsolescence. You might be quite happy with version 5.3.1 of SuperText, as long as it worked for you. However, as soon as you tack on SuperText 1998, you’re into keeping up with the Joneses. All this, thanks to Madison Avenue!
“You’ve got me. I don’t know when it began or which company was the first to use it. But it has caught on like wildfire. It’s like the ISP stuff. Don’t get caught up on incidentals. It’s not important as long as you understand the psychology behind it and check out the program and upgrade info yourself. Whatever you do, don’t take what you read on the package or in the product release without a grain of salt. Or at least a bag of potato chips.
“Really? You say you know who started it all? Let me try to guess. Product issue by date year. General Motors? The Academy Awards? The Milk Advisory Board? Calendars ‘R Us? O.K., I give up.
“Well I’ll be! I should have known that. I should have guessed it by past and current advertising. Of course, if it’s in the software area, it had to be Microsoft . And you’re right. It started with that free-for-all ad campaign they touted for Windows 95. Gee, I hope they didn’t get their shorts in a knot when they had to keep changing the release year date because of all the delays. Burning millions of CDs of Windows 93 and then running out of calendar days is not good, even if you are the leading program buy-out firm in the high tech industry.
“What’s that? Oh, you would like to get back to the term is ISP not PSI. What would you like to know?
“Yes, of course you must have a PC to surf the Net. They do have a Mickey Mouse WebTV thing. But that’s sort of a joke and not very professional. Save it for your granny. Also, if you’re at all concerned about missing some important info, WebTV, by necessity, has to drop some coverage. Think Blockbuster Video and their in-house censorship.
“Oh, sorry. You didn’t know that Blockbuster cuts scenes and edits the videos that they feel may be objectionable? Well, of course you might not notice unless you saw it first at a theatre. Just remember what we discussed about being big and the best. Blockbuster is the biggest video rental outfit around. Personally, I go to the corner mom and pop video store and get the “Director’s cut” films.
“Absolutely! You’re right, of course. No one wants their viewing censored. But that’s another problem with the Internet. A lot of groups are concerned with the kinds of information that can be accessed. Stuff on the Bible may be O.K., but what about devil worship? Or porn? Or other really gross subjects. It can get pretty hairy if you’re the uptight type. For instance, some people may even object to televangelists on or off the Net constantly pimping for dollars. No doubt about it, the Internet can be a real rat’s nest. Sorta like Washington.
“I’ll tell you what I mean by that. For years, the politicians knew that Microsoft was a monopoly. Everyone knew except, apparently, Microsoft. The industry was walking on eggs because no one wanted to rock the boat. Biggest and best, remember? Attacking Microsoft for being corrupt is like saying the American way of doing business is wrong. We all know about padding the old expense account or regulating prices so they reflect a more realistic worth of the product. But those are small concerns if your business plan is threatened or if a company’s very survival may be at stake.
“Price fixing? Did I say that? Well, if I did, it’s as bad as the current software upgrade policies of some companies.Why would anyone pay hefty money for a product upgrade if it were only marginally better than what it replaced? Is that good business, good salesmanship, consumer apathy, or all three? Let the consumer beware of wares!
“So, uhmmm, just let me check if anyone is hanging about. It’s always smart to look over your shoulder to make sure you’re not overheard. Anyhow, here is the lowdown. Come closer ’cause I don’t want to speak any louder than I have to. Audio surveillance is state-of-the-art nowadays. Ready? This is so hot you could make a killing and I’m putting myself in a precarious position. You know how many rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission I’m violating? I don’t relish prison, but this is just too good to keep to myself.
“O.K., O.K., keep your shirt on! I only wanted to emphasize how far out on a limb I’ve gone to give you this tip. Here it is: AOL-Time Warner is set for a hostile takeover of Microsoft.
“Shush! Keep your voice down. There are SEC agents all over.
“What do you mean that’s stupid? I go to this trouble to hand you this silver spoon of inside information and you refuse to use it? I suppose you expect the private newsletters to spell it out for you in black and white. Give me a break! Have I ever lied to you?
“Yeah, I know we just met. But I got this flash direct from the MS executive suite. I can’t tell you who. He’s way up there. Suffice to say he’s got balls of steel and is not someone to take lightly. I’ve already mortgaged my house and sold my car to take advantage of this tidbit.
“Scared? About what? This is no gamble. It’s a sure thing. I like my house but I prefer to live on Easy Street, and this is the most direct way to get there. Hot cars, money, women, and booze, not necessarily in that order, is what I’m after.
“I wish you luck on your next stock purchase. Think about me when you’re sipping a cool drink on some beach in the South Pacific. And, just for the record, I don’t know you, you don’t know me. We never met. So long.
Ralph J. Luciani