Say, Bill, can you
hear us all right
BY MOIRA GUNN
Special to SiliconValley.com
Audio version of the column
OK, I admit it. I have these imaginary conversations
with Bill Gates. And I felt one coming on when I was
reading the coverage about the new Windows 2000
operating system in the San Jose Mercury News. It was
actually two different reports filed by Cecilia Kang and
Michelle Quinn, and I just couldn't help myself. I had to
talk to him right away.
`Golly, Bill, you shouldn't have. This present is just way
too expensive, and I'm not sure I can accept it.
`Oh, it's not for me? But how can that be? You gave me
Windows 95 and then Windows 98. What do you mean
Windows 2000 is not for me?
`I see. You're building the Windows Millennium Edition
for me. Sometime this summer. You say, Windows 2000
is for business users with big desktop computers or
networks of computers. Oh, I didn't know that.
`But seriously, Bill, you know these bait-and-switch titles
are pretty upsetting. I've been talking to people, and it
coming as a real surprise that Windows 2000 isn't for
`I see. It was just a business decision. And frankly, you
kind of set up expectations. 5,000 people. 4 years. $2
Billion. 35 Million lines ofcode.
`Well, the truth is all we really need is some basic word
processing here. And basic email. And every so often
we want to go out and cruise the World Wide Web.
Frankly, that's about it.
`And you know all those footnotes, and shadows, and the
paper clip guy with the advice? Don't need 'em. In fact,
what we'd really like is for the computer to turn on and off
real fast, and never crash. That's really what we want.
Can you work on that?
`You're right, Bill. The kids really like to play those
computer games, but this wouldn't be for them. This
would be for adults. Who have work to do, and no time to
do it in. Yeah, all right, a basic spreadsheet, if you say
so, but no fancy stuff, OK? We just want something
basic and fast that always works.
`When do I want it? I'm glad you asked that. Actually, I
could use it right away. I mean if you really want to give
me a present, and certainly, a guy like you with the kind
of resources you have at your disposal ...
`Oh, I see. I understand, Bill. I know you guys are
working really hard up there. And I know you've been
distracted. I'm sure it will all work out great. 'Til next time,
I don't know what it is, but I always let Bill off the hook.
Something in me wants to scream, `Are you listening?`
but I never do. I think that if I make my case quietly and
simply, he'll hear me. Like when I travel in a foreign
country, and I think that if I ask for what I want slowly
enough, the person I'm talking to will magically pick up
Maybe I could start having imaginary conversations with
Steve Ballmer. He's the new CEO. But I don't hold out
much hope. The paper quotes him as saying, `Microsoft
in my opinion is not well-understood.`
That's not a good sign.
I think if anyone's not well-understood, it's us.