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Matthew McCann<br>I Called to Say I Cared

I got a call the other night from Bill Gates -- and to think, I didn't even know he cared! Well, it wasn't actually Bill Gates, but I think his handwork was involved there somewhere. To be fair, I don't know for sure from whom I received this phone call, all I have is a hunch. The call was from a company -- unnamed -- claiming to be doing a poll on some public issues. I was very excited. I thought maybe it was the Bush campaign. Wrong.

I was thrown a few softball questions at first: Are you between the ages of blah and blah? Do you use a computer at home or at work? Do you or any members of your family work for a software development company or computer manufacturer? Hmmm. Very interesting.

Then the phone jockey hit me with the meat: Are you aware of the Justice Department's anti-trust trial against Microsoft? Very aware, somewhat aware, slightly aware, comatose? Well, it was something like that. After a few more questions about my feelings toward Microsoft's products, how I feel about their business tactics, and whether or not I liked Bill Gates, it finally dawned on my pea-sized brain what was going on here. Since I work for a magazine that covers Microsoft and its products, I felt the pangs of journalistic integrity pulling at me -- despite what some of you may believe, that is not an oxymoron.

I stopped the interviewer. I explained that I worked in the media, and maybe I shouldn't be interviewed. Nope. As long as you don't work for a software manufacturer.

I explained that I worked for a magazine that covers Microsoft -- deeply.

Nope. As long as you don't work for a software manufacturer.

Oh, what the heck. I'll catch Frasier in reruns. So I submitted to a 20 minute grilling.

Now, what was really intriguing was the bulk of the interview that was yet to come. It seems that someone out there -- and I'm just guessing that it is Microsoft -- wants to get public reaction to proposed statements should Microsoft lose their anti-trust trial. A good 12 to 15 minutes were spent getting my take on hypothetical Microsoft responses to a verdict against them. Wow!

These statements ranged from contrite to combative; and with each example they asked whether or not I concurred, and if my opinion of Microsoft would change if that statement were issued.

Well, I answered my inquisitor as honestly as possible, and offered many "no opinions" where I thought my journalistic neutrality was warranted. And to be quite honest, I zoned out on a couple questions because I was thinking about how I was going to cover this the next day. I was amazed Microsoft was doing this. I thought only politicians were so spineless that they couldn't take a stand without a poll.

To be fair, I'm not sure this was Microsoft -- or one of its lackeys. But no one else seems to make sense. Would Sun, Oracle, or AOL spend the money to find out the public's take on the anti-trust case and how Microsoft should respond? You'd think they'd plug themselves somewhere in that 100 questions. Could it be the Justice Department? I sure hope not. They better not be spending my tax dollars on public opinion polls and phone banks -- that's the President's job.

Logically, it comes back to Bill Gates. The questions were so Microsoft-centric and so filled with a public relations paranoia that Microsoft has to be the driving force. So when the Judge issues his ruling, and Microsoft makes its statement on the court house steps, that could be me you’re listening to. If you want, give me a call. I'll let you know if I voted for that one.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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