Steven Levy

Stories by Steven Levy

  • TECHNOLOGY: THE WEEK OF THE GIZMOS

    Last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was all about crowing that the long-promised "digital convergence" was finally underway. Typical breakthrough product: Sony's not-yet-shipping LocationFree portable-TV system, a wireless 12-inch touchscreen LCD monitor with a Wi-Fi base station. Connect the base station to your cable line, TiVo, DVD changer and other media doo-dads and presto, you can watch the football game anywhere there's a broadband connection--the den, the local Starbucks or a Helsinki hotel room. If you're not in a hot zone, check out the score on Microsoft's long-awaited SPOT watch. For 10 bucks a month you not only get the correct time but also sports, news, weather, stock quotes and personal messages and appointments. The geeky wrist devices are made by Fossil and Suunto. Earlier in the week, at the Macworld Expo, Steve Jobs introduced the iPod mini, a lower-cost and more compact version of Apple's best-selling music (2 million so far) player. Looking like...
  • IS IT REAL, OR IS IT MICROSOFT?

    The next ownership meeting of the Seattle Mariners could be an interesting one. Minority shareholder Rob Glaser will face several other part owners who have day jobs at his former employer, Microsoft. Though Glaser's Internet media company, Real Networks, has been competing with the Softies for almost all of its 10-year existence, last month it hurled a billion-dollar bean ball toward Redmond: an antitrust suit charging unfair competition.The suit represents a rite of passage for a company whose business model (handling the guts of music and video transmission) places it in the path of Bill Gates's no-reverse-gear backhoe. The suit, combined with a European Union investigation of Microsoft's practices toward Real Networks (basically, shutting out its software in favor of the Windows Media alternative), gives Glaser hope that for the first time Microsoft will be forced to compete on a level playing field. For its part, Microsoft dismisses the suit as "rearview-mirror litigation,"...
  • Technology: Owning The Music

    Record labels can stop their moaning now. In 2003 music lovers finally got the chance to download tunes legally--and proved that if given a convivial experience and the stuff they wanted to hear, they would indeed pay for the songs they could get elsewhere free. Apple's iTunes Music Store just racked up its 25 millionth 99-cent download ("Let It Snow," sung by Frank Sinatra). Now comes a host of competitors including Dell, Wal-Mart, Napster and Microsoft. Even file-sharing giant Kazaa's CEO Nikki Hemming says that her company's future lies in selling copyrighted music to law-abiding customers.While iTunes and stores like it follow the familiar model in which you purchase music outright, the more radical solutions are subscription services like Rhapsody that offer "all you can eat" for a monthly fee, as long as you keep paying for it. These schemes are tied to your computer, but soon we'll see products that stream hundreds of thousands of songs to your home stereo and even your cell...
  • Viewpoint: Hackers? No Way.

    Just because the tools of thievery and extortion are lines of computer code doesn't mean that Internet crooks are hackers. By hijacking this once glorious appellation, these lowlifes are debasing a powerful, world-changing tradition. The subject is a touchy one for me because I wrote about the real thing in my first book, called (what else?) "Hackers," in 1984. (The marketing department of my publisher objected to the use of such an obscure title.) Hackers were driven to write code, discover the secrets of the new realm of computation and fulfill themselves by making computers do what others claimed could not be done. Working late at night (the only period when precious computer time was available), those so-called nerds were the first to understand the power of inactivity--sending something to the computer and getting an instant response--and, just for fun, they invented computer games, word processing, networking and other things that are now at the center of the computing...
  • Twilight Of The Pc Era?

    Nicholas Carr seems an unlikely candidate for the technology world's Public Enemy No. 1. A mild-mannered 44-year-old magazine editor and freelance writer, he's spent five years laboring for the Harvard Business Review, not exactly a hotbed of bomb-throwers. But now he finds himself branded a wild-eyed heretic and a threat to the underpinnings of the entire economy. His offense? Penning a 12-page article about the state of information-technology (IT) investment in the corporate world. Why has it jacked up the aggregate blood pressure in Armonk, N.Y., Silicon Valley, Calif., and Redmond, Wash.? Consider the title: "IT Doesn't Matter." ...
  • He's Still Having Fun

    Bill Gates acknowledges in a draft of an upcoming white paper that "computing today is at a crossroads." But he's got no doubt about the ultimate destination: more innovation, with his own company leading the way, of course. NEWSWEEK's Steven Levy recently sat down in New York City with Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect to discuss technology, security and even a bit of politics.LEVY: What's Microsoft's next big push?GATES: There's a lot of breakthroughs we see coming in software to solve some of the boundary problems we think exist today: the boundary between you and your machine... in terms of how you use speech, do you use ink, does the machine remember how you like to do things, the boundary between the different devices. There's never been a software company spending $6.9 billion a year tackling these problems. And so either [the critics] are right and those breakthroughs won't take place and I'll have to tell shareholders I'm sorry. Or they will in large part...
  • Twilight Of The PC Era?

    Some Commentators Are Proclaiming The End Of The Computer World's Glory Days. But More Chip Power And Connectivity Might Produce The Biggest Changes Yet
  • He's Still Having Fun

    In a draft of an upcoming white paper, Bill Gates acknowledges that "computing today is at a crossroads." But he's got no doubt about the ultimate destination: more innovation, with his own company leading the way, of course. NEWSWEEK's Steven Levy recently sat down in New York City with Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect to discuss technology, security and even a bit of politics.LEVY: What's Microsoft's next big push?GATES: There's a lot of breakthroughs we see coming in software to solve some of the boundary problems we think exist today: the boundary between you and your machine... in terms of how you use speech, do you use ink, does the machine remember how you like to do things, the boundary between the different devices. There's never been a software company spending $6.9 billion a year tackling these problems. And so either [the critics] are right and those breakthroughs won't take place and I'll have to tell shareholders I'm sorry. Or they will in large part...
  • Can't I Work In Peace?

    Every time Microsoft unveils a new version of its flagship application-software suite, Office, a single question forms on the lips of millions: "Should I upgrade?" Poor souls. Don't they understand that for almost everybody, upgrading is not a case of if but when? No matter how minuscule the motivation, a time will come when adopting the most recent version becomes less trouble than resisting it. For me, there is a more interesting question that arises during a rollout of Office, invariably highlighted by a ritual benediction from Bill Gates. How will Microsoft argue that the latest model is far, far superior than the newly displaced previous version?This year, to my dismay, one key argument was that Office 2003 was geared toward "collaboration." Forgive me, but when I hear that word applied to software, I reach for my revolver. Ever since the first efforts at what used to be called "groupware," I've been suspicious of efforts to open up applications so that everyone gets to take...
  • Welcome To History 2.0

    October was a busy news month. Iraq smoldered. California elected Arnold, then burned. Kobe hit the docket. But my bet is that in a hundred years, people, if there are any, will agree that the biggest story was the one that appeared on the computer screens of millions who made routine visits to the online superstore Amazon.com. On Thursday, Oct. 23, founder Jeff Bezos told customers that his "search inside the book" service would allow them to type a name or phrase--and be immediately rewarded with a report of instances of those words appearing in the pages of one of 120,000 tomes. Then, with a single click, Amazon would deliver an image of the very page in question."The program is 100 percent focused on selling more books," says Amazon VP Steve Kessel. But for anyone who's ever done even casual research work, Amazon's scheme is much more than a sales device: it's a lightning bolt from the future. Some people literally broke out in tears as they punched in queries and unearthed...
  • Black Box Voting Blues

    After the traumas of butterfly ballots and hanging chad, election officials are embracing a brave new ballot: sleek, touch-screen terminals known as direct recording electronic voting systems (DRE). States are starting to replace their Rube Goldbergesque technology with digital devices like the Diebold Accu-Vote voting terminal. Georgia uses Diebolds exclusively, and other states have spent millions on such machines, funded in part by the 2002 federal Help America Vote Act. Many more terminals are on the way.Unfortunately, the machines have "a fatal disadvantage," says Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey, who's sponsoring legislation on the issue. "They're unverifiable. When a voter votes, he or she has no way of knowing whether the vote is recorded." After you punch the buttons to choose your candidates, you may get a final screen that reflects your choices--but there's no way to tell that those choices are the ones that ultimately get reported in the final tally. You simply have to trust...
  • Technology: Apps, I Did It Again

    Is it time for another version of Office? Ready or not--and many people think that the current model is more than enough for the tasks they perform--Microsoft is back with Office Systems, a whole slew of products including the upgrade of its flagship suite. Does Office 2003 (available in various editions from $499 for the pro version to $149 for the student pack) demand an upgrade? A lot of the new features can potentially streamline certain complicated data-handling tasks, and other stuff helps those who work collaboratively on big projects. But the most noticeable tweaks for just plain people are an impressively spiffed-up Outlook module (enabling you to sift through e-mail as deftly as Uma Thurman dispatches ninjas), improved readability in Word and a useful new note-taking app called OneNote. Nice touches, but casual users need not rush to the computer store.
  • Pumping Up The Volume

    When Steve Jobs was dismissed from Apple, the company he cofounded, by the then CEO John Sculley 18 years ago, the blow was particularly brutal because Jobs himself had wooed Sculley from his post as head of Pepsi. His challenge to Sculley had been, "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life?"Last week Jobs, who has reclaimed the reins at Apple and restored the company to glory--most recently by taking the leadership in selling online music with its 99-cents-a-song iTunes Music Store--announced a new alliance. With Pepsi-Cola. Next February and March, 100 million Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Sierra Mist bottles with yellow caps will have a code printed on them that grants sugar-water guzzlers a free song from Apple's slick Internet emporium--and teaches them the joys of legal digital music.The Pepsi deal was only the fizz in Jobs's continuing campaign to let the carrot, and not the stick, save the music industry from death at the hands of Internet pirates. He also announced...
  • Reflections Of A 'Quicksilver' Mind

    Science fiction, says Neal Stephenson, is "fiction in which ideas play an important part." Ideas abound in his 927-page "Quicksilver," the first of the three-volume "Baroque Cycle," set entirely between 1656 and 1714. At the center of this sprawling, irreverent narrative is the concept of a world being transformed by science. Key among its dramatis personae are the real-life figures of Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who interact with Stephenson's quirky fictional characters. The author spoke recently with NEWSWEEK's Steven Levy.LEVY: The "Baroque Cycle" is nearly 3,000 pages long. Who's going to read all this?STEPHENSON: It's a big planet. Even if the vast majority have short attention spans, there are lots who are more than happy to read big, long epics that they can lose themselves in.You seem to regard some of your characters as the 17th-century equivalent of hackers. Instead of the computer, they had the scientific method.Everything they could get their hands on-...
  • Can Snooping Stop Terrorism?

    It's official: the Pentagon's Terrorism (formerly total) Information Awareness program has been a Total Institutional Disaster. Last month Congress pulled the plug on the Department of Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) high-tech initiative to identify terrorist threats. Certainly everyone concerned with the ability of the government to snoop on its citizens should be satisfied that, in this case at least, legislators stood up for the sanctity of personal information. But I suggest we go easy on the celebrations.First some explanation. DARPA, the DoD agency known for developing cutting-edge technology for the military that often benefits all of us (best example: the Internet), jumped into the post-9/11 effort to prevent terrorism with a plan that would, in part, "mine" massive amounts of records, including personal transactions of U.S. citizens. The Orwellian implications proved fatal, and Congress closed down that project (while DARPA itself continues). Still, the project...
  • Words On The Wired Age

    Is it a coincidence that when the tech industry hit bottom, there seemed to be fewer good books on geeky topics? And now that digital mojo is making a comeback on Wall Street, all of a sudden there's a wealth of tomes that touch on tech? Here's a sampling of some of the better selections from the wired-book bag, beginning with an eponymous volume.Wired--A Romance. In mid-1992, I got a call from Kevin Kelly, an editor I knew. He was soliciting stories for a new magazine aspiring to become the flagship of the digital age. I agreed to do a big story for him (and appear on the masthead, unpaid, as a contributing writer, an arrangement that continues), but asked for my travel expenses in advance. The whole thing sounded shaky to me.Little did I know that Wired, founded by a dreamy but iron-willed visionary named Louis Rossetto, would indeed fulfill some of his seemingly delusional plans. For several years Wired was the bible of the tech world, blowing minds with the latest silicon...
  • The Oracle Speaks

    Larry Ellison has never been shy of publicity. The richest man in Silicon Valley and the relentlessly aggressive founder of the relentlessly aggressive Oracle software company has cultivated an image as a computer-industry leader more like a James Bond villain (building a $100 million 16th-century Japanese-style estate, sailing world-class vessels, flying jet-fighter planes and squiring beautiful women) than a numbers-obsessed geek. Still, it raised a few eyebrows when the unpredictable Ellison agreed to put himself under a microscope for "Softwar," an ambitious book by Matthew Symonds that comes out this week, with a running commentary in footnotes from Ellison himself. Before taking his America's Cup-contending boat Oracle BMW for a Moet Cup rematch against the champion, Alinghi, Ellison recently found time to talk to NEWSWEEK's Steven Levy about Oracle's future, the ongoing competition with Microsoft, his attempt to buy competitor PeopleSoft, his evolving management style and...
  • Larry, With Tears

    Early in "Softwar," Matthew Symonds's authorized "intimate portrait" of Larry Ellison, we glimpse the man considered Silicon Valley's most ruthless, vain and driven competitor. He is weeping because his beloved cat of 10 years, Maggie, has died. Consider it a signal. Symonds, while dutifully asking his subject critical questions from time to time, does not present the dour view of Ellison held by much of the industry, but a largely sympathetic portrait of the man who would be software's king. As a result, the novel idea of having Ellison himself comment on Symonds's text (over which Ellison had no veto power) is largely wasted, since the subject seldom has much of importance to argue about. (Ellison's remarks, though, are often witty and pungent. In one he writes--perhaps thinking of Maggie--"people regularly mistake obedience for intelligence. That's why we think dogs are more important than cats.")As a former technology editor of The Economist, a founding editorial director of The...
  • A 'Quicksilver' Mind

    Science fiction, says Neal Stephenson, is "fiction in which ideas play an important part." Ideas certainly abound in his 927-page "Quicksilver," the first of the three-volume "Baroque Cycle," set entirely between the years 1656 and 1714. At the center of this sprawling, irreverent and ultimately profound narrative is the concept of a world being irrevocably transformed by science. Key among its dramatis personae are the real-life figures of Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who interact with Stephenson's typically quirky and resourceful fictional characters. The Seattle-based author spoke recently with NEWSWEEK's Steven Levy.LEVY: The "Baroque Cycle" is nearly 3,000 pages of historical fiction, brimming with new ideas. Who's going to read all this?STEPHENSON: It's a big planet. Even if the vast majority have short attention spans and won't like this book, there are lots and lots who are more than happy to read big, long epics that they can lose themselves in. The...
  • Games: Tiger's New Hit

    This was a lost year for Tiger Woods at the major tourneys. But it was pure birdie land for his wonderfully executed and infuriatingly addictive videogame, which raised blisters on the thumbs of millions. Next week Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 (PS2, Xbox, GameCube and Game Boy Advance; Electronic Arts, $50) steps things up even more. The basic gameplay is the same, but players can now launch entire careers on the PGA tour (playing up to 10 seasons), as well as taking on the world in a colorful roundelay of international tournaments. They can also create golfers in their own images--complete with tattoos and acne--or get fancy duds with corporate logos that pay each round for the exposure. Finally, among the competition is John Daly. If the big guy hits an awful shot, he bangs his club on the ground, shattering the pastoral calm of the links. Awesome!
  • Faq: Are You Next?

    Now that the recording industry is hauling people into court for trading in copyrighted files, parents have taken a sudden interest in the technicalities and legalities of file sharing. Here's a brief primer to help clear up the static.What's permitted and what's outlawed in digital music?It's perfectly legal to take CDs you purchased in a store, put them in your computer and "rip" (copy in a compressed format) the songs to your hard drive. And you are also permitted to "burn" copies of the songs onto CDs for your own personal use. But it's not OK to get those same songs from a service like Kazaa or LimeWire and make them available on the Internet.How do I know if I'm sharing songs?When you join a file-sharing service, a folder for shared files is generated. Typically, if you do nothing, all the songs you download will go into that folder and automatically become available to the entire world every time you go online. If the RIAA picks you as a target you can be liable for up to ...
  • Courthouse Rock

    Joyce Mullen's new car has a CD player, so this year the 53-year-old administrative assistant for Lucent began purchasing discs, most recently a Cher collection. But her relationship with the music industry changed last Monday, when the phone rang in the house she shares with her family on a leafy street in Methuen, Mass. It was a reporter asking how it felt to be sued by the giant corporations who sell the CDs she'd been buying. Her husband--who never touches the family computer--was among the 261 defendants in suits filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). What made the family liable for millions of dollars in penalties were the 1,080 or so songs downloaded by their 21-year-old daughter Meghan and shared with the world via an Internet file-sharing service called iMesh. Joyce Mullen won't be buying music for quite a while. "If you're going to lose your house," she says, "how are you going to buy a CD?"The file-sharing boom, in which 60 million Americans have...
  • A Geek Bill Of Rights

    Only a few decades ago, exposing kids to computers was considered a radical idea, as well as a waste of precious mainframe time. Now the computer-children tandem is as natural as the combo of kids and dogs. But computer technology is far from an unadulterated benefit for youngsters. A digital divide assures that the rich get geekier. The Internet suffers from the same kind of perils--crime, porn and unchecked facts about Ben Affleck--found in the physical world. Some educators want computers to replace some of the still-essential basics of learning: linguistic expression, and above all, the irreplaceable experience of a good teacher doing good teaching. What's needed is something like a Kid's Computer Bill of Rights to make sure the next generation gets the benefit of the last century's most important invention while avoiding the digital downside.Here's my personal list of particulars:Universal Internet access. Every kid should have access to a computer and the Internet. It's a no...
  • TECHNOLOGY: NOT JUST BUDDIES

    With membership shrinking, America Online hopes to reload with its latest upgrade, AOL 9.0 (available free to members). Some features are goofy, like a Toontown version of emoticons called SuperBuddy Icons, including one based on Ben Stiller and another on a triggerfish. Others are long overdue, like a fortified mail client that unabashedly borrows from competitor Microsoft's Outlook. Parental controls are improved, more spam is blocked and there are beefed-up security features like firewalls for broadband users. The popular "You've Got Pictures" application now lets you more easily integrate photos into mail, albums and Web logs. (Yes, the new AOL lets you blog!) The most subversive idea is adding voice capability to instant messaging: it's like free long-distance phone calls.
  • Predicting Terror: Foolish Bet

    The way news broke last week of retired Adm. John Poindexter's pending resignation from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) is emblematic of his troubled tenure as head of the Terrorist Information Awareness project: a leaked revelation with no official explanation.The departure comes after months of pressure. Poindexter did have certain qualifications for the task of fighting terrorism by exploiting out-of-the-box high-tech approaches: Ronald Reagan's former national-security adviser was a closet geek who had been involved for years on plans to mine information from myriad databases. But a project like TIA requires trust between its creators and a public concerned about protecting its privacy from a program that involves sifting through massive amounts of personal information. Poindexter's past--convicted of lying to Congress during Iran-contra--precluded such trust. (His five felony counts were overturned on appeal.) Finally, Poindexter had an uncanny cluelessness...
  • Pirates Of The Internet

    Last month I attended a hearing of the senate judiciary Committee with an intriguing title: "The dark side of a bright idea: Could personal and national-security risks compromise the potential of peer-to-peer file-sharing networks?" I certainly was aware that some members of Congress wanted to snuff out the grass-roots phenomena of people's swapping copyrighted songs on the Net. But I assumed that the crime of file-sharing, joyfully committed by an estimated 60 million pirates, was mainly a problem of lost revenues for the music industry. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, giving the opening testimony, argued otherwise, calling file-sharing networks a grave security risk to this nation. In reality, the hearing was nothing but one of several signs of a new hardball offensive against file-sharing for the same old reasons: protecting the business model of the record labels.What was the alleged national-security issue? Strictly yellowcake. Researchers testified that because of a confusing interface...
  • Machine Vs. Man: Checkmate

    Garry Kasparov's head is bowed, buried in his hands. Is he in despair, or just stealing a minute of rest in his relentless quest to regain the world championship, promote chess and represent humanity in the epic conflict between man and machine? He professes the latter. But no one could blame the greatest grandmaster in history if he did succumb to bleakness. His own experiences indicate the end of the line for human mastery of the chessboard. In the sport of brains, silicon rules.Still, Kasparov is preparing to throw himself into the breach once more. In November he will play his third computer opponent in a highly touted match. The first, of course, was IBM's Deep Blue, which in 1997 beat him in a battle that he insists to this day was unfairly stacked against him. Then, earlier this year, he fought to an unsatisfying draw against Deep Junior, programmed by two Israelis. Next up will be X3d Fritz, a world-class program modified to "play in the third dimension," where his 3-D...
  • Net Savings

    Propeller heads have long predicted that the Internet would become the preferred long-distance medium for actual conversation. But "voice over IP"--if that isn't geeky enough, try "VoIP"--has to date been a hard-to-use, low-quality means of barking to someone via the microphone of your PC. Now Net2Phone is offering a VoIP service for calls on your home or office land-line phone, or even your cell phone--at way-cheap rates. Once you sign up and give Net2Phone your credit card, you just punch in (or speed dial) the access number and then you can call anyone in the world. The bills come on your card statement.Quality? An intercontinental call on land-line phones (four cents a minute) sounded great; chatter with a friend in Brazil from a cell phone in New York was a bit muddy. Mitigating factor: 10 cents a minute to So Paulo. You can check it out at Net2Phone.com.
  • Net Savings

    Propeller heads have long predicted that the Internet would become the preferred long-distance medium for actual conversation. But "voice over IP"--if that isn't geeky enough, try "VoIP"--has to date been a hard-to-use, low-quality means of barking to someone via the microphone of your PC. Now Net2Phone is offering a VoIP service for calls on your home or office land-line phone, or even your cell phone--at way-cheap rates. Once you sign up and give Net2Phone your credit card, you just punch in (or speed dial) the access number and then you can call anyone in the world. The bills come on your card statement, just like an EZ Pass.Quality? An intercontinental call on land-line phones (four cents a minute) sounded great; chatter with a friend in Brazil from a cell phone was a bit muddy. Mitigating factor: 10 cents a minute to So Paulo. You can check it out at Net2Phone.com.
  • Info With A Ball And Chain

    When Steve Jobs introduced the iTunes music store a few weeks ago, the acclaim was nearly universal. Nonetheless, a small but vocal minority viewed the online emporium as a menace--because the iTunes program somewhat limits a consumer's ability to copy and share songs. Even though Apple had broken ground by getting the record labels to accept fairly liberal terms of use--Apple-oids could listen to purchased songs on three computers and burn CDs--this bunch objected to any restrictions at all. They saw the iTunes store as a sugar-coated inducement for consumers to accept a new reality: some stuff on your computer isn't really under your control. And as far as that goes, the critics are right. Say goodbye to the "Information Wants to Be Free" era. We're entering the age of digital ankle bracelets.The key to this shift is the technology that protects information from unauthorized or illegal use. It's called digital-rights-management software, or DRM. Like it or not, rights management...
  • Technology: Faithful Sidekick

    The new version of the Danger Hiptop communicator--marketed by the T-Mobile network as the Sidekick--is like a great popcorn movie: all the cool stuff is on the screen. The Sidekick tries to deliver all the functionality of an e-mail device, Web browser, cell phone, PDA, digital camera and Game Boy--doing better at some tricks than others. But everything is enhanced by a razor-sharp, brightly backlit color display. Strong suits include e-mail (the display slides to expose a thumb-oriented keyboard), AOL Instant Messenger and an awesome Asteroids-style game. Not so great: a clunky phone. Still, at $300 and all-you-can-eat Internet for less than $50 a month, a lot of folks will want Sidekick when it's rolled out later this month.
  • Two Gorillas Make Nice

    Last week the technology elite gathered in Carlsbad, Calif., for a Wall Street Journal technology conference. Nobody gave it a second thought that some of the Microsoft people seemed to be hanging around folks from America Online just a little too much for blood rivals. But second thoughts were in order. Just after the conference closed last Thursday, the two biggest and fiercest competitors in the digital world veered sharply from a collision course for an ugly court battle over Microsoft's anticompetitive behavior. Instead, they announced that AOL Time Warner was dropping its antitrust suit (a follow-on to the federal case lost by Microsoft) and entering a collaboration with Bill Gates and company that involved digital-property protection, licensing agreements and distribution arrangements.Both sides are talking like winners. Microsoft gets to spin an embarrassing payoff for misconduct into a sweeping technology alliance with the world's biggest Internet provider. (The $750...