For obvious reasons, the ongoing battle between Microsoft and government trustbusters seems less central to our existence than it did before Sept. 11.Nonetheless, the case continues to inch forward.
The call came on Thursday morning, from one very different Washington to another. Hey guys, said the D.C. bureaucrats who had spent an eternity in Internet Time tormenting the code crunchers in Redmond, Wash., you know that plan we had to split your anticompetitive, monopolistic company in two?
"Well, I guess this is the end now...." So wrote the first Netizen to address today's tragedy on the popular discussion group, sci.crypt. The posting was referring what seems like an inevitable reaction to the horrific terrorist act: an attempt to roll back recent relaxations on encryption tools, on the theory that cryptography helped cloak preparations for the deadly events.But the despondency reflected in the comment can be applied more generally.
When FBI agents arrested him in the parking lot of a Las Vegas hotel on July 16, Dmitry Sklyarov thought it must have been some mistake. These men would ask him who he was, and he would tell them: a benign 26-year-old computer programmer who'd come from his native Russia to give a technical talk, a graduate student of his nation's top engineering school, a family man about to return to his wife and two small children.
When FBI agents arrested him in the parking lot of a Las Vegas hotel on July 16, Dmitry Sklyarov thought it must have been some mistake. These men would ask him who he was and he would tell them: a benign 26-year-old computer programmer who'd come from his native Russia to give a technical talk, a graduate student of his nation's top engineering school, a family man about to return to his wife and two small children.
The appointment is in a shiny skyscraper near the Shibuya train station, but it turns out that none of the three people I'm meeting are formally involved with the company that leased the offices in this tony facility.
Late last month Masayoshi Son, the billionaire CEO of Japan's leading Internet firm, Softbank, announced what might be his boldest venture: founding Yahoo BB, a company whose mission is to provide super-high-speed ADSL Internet connections to millions of Japanese for only about $18 a month.
On an overcast afternoon last spring in his Redmond, Wash., office, Steve Ballmer stretched back at the end of another day as CEO of the world's biggest software company and considered a question: was this the best time in Microsoft's history? "In a product sense, this is as good a time as it's ever been," he said. "But I can't say it's the best time in our history because of that other thing still hanging over us."That "other thing" was the small matter of a federal order that Microsoft must...
It stands out unforgettably on Jozenji-dori, the tree-lined main drag of Sendai: sleek and mind-jarringly out of place, like the obelisk in "2001." It is seven stories of a shiny greenish glass facade, through which massive tubes can be seen undulating through the building.
My bureaucrat friend welcomes me to his workplace, filling an entire floor of one of the huge government buildings near Hibya. It is something out of the movie "Brazil," if you can picture the futuristic antiques utilized in that fictional world somehow streamlined and sanitized in the style of airport bathroom fixtures.
"I imagine that people will call me crazy," says Masayoshi Son, barely able to contain his glee. I'm sitting across the table from one of most successful men in Japan-albeit one who has lost $15 billion in the last year-and thinking, yeah, crazy like a fox.
Teddy Jimbo is on a crusade. As the founder of Video News Network, a mostly Web-based independent television news service, he wants to be the Ted Turner of his native Japan, crashing uninvited into the castle of state-sanctioned TV.
Hemos and CmdrTaco are staying at the Tokyo Hilton, a gleaming, modern monstrosity in Shinjuku, a district teeming with them. In fact, as we leave the brightly lit Hilton lobby, CmdrTaco points out a building across the street to me and asks if I know Sim City 3000.
As a spectator, I found it easy to be sanguine about the raging Internet intellectual-property debates. I'd tempered my ecstasy during the heady exultations of the "information wants to be free"-bies, and kept my emotional powder dry as apocalyptic content owners warned that wanton file-sharing would mean the death of creativity.
A fellow countryman with experience here cannily laid out the road map for the two-day Shonan Experts' Live-In Seminar on "Emerging Electronic Communities: Intellectual Property Rights, Privacy Rights and Control of Contents," in which I'd be one of the (shudder) "experts." "First there will be the presentation by the Americans," he said. "Then there will be some polite rumblings in response to what the Americans said.
The knottiest task in computing is making a machine as friendly and receptive as a piece of paper. Microsoft thinks it's got the problem beat. The mantra of its hundred-member Tablet PC team is "the simplicity of paper combined with the power of the PC." The prototype looks like a Palm on steroids, with a color screen and the alarming presence of the Windows task bar on the bottom.
In the early 1980s, a small group in a nondescript building on Bandley Drive in Cupertino, Calif., changed your life. They did it by creating the interface for the Macintosh computer, the product that introduced the masses to hitherto obscure digital phenomena like the mouse, windows, icons, menu bars and dialogue boxes (including the dread error message with a bomb on it).
You might think that Jay Walker would come in from last Wednesday's rain bugged by a gloom that's darker than the midday cloud cover in Manhattan. The stock of his flagship company, Priceline, which introduced the "name your own price" approach to buying airline tickets and hotel rooms, has taken a no-bungee dive from a onetime high of $162 per share to something less than the cost of a shoeshine.
I got a thrill from the Sony PlayStation 2 without even having to take the sleek black console out of the box. I brought the local software emporium to a dead stop by purchasing one of the PS2 controllers pegged for eventual sale to the lucky few who would be getting them on the Oct. 26 launch date. "You've got one now?" asked the clerk, and the guy next to me, who was reserving a unit for delivery next spring, just about fainted.