Déjà Vu All Over Again (9/19/99)

You know how a funny joke just gets boring when you hear it over and over again? Well, for some reason, we just never get tired of hearing the one about the lawyer, the priest, and the weasel from Redmond walking into a bar. Well, okay, there's no priest and no bar, but the way Microsoft keeps getting caught exhibiting weasel-like behavior throughout the "Redmond Justice" case just keeps getting funnier. Faithful viewer and self-appointed "Redmond Justice" watchdog Jerry O'Neil kept us giggling by pointing out a CNET article about Microsoft's latest transgression: the company "secretly paid for newspaper ads by a California foundation that purported to present the independent views of 240 academic experts who said the U.S. government's antitrust case against the software giant was hurting consumers." (Now, if that ain't knee-slappin' funny, we don't know what is.)

If you didn't see the ads in question, they were huge full-page deals that appeared in both the New York Times and The Washington Post last June, back when both sides headed back to the courtroom for the final month of action-packed testimony. While the ads appeared to originate entirely from the Independent Institute of Oakland, California, the New York Times got hold of documents from an anonymous "Microsoft adversary" which showed that Microsoft paid over $150 grand to foot the bill for the ads and to fly David Theroux, the Independent Institute's president, to Washington for a press conference on the day the ads appeared. When confronted with the evidence, Microsoft spokesman Greg Shaw admitted that his company had paid for the ads.

It's a subtle twist on a prior Microsoft weasel move trying to garner public opinion-- remember when they placed ads that looked like independent letters to the editor in support of Microsoft, but were revealed to be written by Microsoft's own marketing department? At least this time the opinions really came from outside observers, although at least one of them feels that he should have been told who was paying the bills. Simon Hakin of Temple University claims he "would not have participated" if he had known that Microsoft was bankrolling the ads; "It's not right to use people as a vehicle for special interests." You'd think that a company with as much cash as Microsoft could afford to buy a little credibility. Oh, wait-- that's just what they were trying to do...

SceneLink (1790)
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The above scene was taken from the 9/19/99 episode:

September 19, 1999: It's official; Hiawatha Bray's recent Apple-friendly article was no fluke. Meanwhile, Phil Schiller shoots down rumors that Mac OS X might run on IBM's new CHRP-based PowerPC motherboard, and Microsoft gets busted footing the bill for ads from "independent observers" in support of the company...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 1788: The Stepford Reporter (9/19/99)   Just one more example that assumptions can be dangerous: the reputation of the Boston Globe's own resident Mac-basher Hiawatha Bray extends far beyond the Beantown city limits, much to our surprise. As it turns out, we apparently didn't have to tell you folks who Mr. Bray is; his past columns seem to be well-known throughout the AtAT viewership, thanks to the Internet's role in the fundamental interconnectedness of all things...

  • 1789: So Much For MacCHRP (9/19/99)   So much for rumors about the resurgence of Mac cloning. Recently, IBM unveiled a new, free PowerPC motherboard design, based on CHRP-- the open reference design that originally promised to yield PPC systems that could run the Mac OS, Windows NT, Solaris, and a handful of other operating systems...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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