Gates and the life of a tech journo

commentary "Journalism's not a job, it's a lifestyle," ZDNet Australia's Insight Editor Fran Foo sighed as she dropped the keys to the Ferrari Testarossa in the outstretched palm of the valet parking attendant and climbed the stairs to the ZDNet Australia  lift lobby.

commentary "Journalism's not a job, it's a lifestyle," ZDNet Australia's Insight Editor Fran Foo sighed as she dropped the keys to the Ferrari Testarossa in the outstretched palm of the valet parking attendant and climbed the stairs to the ZDNet Australia  lift lobby.

Certainly that was the case for the ZDNet News Editor, Iain Ferguson, who had left the previous day for a two-week stint in a five-star resort in the Bahamas to recuperate from the stress caused by a six-day holdup in the delivery of a case of Penfolds 1952 Grange Hermitage to his Sydney waterfront home in Double Bay.

Waiting by the lift was Builder Australia Editor Brendon Chase, who murmured something in an annoyed tone about a mark on his new Ermenegildo Zegna suit and how he would have to ask his personal shopper to purchase and have altered a new one before he attended a press conference mid-afternoon. "How's the ghost-writing on Bill Gates' new book going?" Foo asked as the lift arrived. "Come up with a title yet?" Chase smiled and replied: "I'm close. We're thinking of something along the lines of Monopoly is just a board game".

At ZDNet Australia, there are a few certainties. One of them is that most editorials (and occasionally straight news reports) that discuss Microsoft and Gates will attract feedback that includes the terms "beloved M$", "collusion" and some reference to the writer being paid enormous amounts by Microsoft to spruik the Gates view of the world. Sadly for the conspiracy theorists, the Microsoft payroll manager seems to have lost the banking details of the ZDNet Australia editorial team, to the detriment of each member's finances. Chase is thinking of cutting his personal shopper back to four days a week.

There was a marked difference in Gates' demeanour on this visit to when your correspondent saw him last, in New Orleans many years ago. On this trip -- certainly when dealing with the reptiles of the press -- he seemed affable, interested and probably as close as he'll ever come to launching a charm offensive. Of course, times are different now. Despite a concerted effort, Microsoft's victory in the battle to convince corporate or home users of the security and safety of its products is by no means assured and open-source software is an ever-increasing threat. Many high-profile Australian accounts -- including Telstra and the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority -- are either reviewing their use of Microsoft products or are some way down the open-source path.

Gates reportedly met with many of the company's big Australian accounts while he was here. It would have been extremely interesting to have been a fly on the wall.

What do you think of Microsoft's direction? Where will it be in two years? E-mail us at edit@zdnet.com.au and let us know.

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