Microsoft is still 'The Evil Empire'

Microsoft won't escape scrutiny any time soon -- it still remains the envy and target of every OS vendor.

Microsoft bashing is just not as fun as it used to be.

Everyone, from the government, to disgruntled developers -- to yours truly, I must admit -- has elevated to the level of a national pastime the practice of kicking Microsoft when it's down. The cumulative damage has started hitting Microsoft where it hurts. For more than a month, the company's stock price has been hovering around $90. Even Santana couldn't help Microsoft hype Windows 2000 enough to bring the share price back to over $100.

You really know Redmond is in trouble when it risks angering Judge Jackson by dropping hints it might be inching closer to settlement with the Department of Justice -- yet its stock still only recovers ever-so-briefly.

Microsoft, which has been quick to claim that every leak regarding its federal antitrust case and settlement talks is directly attributable to the DOJ, seemingly had no qualms about talking about settlement this week -- all in the name of the almighty dollar.

When Microsoft's new CFO John Connors held a private briefing with financial analysts this week, a few of them issued public statements claiming Microsoft had indicated the company was close to settling its case. One of Microsoft's original investors and most unabashed fans, Rick Sherlund of Goldman Sachs, went so far as to issue a research note on Microsoft's claims, saying he believed it would be "weeks, not months" until a settlement was reached.

But wait a minute. Aren't the Chicago settlement talks supposed to be secret? A subsequent Reuters story had Sherlund admitting that Microsoft's Legal Department took Connors to the woodshed after Sherlund issued his note. But what did it matter? By late Tuesday, the stock had climbed nearly 10 points (a gain that diminished as the week wore on).

Granted, these kinds of analyst-stacking-the-deck scenarios aren't unique to Microsoft. Nonetheless, these kinds of practices are why Microsoft continues to earn its "Evil Empire" nickname in my book.

However, starting next week, I will no longer focus exclusively on Microsoft. I am trading in my Evil Empress crown and expanding my weekly ZDNN column to cover the antics of other operating system companies.

Sure, Microsoft won't escape scrutiny in the months to come since it remains the envy and target of every OS vendor. And someone's got to continue to chronicle the moves of the desktop OS monopolist. But there are lots of other great Linux, BeOS, NetWare, Solaris and alternative OS-related topics out there. I'm looking for fodder, so send ideas my way.

I also am in search of a new column name. My two-year-old "@ The Evil Empire" title needs to be updated to reflect my expanded charter. Whoever submits the winning name will be treated to a guided tour of the Microsoft campus (all Microsoft corporate shuttle transfers, lunch at Dixie's BBQ and tips for unearthing Microsoft code names included).

So, bring on those suggestions for a new name for my OS Wars column. Send them to me through the TalkBacks below.