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John Soat
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IT Confidential: Are You Experienced? Microsoft Might Want You

If you notice an increase in Buicks on the Redmond campus, here's why.

Microsoft must be suffering anxiety over Vista fence-sitters. How else to explain the company's decision last week to offer support for any legacy Microsoft product, no matter how old, for as long as a corporate customer uses that product (see story, "Microsoft Offers Unlimited Support For Legacy Products"), unless it's to put at ease companies loath to throw overboard perfectly usable technology in order to replace it with Microsoft's next-generation operating system? On the other hand, to find the expertise needed to offer such support, Microsoft might be forced to recruit talent from a demographic pool with which it has had little experience.

SCENE: Redmond, Wash. Microsoft campus. A bare office, with a desk, two chairs behind it, and a chair in front. Seated at the chairs behind the desk are JACK and JILL, two 20-something Microsoft employees. They are bantering between themselves, waiting for their next appointment.

JACK: Interesting bunch, eh? They remind me of the Sunday morning talk shows.

JILL: Never watch. So why are they all men?

JACK: I think only men were allowed to work on computers back then.

ENTER BRUCE, an older man with graying hair, overweight, conservatively dressed.

JACK: Please sit down. Let me explain why you're here. Microsoft is looking to offer support for its older products, and we're looking for people with experience, so to speak, in the technology field.

BRUCE: Well, I have plenty of that. I just didn't know Microsoft was interested in it.

JACK: This is a special case. Are you familiar with Windows NT?

BRUCE: I helped introduce that operating system at my company in 1994. We used it alongside NetWare and OS/2. That was an exciting time. There was a lot of competition in the IT industry.

JACK: OS/2? Sounds like something from Star Wars.

JILL bends over and whispers in JACK's ear.

JACK: Oh, yeah. IBM. I forgot about them.

JILL: Are you experienced with older desktop versions of Windows--Millennium Edition, say, or Windows 95?

BRUCE: I've booted up every version of Windows, all the way back to 1.0 in 1985. I even played around with that crazy interface called Microsoft Bob.

JACK and JILL stare at him blankly.

JACK: Are you familiar with something called MS-DOS?

BRUCE: It was the original PC operating system from Microsoft. It's the operating system that underlies all versions of Microsoft Windows.

JACK: Right. Next you'll tell me Microsoft didn't invent the PC operating system.

BRUCE: Well, the fact of the matter is ...

JACK: I don't want to hear it. [PUTS HIS FINGERS IN HIS EARS] La, la, la, la ... I can't hear you ...

JILL: [TO BRUCE] Do you have any questions?

BRUCE: Does Microsoft have a pension plan?

JACK: What's a pension plan?

JILL: He means like a 401(k), only the company pays for it.

JACK: That's the craziest thing I ever heard.

JILL: [TO BRUCE] We'll get back to you about the position. Thank you for coming in.

What's the oldest Microsoft product still running in your organization? Send that, and an industry tip, to or phone 516-562-5326. And remember, no white after Labor Day.

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