Software // Enterprise Applications
07:15 PM
John Soat
John Soat

IT Confidential: Swear To Tell The Truth And Nothing But

Switching back and forth between Entertainment Weekly and the Wall Street Journal on a red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York last week, I was struck with the idea that reality has turned into one big episode of Court TV. Between the accusations in the Michael Jackson trial and a plaintive Bernie Ebbers denying on the stand that he knew anything at all about technology or finance when he was running WorldCom, I couldn't help but wonder how close any of this ever gets to the truth. When I fell into a fitful sleep, I dreamed I was being cross-examined about current events.

PROSECUTOR: You consider yourself an expert on the business-technology industry?

ME: I'm with Ebbers--I don't know anything about business, technology, or finance. I'm along for the ride.

PROSECUTOR: Do you think Bill Gates deserved to be knighted by the Queen of England?

ME: Objection! That calls for an opinion.

PROSECUTOR: You can't object--you're only a witness. Answer the question.

ME: Well, if Sean Connery deserved to be knighted, I guess the barrier to entry is kind of low.

PROSECUTOR: Do you think the hacking of Paris Hilton's T-Mobile Sidekick will negatively affect the PDA market?

ME: First, you can't buy publicity like that. Second, this has jump-started a whole new industry--cell-phone security--which is good for the economy. Third, why wasn't my number in her database? Paris, call me, we'll talk.

PROSECUTOR: Given the outcry over ChoicePoint's problems with customer data, will legislators succeed in passing more stringent privacy laws?

ME: Yes, and the consumer-data industry will have only itself to blame. This isn't batting averages we're talking about here, it's personal data--and it comes about as close to a sacred trust as there is in the world today.

PROSECUTOR: Microsoft dodged a $520 million bullet with a recent appeals court ruling in a patent-infringement case. Is that good or bad for the software industry?

ME: Not surprisingly, the software industry wants it both ways. They wring their hands over the pitiful state of the patent process while building up big war chests of patents.

PROSECUTOR: Is telecom-industry consolidation good for the consumer?

ME: At this rate, we'll be back to big Ma Bell by the end of the decade. Those old phones sure looked cool, though.

PROSECUTOR: Did Hewlett-Packard do the right thing in forcing out its CEO?

ME: HP canned its CEO?

PROSECUTOR: Yes, Carlton Fiorina--she engineered HP's acquisition of Compaq.

ME: Oh, you mean Carly. That was what--three, four weeks ago? I forgot.

PROSECUTOR: Google is widely rumored to be working on a Web browser and other software. Is Google the next Microsoft?

ME: I thought Oracle was the next Microsoft. And after that, Microsoft would be the next Oracle.

PROSECUTOR: No more questions.

ME: Questions aren't the problem.

All this reminds me of a scene from a Mae West movie, where the platinum bombshell is testifying on the stand and the judge interrupts her to say, "Madam, are you trying to show contempt for this court?" She saucily replies, "No, I'm trying to hide it." Don't hide your industry tips: Send them to or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about the ironies of the technology industry or the judicial system, meet me at's Listening Post.

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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