Microsoft makes HIStory

Bill Gates might not always seem to have his finger on the pulse of modern culture, but he has surrounded himself with those who do.

The company recently announced it had chosen Madonna’s “Ray of Light” as the theme song for Windows XP. While it’s not hard to understand why Microsoft would look to the queen of reinvention for some pointers, I thought a Michael Jackson song might have been more appropriate.

Like Gates, who officially launched XP Thursday with much fanfare, Michael Jackson (who I will hereafter refer to as “Jacko”) is preparing his own career comeback, Invincible, for release next week. Both men are certainly fond of celebrity stunts to grab attention: while Jacko recently appeared with *Nsync during the MTV Video Awards, Gates is reportedly getting ready for his close-up on Frasier.

The more I think about it, the more I see some eerie similarities between the man behind the world’s best-selling album (Thriller) and the man behind the world’s best-selling software. The chart below represents the results of an in-depth research investigation I conducted over a 15-minute period.

JACKO GATES
Character traits Grand ambition, messianic tendencies Grand ambition, messianic tendencies
Self-created title King of Pop Chief Software Architect
Vocal tone Pre-pubescent falsetto Mid-pubescent squeak
Theme park hangout Disneyland Comdex
Classic dance move Moonwalk Stepping down as MS prez
Greatest Hit “Beat it” Windows 95
Big Scandal Alleged child abuse Anti-trust investigation
Audience turn-off The little kids Software Assurance
Next Generation Janet Jackson Linus Torvalds
Talentless hangers-on The Jackson 5 Microserfs
Annoying pet Bubbles the Chimp Clippy
Bodyguard Elizabeth Taylor Steve Ballmer
Formerly relevant arch enemy M.C. Hammer U.S. Justice Dept.

Still not convinced? Maybe the deciding factor is greed. Jacko simply wants everyone to buy his CD; Gates wants his software to make itself felt throughout our lives. Sounds monopolistic, but perhaps Jacko sang it best: “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.”

sschick@plesman.com

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