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.

JACKOGATES
Character traitsGrand ambition, messianic tendenciesGrand ambition, messianic tendencies
Self-created titleKing of PopChief Software Architect
Vocal tonePre-pubescent falsettoMid-pubescent squeak
Theme park hangoutDisneylandComdex
Classic dance moveMoonwalkStepping down as MS prez
Greatest Hit“Beat it”Windows 95
Big ScandalAlleged child abuseAnti-trust investigation
Audience turn-offThe little kidsSoftware Assurance
Next GenerationJanet JacksonLinus Torvalds
Talentless hangers-onThe Jackson 5Microserfs
Annoying petBubbles the ChimpClippy
BodyguardElizabeth TaylorSteve Ballmer
Formerly relevant arch enemyM.C. HammerU.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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