News item: Microsoft Invsests $135 Million (U.S.) in Corel
I couldn't believe it. There I was, standing in the Redmond
office of the world's most famous Billionaire. He looked at me
suspiciously, which was reasonable, I guess, since I had gotten
there by hijacking a pizza delivery. When I asked ask for an
interview about his recent investment in Corel and what it would
mean for WordPerfect, Corel Linux, and the WINE project, he just
looked toward the ceiling and shook his head in that "Why me,
Lord?" way. Then, as if getting an answer, he brightened up.
"Oh, what the heck. Come on in. I want to set the record
straight on that mess anyway. I've got to step out for a minute,
but I'll be right back." He turned to an earnest looking young man
seated on a leather sofa. "Toadie, take care of our guest."
With that, he left.
"Would you like something to drink," the young man asked.
"I don't want to trouble you, but a half-caf half-decaf
half-skim half-half-and-half latte with just a dash of cinnamon
would be nice."
He nodded and begin whipping up my latte.
"Tell me, why do you let him get away with calling you
'Toadie'?" I asked. "Don't you find that awfully demeaning."
Toadie, er, the young man's reaction was immediate and
"Demeaning my ass. First of all, Toadie is my name. He paid me
$5 mil to change it, and that's just fine with me. When's the last
time anybody paid you $5 mil for anything, pizza boy? Not only
that, I get to keep everything that falls into the sofa
I was caught off-guard, but not ready to surrender. "OK, if you
want to be Toadie, I guess that's your right. But diving through
sofa cushions for spare change? That's stooping a bit low, isn't
Exasperated, Toadie shook his head, then motioned for me to join
him at the window. Even in the dim Redmond sun, the glare from his
diamond-encrusted Piaget was blinding. He pointed to a huge estate
atop a hill in the distance, surrounded by walls and a formidable
"Is that where he lives?" I asked.
"No, you idiot. That's my house. All paid for, too. Got it
from Sofa cushions."
I was speechless. Fortunately, the Billionaire returned to
rescue me from my embarrassment.
"All right, let's talk Corel," he said.
Relieved to be back on topic, I began. "A lot of people are very
suspicious of your investment in Corel. After all, they make
WordPerfect Suite, the best known competitor to Office, not to
mention a Linux distribution aimed at Windows users."
The Billionaire laughed like one of those hick extras in an old
"You Linux geeks slay me. Man, I can tell you, it was nothing
He was red in the face from laughing. Toadie stood poised to
"It's kind of funny, actually. I wasn't planning to buy the
"You weren't?" Suspicious, I kept listening.
"Nah. Never even considered it. All I wanted was to write
another book. Since all of that DOJ nonsense started, I've had
trouble sleeping at night. I watched an awful lot of informercials,
an awful lot. I thought I should put that time to good use."
"Go on," I interjected.
"Well, half of those infomercials are two-bit hucksters selling
the secrets of getting rich. If those petty ante con artists
nobody's heard of can make money doing that, I figured that I
should really clean up. I started writing 'The Billionaire's ten
steps to Fabulous Wealth.' I've been typing it up myself.
TakeDictation was willing to work nights with me. She's young and
can afford to be flexible, but Mrs. Bill pitched a fit when she
I nodded sympathetically. My wife would've put my head on a
"Anyway, I sat down and started to write it using Word. Big
Mistake. Big Mistake.
First, I define a bunch of styles to do all the things I need.
First, my machine slows to a crawl. Then, some of the styles start
"sticking". I finally reached my limit after getting back from a
road trip. I lost two nights trying to merge the file I'd written
on the road with my main document. The formatting for the whole
book got horsed up. Finally, I found a section break hidden near
the end of the file I was merging in. One stupid section break and
my document screws the pooch. I can't believe we get good money for
Startled by his frank admission, I ask, " Does that embarrass
The Bill looked as if he didn't understand my question.
"Embarrass me? Are you crazy? The people shelling out good money
for this crap are the ones who should be embarrassed. It gets
better. Did you say you followed Linux?
"Hah! What's the number one reason corporate types say they
can't use Linux on desktops? Office, man! Office! Can you believe
it? First we get 'em to pony up big bucks for this crap. Then, they
lose who knows how much time and money trying to work around stupid
things like styles that won't take, pictures that disappear and
section breaks that infect whole documents. Along comes a new
system that offers real hope of climbing out of the whole mess, and
they won't try it unless you promise they can keep wallowing in the
same awful crap. Do You still think I should be embarrassed?"
Again, I nodded.
"Hell no. I'm proud as I could be. We must be freakin' geniuses
to pull this off. Mind you, knowing that General Motors uses this
stuff gives me a creepy feeling every time I ride in a Cadillac,
but Ford and DaimlerChrysler use it, too. I still need to check on
Lexus and BMW.
I was shocked, and I'm sure my face showed it. The Bill just sat
there with a proud little smirk as he continued.
"Anyway, after looking all over for the 'Reveal Codes' option, I
gave up and left a note for KeepMeOrganized to buy WorPerfect.
Unfotunately, KeepMeOrganized was going on vacation the next day,
so she gave the note to my lawyer's secretary,
TakeCrapfromtheLawyers. Next day, I boot up and there's no
WordPerfect. I get on the phone and give TakeCrapfromtheLawyers a
piece of my mind. Two minutes later, her boss, SueThemProtectMe, is
in my office.
"Bill," he says, " we picked it up yesterday. Best $135 million
we ever spent, too."
Old SueThem looked puzzled when I asked him why nobody had
bothered to install it for me."
I couldn't believe my ears when the Bill said that. "You mean
you thought you had paid $135 million for a copy of
"I figured it was a site license. Isn't that what we get for
Office these days? Besides, $135 million isn't that much money
these days. I'll bet Toadie finds more than that in the sofa
Toadie looked up and nodded. "It would have to be a really good
day, though," he said.
The Bill continued.
"I guess the joke was on me. I owned a quarter of the company and
still didn't have a copy of WordPerfect on my computer. We did get
a few goodies out of the deal. They let us off the hook on their
lawsuit and agreed to develop stuff for .NET. Best of all,
SueThemProtectMe got them to throw in a free copy of WordPerfect.
I'm really wailing on that new book now."
The Bill gestured towards the door with his head. Toadie got up
to escort me out. Out in the hallway, I asked him a question that
had been bothering me, "Toadie, with all the money you've picked
up, why do you stay in this job?"
Toady was aghast. "Are you nuts? This is a great job. You want
to meet someone with a lousy job? I can take you down the hall and
introduce you to BootLick."
I declined his offer and headed home, wondering if anyone would
buy this story.