Guest column: Frankly speaking: Naughty and Nice

For Gates: A hacksaw so he can cut up Microsoft before the Feds do.

"Pokemon," grumbled Santa. "Pokemon, Pokemon - I'm sick of Pokemon. Who knew those little buggers would all need Y2K fixes?" With only days to go, elves were swarming through the workshop, furiously adjusting Pikachus and Jigglypuffs. Santa absently reached for a slice of cold pizza as he stared at the unfinished gift list for the IT industry.

"Coming through, big guy!" shouted an elf steering a cartload of Millennium Barbies and Harry Potter books past him. "Why so glum, boss? Aw, you didn't leave the geeks for last again, did you?"

Santa nodded. "What am I going to give Bill Gates? His kids are no problem - they'll play with the box anything comes in. But what do you get the world's richest guy?"

"How about a hacksaw?" said the elf, parking the cart.

Santa frowned. "You really think he'll do prison time?"

"Nah. But if he doesn't start chopping up Microsoft by himself, the Justice Department'll do it for him," the elf said. "Hey, and you could give Joel Klein a chain saw. Who else is giving you trouble?"

"Linus Torvalds," said Santa. "Nice kid, comes from up this way, gives things away for free."

"So send him a white beard and a red suit," the elf said. "Maybe he'll take the hint and you can retire. And is Steve Jobs on the list? After that made-for-TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, you could offer Jobs a new gig as Noah Wylie's stunt double on ER if he ever gets tired of being Apple's permanent interim CEO."

Santa nodded. "What about Scott McNealy?" he said.

"How about a spare hockey stick to fend off the hordes of angry open-source Java programmers from Blackdown.org?" said the elf. "They did all the work of porting Java to Linux, and McNealy didn't even notice. Oh, and give another hockey stick to the new babe in charge at HP, Carly Fiorina. If she's gonna do battle with McNealy, she'll need it."

"'Babe' is not politically correct," scolded Santa.

"Neither is Barbie," said the elf. "Besides, she is a babe, even if Fortune magazine says she's the most powerful woman in American business. And, say, how about those kids at AOL who out-hacked Microsoft in the instant-messaging war? We've got a crateload of Twinkies, Jolt and Snickers bars we can use as stocking stuffers. And for eMachines, the cheap-PC maker that got sued by both Compaq and Apple, we can drop off a copy of the next Bill Gates book, Business @ the Speed of Litigation."

"Which reminds me," said Santa. "Amazon.com. And eBay."

"Give Amazon an 1899 Sears, Roebuck catalog - it looks like Jeff Bezos is reinventing his company as the world's biggest mail-order outfit, which is what Sears was around 1900. Hey, maybe that's how he's dodging his Y2K problems," said the elf. "And all eBay needs is a couple of spare kidneys, a few babies to sell and a room full of third-graders to bid millions for 'em."

"I think you need a long vacation starting December 26," said Santa.

"Just for fun, you can give the virus writers and spammers each other's e-mail addresses," the elf said. "And give the Y2K kooks a perpetual calendar - they keep slip-sliding their estimates of when the panic and catastrophe will start happening."

"What about the Y2K heroes?" asked Santa. "All the ones who are fixing bugs, quashing rumors, making constructive plans, and getting people together?"

The elf scratched his jaw. "I don't think there's anything we can get for them," he said. "There's too many of 'em. But they oughtta have something."

"Never mind," Santa said. "They're already giving themselves the perfect gift - a Y2K that's a nonevent."

Hayes, Computerworld's staff columnist, still believes in the sanity clause - even after covering IT for the past 20 years. His e-mail address is frank_hayes@computerworld.com.

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