SAN FRANCISCO (07/27/2000) - Earlier this year, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson made worldwide headlines when he proposed breaking up Microsoft Corp. into two smaller companies. "Microsoft would do the world a lot more good if its Windows division weren't in bed with its applications division," he said at the time.
This month, warming to his newfound celebrity, Judge Jackson is back in the spotlight with even more proposals. "Clearly, my Microsoft action was a big hit with the American public," he told Macworld in an exclusive, completely fabricated interview. "I was on Time's 'Digital 50' list, I made front-page headlines, I got fan mail from people I'd never even met. But when the excitement started to die down, I got to thinking: What can I do for an encore?"
Plenty, as it turns out. Judge Jackson recently gave Macworld a sneak peek at documents he plans to file with the U.S. Department of Justice. These are the split-ups Jackson thinks could benefit humanity.
Apple Computer Inc.
"How many times have I heard Mac fans say, 'I love the Macintosh -- I just don't care for the company that makes it'?" asked Jackson. "Well, the time has come to do something about it." Under the judge's proposal, Apple would split into two entities: Macintosh Corporation, which would make Mac computers, and Apple Ego, which would continue to maintain the air of superiority and smugness that has pervaded the company for years.
"It makes sense," Gartner Group Inc. analyst Fred Fictionale commented. "The Mac company would become a beloved corporation, as friendly to customers as L.L. Bean and as supportive of programmers as Palm. Apple Ego, on the other hand, could pursue its arrogance without risking negative public-relations fallout. It could continue to make developers pay for the privilege of writing Mac software, send legal threats to Web sites that give free airplay to Apple TV ads, and charge its customers US$50 per call for technical help. And Apple Ego could take over the manufacture and promotion of the ultimate symbol of the company's we-know-better-than-our-customers attitude: the hockey-puck mouse."
"Let's face it," Judge Jackson said, "Bill Gates may be the smartest programmer, the best businessman, and the richest human in the world. But they really shouldn't let him out in public. Every time he opens his mouth, he gets his company in trouble. And as for his attire -- let's not even go there. Did you see his portrait on the cover of New York Times Magazine? Icky! The guy didn't even shave!"
After discarding an early plan to merely separate Gates from his sweaters, Jackson settled on a proposal to divide Gates's duties. He could continue to scheme, plot, and manipulate the world -- as long as he remained within 50 feet of the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington.
Another Microsoft employee would assume the role of public ambassador. This arrangement, analysts say, would do wonders for Microsoft's credibility: a well-groomed person dressed in actual business clothes is less likely to revolt TV viewers.
"Those little subscription postcards that fall out onto the rug make absolutely no sense," a crabby Judge Jackson said. "We're already subscribers, for God's sake -- what's the point of littering our carpets with come-ons?" Jackson will recommend to Janet Reno that computer magazines be prohibited from incorporating such "blow-in" cards. Instead, at the end of every year, each subscriber will receive a separate, neatly bundled packet of 500 subscription cards that he or she can discard or recycle in one swift gesture.
"It may surprise many Internet citizens," noted Judge Jackson, "but according to my findings of fact, people who send junk e-mail are actually human. And yet they have no regard for other human life and no sense of self-loathing."
Clearly, the judge pointed out, these people's brains are defective.
Their bodies, however, are fully functional, capable of turning on a computer, plugging in a modem, and typing MAKE $150K SALTING CRACKERS AT HOME! By surgically removing their brains, said Jackson, one could annul this unfortunate pairing of warped mind with healthy body.
At a secret briefing, a Macworld staffer asked, "But wouldn't brain removal pretty much kill these people?" Judge Jackson had a quick answer: "The consequences aren't my concern. As in the Microsoft case, my job is just to get the ball rolling."
His Honor then checked his watch and rose from the table. "Unfortunately, that's going to have to do it," he said. "I've gotta split."
DAVID POGUE (www.davidpogue.com) is the author of Mac OS 9: The Missing Manual and iMovie: The Missing Manual (both Pogue Press/O'Reilly, 2000).