The Es Have it

Anti-trust issues have dominated much of the IT landscape in 1999. The worst offender, according to Phil Sim, has been lurking in the shadows of the alphabetWhile the Department of Justice has foc-used a large amount of its energies to hounding Microsoft, I can't help but think that they are missing an even more dominant and dangerous monopolist.

This is a monopolist who has always been number one, but who over the last couple of years has continued to ride ramshackle over its competitors and who has asserted its superiority to such a degree that it's now almost impossible to run a business today without using it.

No, I'm not talking about Intel or Cisco or any other such trivial computer company. I'm talking serious stuff that affects the lives of each and every one of us. I'm talking linguistics.

And the monopolist I am referring to is, of course, the letter 'e'. 'E' has always been the most used letter in the Western alphabet. Not only has it been the most popular letter, but it has always been the most powerful. Only 'e' has the power to change a hard consonant to a soft one, for instance.

But the thing was 'e' used to know its place in the alphabet. As a vowel, it was happy to follow other more glamorous letters like 'b' or 's'. It may not have always been in the limelight, right up the front of words, but in more cases than not, 'e' was there and 'e' seemed content.

But then somewhere along the way, 'e' got power hungry and spun into a power-trip from hell. 'E' decided it would dominate thealphabet, and would grind its fellow letters into submission.

Who knows what turns a satisfied little letter into a glamour glutton. Perhaps it got fed up with being ignored in countless games of Eye Spy With My Little Eye. Perhaps it was the unsatisfactory number of pages that words beginning with the letter 'e' got in the dictionary. Whatever the case, 'e' embarked on a market domination campaign never before seen in the history of the alphabet.

Quite frankly we should have seen it coming. 'E' quickly moved into the designer drug market, then established itself in even more surreptitious arenas like television, where it took the form of a poorly-hosted tacky entertainment program.

To 'e' 's credit, it saw that drugs and television were a very 90s version of fame and fortune. So eyeing global dominance in the new millennium it turned it's attention to where the true action was - information technology and the Internet. Without anyone noticing, electronic commerce suddenly became e-commerce. It then entered into a pact with another well-known allegedmonopolist, IBM, who began touting e-business.

Pretty soon we had e-mail, e-shopping, e-tailers, e-solutions, e-services. A few other letters did their best to offer some sort of competition.

Most notably, 'I' became a strategic partner of Apple, but at no stage was that ever going to result in anything but a miserable second placing eventually doomed to failure.

Today, 'e' totally dominates the new economy. If a business doesn't have some sort of e-strategy, it's seen as nothing more than a dinosaur, wasting away until it will by eaten up by a more powerful e-business.

Can't you see it! We're turning into a society divided by those that have 'e's and those that don't. And don't think it will be too long before 'e' follows Microsoft and starts bundling up its offerings.

To get any domain name with an 'e' in it, you'll have to form a drug addiction and join the Donna Gubbay fan club.

It's time for the Department of Justice to get over its Microsoft envy, and to turn it attention to the world's real monopolist - 'e'.

This column was brought to you by the letters a,b,c,d,f,g,h,i,j,k,l,m,n,o,p,q,r,s,t,u,v,w,x,y,z. You can reach Philip Sim at philip_sim@idg.-com.au.

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