Back to the Net.Humor ArchivesThe Year the Monopoly Crumbled First Published January 12, 1999 Bay Area Edition Bold and fearless predictions for 1999 I don't usually think of myself as clairvoyant, but after making several phone calls to psychic hotlines, I feel I've gleaned a basic understanding of this extrasensory perception stuff. To further hone my skills, I've been meditating in front of my PC with a Windows 98 CD-ROM balanced on my nose. And what better time to put my newfound talents to use than in our annual pundit prophecy issue? True, my predictions may shock you. They may anger you. They may even bore you. But one thing is certain: My forecasts are at least as accurate as a VCR clock on January 1, 2000. 1) Microsoft buys America Online. Microsoft's first post-antritrust step is a bonfire rally at which the Netscape Navigator "N" is burned in effigy. Step two: The formerly free Internet Explorer now costs $19.95. 2) Bill splurges on sartorial splendor. Jealous of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's clotheshorse reputation, Bill Gates goes on a shopping spree. The sweater racks at Seattle's Ross Dress for Less are totally depleted. 3) Microsoft goes Hollywood. Inspired by AOL's role in the movie You've Got Mail, Microsoft starts its own movie studio. Its first releases include There's Something About PowerPoint and The Devil and Miss Reno. 4) Windows 2000 offers buggy voice recognition. The dastardly Tourette's Syndrome bug forces thousands of unsuspecting users to spew obscenity-laden diatribes at their Windows PCs. Since most users do this already, the bug goes undetected for years. 5) Microsoft will take over the Linux operating system. Tired of fretting over Linux's growing acceptance as a server operating system, Redmond mounts a hostile takeover of the Little OS That Could. True, Linux is freeware, but Microsoft cleverly infects each copy with the Office 2000 Registration Virus. Fifty bucks buys you free code. Freeloaders get a trashed hard drive. 6) Windows 2000 is renamed--again. Bombarded with horror stories about the Year 2000 bug, millions of computer users come to believe that Windows 2000 is responsible for Y2K. A desperate Microsoft quickly changes the product's name to Windows 2001 and hires HAL 9000 as product pitchman. 7) HAL 9000 replaces Bill Gates as Microsoft CEO. Sneaky HAL shuts off the oxygen supply to Bill's office and then assumes command. No one suspects foul play until the Gates' second child is named Daisy. 8) The Justice Department breaks up Microsoft. Under Justice Department orders, two new companies are created. One sells operating systems and applications, the other makes sure competing programs don't run on Microsoft operating systems. 9) The Y2K bug causes Windows 98 to crash frequently. Of course, nobody notices the difference. 10) Registration Wizard gets personal. Office 2000's Registration Wizard, which terminates unregistered Office 2000 copies after 50 launches, also maintains a secret list of the Web sites you've visited. Unregistered users are horrified to find their browser histories posted on Jerry Springer's site. 11) Windows CE keeps on ticking. Redmond corners the pacemaker market. Disgruntled customers gripe about frequent and painful Windows CE software upgrades. 12) Windows 98 bugs continue to plague end users. As a result, Microsoft changes its Windows 98 slogan from "Works better and plays better" to "Try running Excel on Linux, pal." Sales skyrocket. 13) Microsoft launches a splashy Office 2000 ad campaign. A barrage of TV and print ads praise the office suite's clever and innovative new features, such as, um, customized toolbars and more clip art. 14) Bill Gates agrees to quickly settle with the Justice Department. But Microsoft's army of $400-an-hour attorneys protests vehemently and claims victory. The case drags on for months. Lawyers everywhere rejoice. 15) Computer magazine reviews trash the Linux user interface. Disgruntled Linux zealots storm the offices of PC World and PC Magazine but find only empty cubicles. Hand-written invitations to Bill Gates' summer slumber party confirm the nerds' worst fears. 16) Comdex changes locations. Fed up with Las Vegas crowds and bumper-to-bumper traffic, Fall Comdex relocates to the top-secret Area 51 military base. Alien-hosted parties feature free DNA experiments and body cavity probes. 17) A kinder, gentler Microsoft emerges. Humbled by its legal woes, Microsoft learns humility. It stops strong-arming competitors and ceases to squash start-ups that get in its way. Its stock price drops precipitously. 18) Windows 2000 ships on time. Just kidding!