High-Tech Life: It's Jaded, But It's Fun
By Stephen M. Lawton
seems to me that those of us who make technology our life are simply nuts.
One need only look at the Nasdaq the past few weeks to know this is true.
Despite leaps and bounds in new technology, the mapping of the human genome,
hot new products introduced from every corner of the globe on an hourly
basis and slick new dot-coms sprouting up everywhere, Wall Street investors
have absolutely no clue what goes on in our corner of the world. We, however,
keep pumping out those products.
Just because the Department of Justice
is wagging Microsoft's tail, is that any reason for stocks to fall 200
points a day? It's not like the Microsoft trials and tribulations are
a secret even the popular press is covering this story. It's big
news even to those who don't know a RAMBUS from a city bus. No,
the stocks fell because of a rumor that Microsoft will be split into two
companies. (Just imagine two Microsoft monopolies.)
So what if there's a rumor? This business
thrives on rumors. Isn't that why so many of the products announced at
trade shows are essentially vaporware or, even worse, Powerpointware?
Rumors in this business are the stuff
that dreams are made of. No one knows that better than Bill Gates himself.
After all, it was Gates who, back in the 1980s, was talking about his
great, new spreadsheet a full two years before the first Excel
beta was ready. Talk about ways to kill off competition just tell
them that Microsoft is about to enter their market and they run for cover,
or to the R&D labs.
If you're part of this industry, you
watch the ups and downs of the stock market philosophically. One day you're
up a million, the next day you're down eight. The late Sen. Everett Dirkson
(R-IL) would have loved Silicon Valley. He once was quoted as saying,
"A billion here, a billion there pretty soon it adds up to
Following this market might make you
want to buy stock in Glaxo Wellcome Inc., the maker of Zantac for heartburn
and Imitrex for migraines. Of course, this pharmaceuticals firm trades
on the New York Stock Exchange, not Nasdaq, so maybe it doesn't qualify
as a techie's stock.
This has been a particularly tough
year for Gates, and I'm not only talking about Microsoft's legal entanglements.
Not only has he seen his personal wealth drop from roughly $90 billion
to a paltry $49 billion, but that upstart, Larry Ellison of Oracle, has
seen his company's stock soar more than 500 percent since it fell to a
mere $11 a share last year and is now standing in Gates' shadow at $48
billion. (These figures are based on recent Securities and Exchange Commission
filings.) If things continue the way they're going now, Gates could be
second-fiddle to archenemy Ellison.
We in this industry might be jaded
from the multimillion dollar IPOs, but the Bill and Larry show, although
a little tired and old, still makes for good sport.