Microsoft move stunning chapter in computer saga Deal: By taking $150 million from Microsoft Corp., did Apple Computer relinquish "the Force" and cast its lot with the Dark Side?

So it has happened. Luke Skywalker has gone over to the Dark Side. He has turned his back on the Force, pushed Obi Wan Kenobi off his board of directors and accepted $150 million of Darth Vader's blood money. Hell, he probably crushed a few Ewoks under the wheels of his car on his way to the shocking public ceremony announcing it all. The horror, the horror.

We are talking, of course, of Steve Jobs and Apple Computer, the once valiant (if not exactly market-savvy) rebel kingdom and its disclosure this past week of a deal with the unspeakably Evil (well, smug and annoying, anyway) Empire of unkempt uber-billionaire Bill Gates and his Microsoft Corp.


OK, OK, for you it's just another couple of rich-guy nerds figuring out a way to beat some other rich-guy nerds out of more market-share and you and me out of a few more dollars next time we have to stop at the computer store and are forced to buy the latest OS-this or PC-that. And that's really a pretty sound and cogent analysis, come to think of it.

But that sort of clear thinking completely disregards the romance and revulsion offered up by this particular turn of events. On a certain level, this is positively cataclysmic. This is North Korea suddenly traipsing across the DMZ to South Korea's doorstep and blurting out: "I'm sorry about everything. Let's try again, huh?" This is the Knicks taking off their brass knuckles and saying to the Bulls, "Hey, you guys are better. Always have been. Let's just skip the playoffs this year." This is Hillary Clinton asking Rush Limbaugh out on a date.


For Jobs, rehabilitated Apple high priest and spinmaster extraordinaire, it's all about letting go. "We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose," he told the disbelieving minions at Macworld Expo in Boston Wednesday. "The era of us thinking that we compete with Microsoft is over."

You'd have to forgive those in attendance, many of whose unswerving devotion to Apple makes Deadheads look apathetic, for becoming apoplectic at this. This heresy from a man whose entire professional life has been about differentiating his various artful undertakings, from the Macintosh to Pixar (the company that made the film "Toy Story"), from the shabby, lumbering products perpetrated with devastating efficiency by his opposite number, Gates.

Just telling the poor saps was not enough, though. To prove he'd sold his soul, Jobs added the coup de grace. Jobs, the man who had held up the Macintosh as a symbol of liberation from the tyranny of "Big Brother" (then IBM) in a famous "1984" commercial, stood dwarfed onstage as the giant head of Gates, beaming from a huge television screen, loomed over him. The irony, the irony.

But wait. Maybe there's some method to this madness. Maybe Jobs and Apple have pulled a fast one on the Gates empire. They are playing possum, as Han Solo did when he hid his ship amid the garbage disgorged by the imperial fleet, and have some fabulous plan up their sleeves to use the tyrant's own money to ultimately defeat him!

Hey, it could happen. At $150 million a year, even Bill Gates would be wiped out in 300 years or so.

Michael Gray, features news editor of The Sun, wrote this piece on a tiny, tired Macintosh Classic.

Pub Date: 8/10/97