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Phoney war

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Hands off, he's my PR prize

As we mentioned earlier the court filings are exceptionally theatrical, and pointless. For its part, Microsoft explained that Lee was "deeply involved in Microsoft's efforts to expand its business in China and learned Microsoft's confidential strategic plans regarding that crucial new market".

Google, with its hands already on Lee, pictured itself the very model of innocence.

"Lee has not disclosed any of Microsoft's to Google. Google has told Lee repeatedly not to disclose Microsoft's confidences")

(This isn't the only part of the brief that sounds like a Victorian English novel).

Google goes on to claim that Microsoft's very accusation that Lee would spill the beans "seeks to impune his good reputation".

Which is weird, because two paragraphs later, Google's lawyers go on to impugn his good reputation themselves. And they don't spare the horses.

"Lee is not a search expert," they state, pretty baldly. "throughout his career ... Lee was an executive who managed groups developing technologies in the area of speech engines and enhancing the user interface." All his triumphs were someone else's work, they insist. And Lee didn't know anything about the commercial sphere, either.

Hey, welcome to Google, you phoney.

In fact the whole lawsuit reads like a work of fiction, and deserves to be forgetten fairly quickly.

Two questions can't be, though - why did Microsoft push back now, with Lee? And how significant is this hiring spree? Is Google trophy hunting or are these make-or-break hires?

The latter is a very good question, and it's worth looking at how much value media-visible rocket scientists have contributed. Recent evidence suggests not.

Only last week HP dispensed with the services of "legend" Alan Kay, who was let go with along of six of his team. Kay has been developing an object oriented "programming environment" aimed at young children for a decade, and yet it still looks like something 5-year olds themselves would have left behind in the sandpit. HP won't miss him.

Google is supposed to be the new "operating system", according to its most ambitious shareholders. But we can't see Google's motley collection of supposed "OS experts" ranging from at one end of the scale DEC veteran and NT kernel guy Mark Lucovsky, to at the other end a scripting guy called Adam Bosworth, whose claim to fame lies on er, building DHTML into IE4, posing a threat to anyone. These really are trophies looking for a shelf.

With rather more serious intent, we notice, Google has been hiring quite carefully in the lobbying sector, hiring neocon headbanger Dan Senor, a hardcore Washington operator.

Both Google and Microsoft are prominent lobbyists and their intentions are probably better gleaned from seeing how many smokers they hire, rather than how many PhDs. Buttering up the regulators is both companies' top priority. It simply suits them both to pretend that the "hiring war" is more than about bruised egos. ®

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