Feeds

'Microsoft was caught stealing secrets from Borland'

Reader, I was there

Top three mobile application threats

Way, way back in 1992 I was at that conference in Palm Springs. One evening, purely by chance, I happened to meet a very amiable guy called Bill Marklyn. It turned out that he worked for Microsoft. He didn't, at that point, look like a spy. He didn't have a large magnifying glass, nor a miniature camera; at least, as far as I could see. But then, those miniature cameras are, by definition, easy to conceal so perhaps he had it hidden under the large black cloak he was using to conceal his face. (No. Let's not start another myth. That was a joke; he was not wearing a black cloak).

Bill and I happened to get along well together; in fact it turned out to be the start of a long friendship, we still write books together. But we didn't know that at the time. So we chatted about databases and database engines from about 7:00PM until about 1:00AM the next morning. (Look, we were far from home, at a database conference. What do you expect us to do? Get drunk and argue about baseball?) During the evening we met up with two other guys from Microsoft: Tod Nielsen and Adam Bosworth. Adam had worked for Borland in the past developing Reflex; an excellent flat-file database system; and guess who was appointed as CEO and president of Borland in November 2005? None other than Tod Nielson...

During the day Borland announced that the labs would be open late to allow all the conference delegates the opportunity to try out the software. Early in the evening the labs had been packed with delegates, so we tried again later on in the evening. Most of the conference delegates were, by that stage, getting drunk and arguing about baseball so the room was empty. We tried out the software which was, most certainly not secret stuff; this was in a completely open area.

Despite all of that, after a couple of minutes Adam said something like "I'm a little uncomfortable sitting here as a Microsoft employee with no-one watching us. What if someone thinks we are trying to steal the software?"

He really did say that. I'm sorry if it sounds unlikely but he did. The rest of us laughed and I said I'd watch them. But he insisted on going out and finding someone. He returned with a couple of Borland developers he knew from his time at the company. We all chatted for a while as developers do - not about marketing and company politics, but about coding and languages and data structures. It was a very pleasant evening. Eventually the Borland guys closed up the lab and we all drifted off. No one even hinted at impropriety. I saw no cameras. Despite what Sidnam said later, I saw no notebooks. There was no drama.

I trust developers (Borland and/or Microsoft) but my guess is that one of the Borland guys just happened to mention that he had come across the Microsoft people in the lab. At some point, as the story was passed around, a non-developer saw a golden opportunity.

A couple of mornings later I entered the Press room to find an impromptu UK press meeting in full swing. A Borland spokeswoman was recounting the dramatic story of how three Microsoft people had been caught stealing secrets. I thought it was a great story until I realised that she was talking about the same three guys and the same evening.

Now, I'm a journalist. I like a good story as well as the next news hound. But I do like my articles to contain at least an element of truth. My editors are very picky on this point and tend to insist. I pointed out to the spokeswoman that, completely inadvertently, these guys had acquired a completely independent witness. I said that they were demonstrably innocent. My brothers in the press fraternity also like their articles to be based on planet Earth whenever possible and so the story never appeared in the UK. What I didn't realise at the time was that someone (the same spokeswoman?) simply repeated it to the US press which published the story.

So, it is no longer a great mythtery how some of these myths are born; but I think it is now time to put this one firmly to sleep. ®

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

More from The Register

next story
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.