MS in 11th hour trial ‘exposure’ of AOL BeOS PC plan

Defence team unearths key news report - on MSNBC

MS on Trial AOL's plan to produce an 'AOL PC' that would allow it to break free of Microsoft is alive and well, according to a last-minute grenade hurled by Microsoft's attorneys as trial testimony finished yesterday. Hostile witness David Colburn had earlier said the AOL PC plan had been largely abandoned, but Microsoft attorney Michael Lacovara was able to produce a news report saying AOL was in talks with MicroWorkz Computer, whose $199 iToaster was introduced at PC Expo. Is The Register alone in noting that the source of this story was, er, MSNBC? We trust that any subpoenaed emails from Microsoft's marketing department will not reveal further spinning above and beyond the call. A cheap, set-top box style PC that could maybe be subsidised a la cable TV would suit AOL mightily, although Microsoft's second-hand exposure of the MicroWorkz talks looks less clever when you remember that AOL is already involved in two such projects, one of them involving Intel (EArlier story). MSNBC's anonymous source seems to have been particularly helpful to Microsoft, as he/she/it says the deal would allow AOL to sell its service to all of the people for whom computers are too expensive. Microsoft, of course, is desperate to show that it does have or at least will have competition, so although the reality of tens of millions of $200 boxes running Netscape would be bad news for Oberkommando Redmond, the prospect has immediate tactical value. Actually, the iToaster is something of a left-field machine. It runs BeOS, version 4.5 of which was launched at PC Expo on Wednesday, so it might have even greater value to Microsoft's spin doctors. MS has been showing lots of concern about Linux, but hasn't said much about BeOS, so maybe this is one of those ones that come out of nowhere, just like Microsoft says competition happens in the IT business. MicroWorkz CEO Rick Latman confirmed talks with AOL, but didn't say what they were about. But in a release today MicroWorkz confirmed it was talking to a number of companies, but denied rumours that it was going to be acquired. ® Complete Register Trial coverage

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