2002 in quotes

In a year awash with scandal and a steady stream of layoffs as the economy continued to stagger, we could take comfort in the certainty that fellows like Oracle chief Larry Ellison and Sun Microsystems' Scott McNealy would amuse us with their comments.

          In a year awash with scandal and a steady stream of layoffs as the economy continued to stagger, we could take comfort in the certainty that fellows like Oracle chief Larry Ellison and Sun Microsystems' Scott McNealy would amuse us with their comments. We scribbled down what they, and various others, had to say and offer this quote retrospective:

          "Our price list was very complicated. We had all these complex matrixes. I couldn't keep it in my head."

          -- Oracle chairman and CEO Ellison at a January press briefing where he outlined a new pricing plan for the 11i suite.

          "The plaintiffs are not here to seek the destruction of Microsoft."

          -- Brendan Sullivan, the attorney representing nine states that refused to sign a settlement agreement with Microsoft in the ongoing federal antitrust case against the software maker.

          "The plaintiffs' goal is to make sure Microsoft behaves properly ... Microsoft has done much good in this world, but it has also acted very, very badly."

          -- Sullivan spoke in March and by year's end all but two states, Massachusetts and West Virginia, had decided to not appeal a decision by US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that upheld most of the settlement agreement between plaintiff states, the US Department of Justice and Microsoft.

          -- In lighter Microsoft news, company CEO Steve Ballmer lamented the familial turmoil caused because he keeps his calendar in Microsoft Outlook while his wife keeps hers on the MSN website:

          "I can't just drag her calendar and drop it on my calendar and do a comparison. I want to do that, but there's no lingua franca for the way you would do that. There's no user interface metaphor. I want to be able to do enterprise application integration at the Ballmer family level."

          "My initial reaction when Carly told me was, 'You've got to be kidding.'"

          -- Ann Livermore, head of Hewlett-Packard's services group, referring to her reaction when HP chairman and chief executive Carly Fiorina told her last year that HP was set to make an offer to acquire Compaq. "It was the last thing on my mind."

          "Some of you came here to see me taken away in chains ... but that isn't going to happen."

          -- Open-source advocate Bruce Perens in July at what was supposed to be a demonstration of a contested copyright protection law. Perens was going to show DVD hacking software he said was in violation of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but his employer, Hewlett-Packard impressed upon him that wasn't such a good idea.

          -- In what might have been the understatement of the year, John Sidgmore said, when Bernard Ebbers stepped aside as CEO of WorldCom in March and Sidgmore took over temporarily:

          "We've lost credibility with Wall Street and the press little by little over the last six months."

          "The public perception of WorldCom and the reality of WorldCom are at odds," Sidgmore said.

          -- A couple of months later, then-chief financial officer Scott Sullivan said:

          "This whole financial story has gotten a little out of hand."

          -- Just how out of hand was soon to be known because not long after Sullivan made that comment, WorldCom disclosed it had found nearly $US4 billion in accounting irregularities and that Sullivan had been fired. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and making false filings to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which said:

          "The WorldCom disclosures confirm that accounting improprieties of unprecedented magnitude have been committed in the public markets."

          -- We'll let Ebbers have the last word here:

          "Although I would like more than you know to answer questions, I've been advised by my counsel to take the fifth," he said at a US House of Representatives hearing. "Although I do not believe I have anything to hide."

          -- Our vote for the most honest comment of the year goes to Brian Valentine, senior vice president of Windows at Microsoft, who lamented the sorry state of Windows 2000 security.

          "I'm not proud," he told developers at the Windows .Net Server conference. "We really haven't done everything we could to protect our customers ... Our products just aren't engineered for security."

          "Every operating system out there is about equal in the number of vulnerabilities reported," he said. "We all suck."

          "I'm tired of Ed Whitacre saying you're not a real man unless you've got your own facilities."

          -- AT&T president, chairman and CEO-elect David Dorman, referring to the chairman and CEO of SBC Communications.

          "But if I said, 'I'm gonna be a real man and build out a line to every single house ...' you'd cart me off to the loony bin."

          "The old company is regaining control."

          -- Michael Gartenberg, research director at Jupiter Media Metrix talking of changes at AOL Time Warner.

          "When AOL took over Time Warner ... people said, 'Why is this great new media company bothering with this dinosaur'. A couple of years later it's, 'Why is this great media company screwing around with this new media company'."

          -- Sticking with AOLTW for a minute, we wonder if these words will come back to haunt Richard Parsons, who issued this challenge in January to financial analysts before he officially took over in May as CEO:

          "If you see us managing our company in a way that falls short of the highest standards of American industry, let us know."

          "If we knew who the terrorists were, we'd go out and get them."

          -- Jeffrey Rosen, an associate professor of law at George Washington University in Washington, DC, who writes about legal issues for a number of magazines. Speaking of surveillance, biometrics and other technologies whose ostensible aim is to thwart terrorists, he said:

          "The goal [of such technology] isn't to prevent terrorism, it's to make people feel better."

          "I wish our customers had more money."

          McNealy.

          On that note, we'll leave behind this year with a couple of predictions, including one related to the economy:

          "Throughout this decade, ink will become as popular as the graphic user interface became in Windows."

          -- Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates when he launched the Tablet PC, which works with and transmits handwritten notes.

          "I'll be as well known as Gordon Moore. My mother will stop being ashamed of me because I'm a CEO."

          -- Brian Halla, chairman and chief executive officer of National Semiconductor, delivering a keynote address at Fall Comdex in 2002, before introducing "Halla's Harmonic," a homemade equation with which he predicted the technology industry would recover on June 21, 2003.

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