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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Microsoft Acquires GW Micro

“He’s a proud president, yelling about products relentlessly in live forums or over large systems discussing anything you care about assistive technologies,” reads a quote in the ,London Financial Wire Service report about Doug Geoffray, CEO of GW Micro on the successful sale of his company to Microsoft

Amazing as it may seem to Blind Confidential readers, the wire services reported that Microsoft completed its acquisition of GW Micro shortly after the closing bell in the New York markets yesterday. “Now that Apple has included VoiceOver in its operating system,” stated a smiling Rob Sinclair, head of Microsoft’s Access Technology Group, (ATG), “Microsoft had to respond by adding one to Windows.”

Adding that, “Now providing accessible technology built into the operating system is a competitive requirement, we set out to find the ideal companion for the Windows line of products,” said Sinclair in a poorly attended press conference held near the New York Stock Exchange Building. “We felt that Window-Eyes rock solid reputation met the quality standards we at Microsoft have come to represent.”

Geoffray stated from the podium, “GW has always been closer to Microsoft than any of the other AT companies and have been hoping for this transaction for many years now. We were the first true believers in MSAA and, today, our hard work and loyalty has paid off.”

When asked about the poor attendance at the press conference by a CNN reporter, Sinclair responded, “We wanted to make the announcement as quickly as we could. Unfortunately, it came after the bell on a Friday at the end of the quarter so few people are still in the city to cover the announcement. We tried to get Stevie Wonder to come to celebrate this merger between the two companies but he couldn’t act on 19 hours notice.”

Geoffray added, “Sadly, accessibility isn’t sexy and blindness products even less so. If Microsoft came here to announce that they had acquired Oracle, for instance, I’m sure this place would be jammed.”

Blind Confidential, one of the few news sources to pick up the story, was able to get a pair of very high level exclusive interviews. Late last night, I talked to Bill Gates who, asleep when I reached him having finally called in enough favors to get his private home telephone number, said, “GW what? George Washington Bridge? Blind who?” And, then he hung up the phone.

I was also able to get the opportunity to talk to Mike Lollar, a blind long time GW employee who, over the sounds of a very wild party yelled, “We’re rich, we’re rich, we’re rich!” And then hung up.

Back at the press conference, Geoffray smiling answered a Village Voice reporter’s query, “Actually, I don’t know anything about rent control in New York City. It sounds like a good idea though.”

Sinclair took control of the situation and said that soon, if any user holds down the Windows key along with the letter U, they will hear, “Windows will now be your eyes and will tell you what you need to know.” He then demonstrated Window-Eyes using Internet Explorer, Microsoft Word and a few other applications.

After the press conference ended, I caught Doug Geoffray on his cell phone and asked him what he planned to do now? “I’m going to Disneyland!” Well, although the official dollar figures were not announced, rumor has it that Doug can afford many trips to Disney and any other resorts he finds desirable for a long time to come.

Blind Confidential would like to congratulate all involved on successfully completing this complex transaction.

Afterward

Bruce Bailey wrote to me privately yesterday suggesting that my comments about his criticism of Jay Leventhal’s review of Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader was unfair as I did not include pointers to his sources and quoted him out of context. I can see his point and suggest that readers who want to read his rebuttal to Jay’s article go directly to Bruce’s page: http://home.adelphia.net/~bmss/vo/aw060505fix.html.

I still can’t come up with a compelling reason for a blind person to abandon Windows with their favorite screen reader or, if they prefer, a text based GNU/Linux with SpeakUp or one of the other text screen access tools for that platform. Both provide a vastly wider range of programs one can use than does Apple with VoiceOver and, therefore, a vastly greater number of opportunities for their users.

Finally, Jay did publish some corrections to his review of VoiceOver in the November Access World. I haven’t read them so, if you care, go to the AW web site and read them yourself.

[Does it occur to anyone that my criticism of Bruce’s criticism of Jay’s criticism of Apple’s screen reader might just take the concept of criticism a step too far? Especially in the light that, today, I’m responding to Bruce’s criticism of my criticism of Bruce’s criticism of Jay’s criticism of Apple’s screen reader. We definitely have far too much time on our hands.]


Frankly, after thinking about the Apple question for three straight days, I’m pretty burned out on the topic. Yesterday, I did enjoy a great nostalgia rush as I reminisced about the fun I had on the New York City and then Boston/Cambridge hacker scenes. The great times of stealing 2400 baud modems from the phone company as private citizens weren’t permitted anything faster than 300 baud by FCC regulation. All of those amazing Chinese, Indian, Burmese, Sushi, Vietnamese, Italian, Greek, Persian, Nepalese, Tibetan – you name the cuisine – meals with rapid fire, high test intellectual debates over whatever topics came into mind. The parties at the Cambridge Brewing Company, fetish night at the Man Ray, Black Leather events at MacWorld conferences, the rally outside of the Cambridge Lotus headquarters with speakers like Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, Noam Chomsky, Richard Stallman and other intellectual giants who stood for information freedom.

All of that, however, ended decades ago. Now, I stand for peace, inclusion and use my talents to push the technological envelope forward for people with vision impairments. As Ted henter often reminds me, I don’t actually “help” anyone but, rather, I make tools with which people can help themselves. I hope you enjoy the tools I make and that you’ve enjoyed the first three months of Blind Confidential as much as I have enjoyed writing the stories.

Please feel free to send me emails or post comments about ideas for articles in the future. As I’ve mentioned here before, I want to stick more closely to the gonzo/satirical stuff than to the esoterica of assistive technology. Today, with the important announcement by MS and GW, I had to write a straight ahead piece about AT but I really prefer the fun stuff and hope to focus on it in the future.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Jake Joehl said...

Hello. I just want to say that I really enjoyed your post about GW Micro being acquired by Microsoft! Although I have not had extensive experience with GW Micro products, I have used them a little bit in the past and they were very good. I am a newcomer to your blog, in fact I just found out about the GW Microsoft post this morning when it was forwarded to the Blind Cool Tech listserv by Dean Martineau. Thanks for a good laugh and I look forward to many more.

10:33 AM  

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