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  • Writer's pictureJeff Matthews

A Yellow Card for Microsoft

The most amusing—and frustrating—part of watching the World Cup soccer matches is the way the players game the refs.

Two guys go up for the ball and invariably the guy who doesn’t get it collapses on the turf, rolls a few times while clutching some part of his body and screaming in pain, his face a contorted mask of agony that bespeaks a ripped tendon, a fibula snapped abruptly in two, or, at the very least, a painful gouge that has ripped out an eyeball and left it dangling from the socket.

The ref acts like he’s never seen a fake before: he blows the whistle and whips out the yellow card and holds it there like a proud first-grader showing his first report card to his grandparents.

Meanwhile, the chump who just got carded makes a face and pulls his sweaty hair out…while the player with the broken fibula gets slowly up on his feet, stretches once and then starts running downfield in about as much apparent pain and agony as the Road-Runner when he decides he’s had enough messing around with Wile E. Coyote and shoots off down the highway in a blur.

The fans get it—they either cheer or roar disapproval, depending on their team. The announcers—I watch the games on Spanish TV because the ESPN coverage is so lame—actually laugh. And the camera invariably lingers on the coach of the Wile E. Coyote team, who shakes his head in disgust and flicks the back of his hand off his chin at the ref.

During the Portugal-France match, one replay showed the Portuguese guy actually a good six inches from making contact with anybody when he flopped down, rolled over, drew the penalty and got up ready for the kick.

Now, this is not meant to be a slur on the Portugal team or their individual ethnicity, nor is it meant to be a commentary on the inherent athletic abilities a player for Portugal might or might not possess: as anybody who’s watched the World Cup knows, the Italians are the best actors, hands down.

Based on the first 117 minutes of their match against Germany, before they finally decided to concentrate on passing and scoring rather than fake broken-leg-rolls and eyeball-gouges, the Italian players actually spend more time in practice working on fake-broken-leg-rolling and eyeball-gouges than, say, passing and shooting.

(Not to say the American team deserved getting any further than it got—how we tied Italy, even with Italy kindly scoring our only goal of the tournament for us, is still beyond me.)

All this is by way of saying that yesterday’s blockbuster news report that Microsoft is planning an “iPod-Killer” device with wireless downloading capabilities in time for the upcoming holiday season is about as realistic as the approximately 620 broken fibula suffered by the Italian front line in its match against Germany.

Now, I know nothing about Microsoft’s actual plans for this so-called iPod-Killer. Nobody from Redmond bothered to brief me on either the technical details or the impending Congressional legislation that will force all consumers ages 16 to 60 to buy it even though it will be the size and weight of an espresso machine in order to accommodate the CD-player, tape-machine and stereo turntable that have been designed in so as to make it fully compatible with all previous versions of the Microsoft Music Operating System Version 2.803 Model Train Enthusiast Upgrade Pack.

So if you’re looking for any insight into the technology issues or software issues or wireless music download issues involved in the thing—you’re reading the wrong guy.

But I do know a little about retail, and how stuff gets from the manufacturer to the store shelf, and by my calendar, it is early July.

That means the “holiday season” for which this “iPod Killer” supposedly will be ready starts in earnest immediately after Labor Day—less than 60 days from now.

Which, with all the logistical and marketing and packaging and quality assurance issues that need to be resolved before any product can get from press release to store shelf, means that unless Microsoft is ready to ship the finished product, oh, a month ago, there is no chance that Microsoft will be selling any such a concept in time for Christmas.

In the meantime, though, like one of those Italian players screaming and rolling and waving to convince the ref that something happened, Microsoft is doing its best to make it seem like something’s really happening in the battle for the next generation music player. So I’m giving a yellow card…to Microsoft.

Next penalty, they’re gone for good.

Jeff Matthews I Am Not Making This Up

© 2006 Jeff Matthews

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Matthews. Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews’ recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes a solicitation of business or investment advice. It is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.

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