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Thursday,  May 8 12:01 AM EDT

Steve Ballmer Sells Soul to Satan

By M. Stefanakopolus

San Francisco, CA - Linux advocates returned from last week's Embedded Systems Conference, an annual event more commonly dubbed "ESC West," dismayed over recent Microsoft advances in the embedded device space. Aarno Savlaeven, who traveled from Sweden to attend the conference, reported, "they had devices everywhere, all over the show floor! Everywhere I looked there was that stupid 'Windows Powered' logo; I couldn't get away from it!"

Let's make a deal!Mr. Savlaeven, who works for a company building Linux-based PDA devices for the Scandinavian market, said "You don't get it; the worst part is that [the devices] all worked! Every one of them! Not a single almost-works prototype in the bunch! Do you know what that means?"

Although most would consider that an extreme unlikelihood, what Mr. Savlaevin saw has been confirmed by many other attendees and by several leading industry analysts. Says L. Curtis Ovborg, an independent analyst who closely monitors the embedded systems marketplace, "This is clear evidence that [Microsoft CEO] Steve Ballmer has sold his soul to Satan. I have suspected this for a while, but it's still nice to get some solid confirmation despite what this means for the industry."

It is well known in the software world that Microsoft founder Bill Gates long ago sold his soul to the Prince of Darkness to secure the success of the Windows operating system. That Steve Ballmer has done so as well suggests that Microsoft is willing to do whatever is necessary to succeed in embedded systems, a market segment historically free from Microsoft's influence. "Microsoft has always said they were entering this market for the long term," says Ovborg, "but I didn't figure they meant for eternity itself."

When asked how many souls Microsoft would have to sell to ensure victory in the embedded marketplace, Ovborg concludes "Probably just the one. However, what most people don't realize is that the very necessity of selling Ballmer's soul reflects a strategic blunder by Microsoft: by entering the embedded marketplace with Windows CE--a new codebase developed from the ground up--Microsoft opened up a loophole in its original agreement about the desktop Windows OS, which the Father of all Lies was only too happy to take advantage of. Had they instead stripped features out of desktop Windows to make it small enough for embedded [applications], Ballmer could have kept his soul."

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Ironically, Microsoft's early work towards embedded and PDA-like applications, most notably the ill-fated WinPad device, took just such an approach. However, those efforts were abandoned because the hardware at the time could not support the Windows OS in such small form factors.

Linux newsgroups have been abuzz with discussion ever since ESC-West concluded last Friday. One poster, clearly dismayed by this development, wrote "How can we possibly compete with this? I'd gladly sell my soul for Linux, but the Devil doesn't want it! I typed 'Lucifer hear me' into a root shell over and over till he appeared, but he just said open software developer souls are too innocent and pure for him, melted my keyboard, and left!" Whether the the Devil was referring to the poster's software development mentality or to his presumed lack of mortal sin was not clear, however.

In unrelated news, the WinHEC conference has been renamed the WinHELL conference.

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