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Experts: Otherwise Dull Message Had to Be Hiding Something

REDMOND, WASH. ( — Why bother?

That thought spread quickly last week after Microsoft published an "open letter" stating the company's case for remaining whole. Even a cursory glance at the over-long epistle revealed a startling absence of anything new — no pronouncements not already made, no objections not already lodged. It was just more of the same. Microsoft good. Breakup bad.

Microsoft's Hidden Message

So what was the point? Why spend untold thousands placing this letter in newspapers across the country simply to rehash its position?

Then it hit us. Concealed inside this outwardly insipid dispatch there had to be a more direct and consequential message — the PR equivalent of a Trojan horse. It simply had to be there. Otherwise, well, a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal is a terrible thing to waste.

But how to find this billet mort...

We began by testing any number of time-honored decryption methods: reading the first letter in each sentence, the last letter in each sentence, every fourth letter, every fiftieth letter. But while these revealed some rather interesting possibilities, none quite seemed material enough to garner serious consideration.

And then we concentrated on the man behind the words. At heart, Bill Gates is a programmer, a 1's and 0's guy. How would a 1's and 0's guy veil his intentions? He'd do it, we theorized, using 1 and 0. With 10. So we returned to the open letter, and this time plucked out every tenth word. From there, a surprisingly simple rearrangement revealed that the most likely message belied a much sharper tone, and had a much less ambiguous target.

But perhaps we should let you decide. The links below lead to messages rated "Least Likely," "Possible," and "Most Likely." You may want to first glance at the original, somewhat less than interesting open letter, which is also available.

Original LetterLeast LikelyPossibleMost Likely


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