VATICAN CITY (AP) -- In a joint press conference in St. Peter's Square this morning, Microsoft Corp. and the Vatican announced that the Redmond software giant will acquire the Roman Catholic Church in exchange for an unspecified number of shares of MICROSOFT common stock. If the deal goes through, it will be the first time a computer software company has acquired a major world religion.
With the acquisition, Pope John Paul II will become the senior vice-president of the combined company's new Religious Software Division, while Microsoft senior vice-presidents Michael Maples and Steven Ballmer will be invested in the College of Cardinals, said MICROSOFT Chairman Bill Gates.
"We expect a lot of growth in the religious market in the next five to ten years," said Gates. "The combined resources of Microsoft and the Catholic Church will allow us to make religion easier and more fun for a broader range of people."
Through the Microsoft Network, the company's new on-line service, "we will make the sacraments available on-line for the first time" and revive the popular pre-Counter-Reformation practice of selling indulgences, said Gates. "You can get Communion, confess your sins, receive absolution -- even reduce your time in Purgatory -- all without leaving your home."
A new software application, Microsoft Church, will include a macro language which you can program to download heavenly graces automatically while you are away from your computer.
An estimated 17,000 people attended the announcement in St. Peter's Square, watching on a 60-foot screen as comedian Don Novello -- in character as Father Guido Sarducci -- hosted the event, which was broadcast by satellite to 700 sites worldwide.
Pope John Paul II said little during the announcement. When Novella chided Gates, "Now I guess you get to wear one of these pointy hats," the crowd roared, but the pontiff's smile seemed strained.
The deal grants Microsoft exclusive electronic rights to the Bible and the Vatican's prized art collection, which includes works by such masters as Michelangelo and Da Vinci. But critics say Microsoft will face stiff challenges if it attempts to limit competitors' access to these key intellectual properties.
"The Jewish people invented the look and feel of the holy scriptures," said Rabbi David Gottschalk of Philadelphia. "You take the parting of the Red Sea -- we had that thousands of years before the Catholics came on the scene."
But others argue that the Catholic and Jewish faiths both draw on a common Abrahamic heritage. "The Catholic Church has just been more successful in marketing it to a larger audience," notes Notre Dame theologian Father Kenneth Madigan. Over the last 2,000 years, the Catholic Church's market share has increased dramatically, while Judaism, which was the first to offer many of the concepts now touted by Christianity, lags behind.
Historically, the Church has a reputation as an aggressive competitor, leading crusades to pressure people to upgrade to Catholicism, and entering into exclusive licensing arrangements in various kingdoms whereby all subjects were instilled with Catholicism, whether or not they planned to use it. Today Christianity is available from several denominations, but the Catholic version is still the most widely used. The Church's mission is to reach "the four corners of the earth," echoing MICROSOFT's vision of "a computer on every desktop and in every home".
Gates described Microsoft's long-term strategy to develop a scaleable religious architecture that will support all religions through emulation. A single core religion will be offered with a choice of interfaces according to the religion desired -- "One religion, a couple of different implementations," said Gates.
The Microsoft move could spark a wave of mergers and acquisitions, according to Herb Peters, a spokesman for the US Southern Baptist Conference, as other churches scramble to strengthen their position in The increasingly competitive religious market.
Q: How many Bill Gateses does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. He puts the bulb in and lets the world revolve around him.
Q: How many Microsoft executives does it take to change a light bulb?
A: We can see no need for uninstallation and have therefore made no provision for light bulbs to be removed.
Q: How many Microsoft support staff does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Four. One to ask "What is the registration number of the light bulb?", one to ask "Have you tried rebooting it?", another to ask "Have you tried reinstalling it?" and the last one to say "It must be your hardware because the light bulb in our office works fine..."
Q: How many Microsoft Programmers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. They declare darkness the standard.
Microsoft forgot to explain them in the manuals, so they will be spread via the Internet:
WinErr: 001 Windows loaded - System in danger
WinErr: 002 No Error - Yet
WinErr: 003 Dynamic linking error - Your mistake is now in every file
WinErr: 004 Erroneous error - Nothing is wrong
WinErr: 005 Multitasking attempted - System confused
WinErr: 006 Malicious error - Desqview found on drive
WinErr: 007 System price error - Inadequate money spent on hardware
WinErr: 008 Broken window - Watch out for glass fragments
WinErr: 009 Horrible bug encountered - God knows what has happened
WinErr: 00A Promotional literature overflow - Mailbox full
WinErr: 00B Inadequate disk space - Free at least 50MB
WinErr: 00C Memory hog error - More Ram needed. More* More* More*
WinErr: 00D Window closed - Do not look outside
WinErr: 00E Window open - Do not look inside
WinErr: 00F Unexplained error - Please tell us how this happened
WinErr: 010 Reserved for future mistakes by our developers
WinErr: 011 Window open - Do not look outside
WinErr: 012 Window closed - Do not look inside
WinErr: 013 Unexpected error - Huh ?
WinErr: 014 Keyboard locked - Try anything you can think of.
WinErr: 018 Unrecoverable error - System has been destroyed. Buy a new one. Old Windows license is not valid anymore.
WinErr: 019 User error - Not our fault. Is Not* Is Not*
WinErr: 01A Operating system overwritten - Please reinstall all your software. We are terribly sorry.
WinErr: 01B Illegal error - You are not allowed to get this error. Next time you will get a penalty for that.
WinErr: 01C Uncertainty error - Uncertainty may be inadequate.
WinErr: 01D System crash - We are unable to figure out our own code.
WinErr: 01E Timing error - Please wait. And wait. And wait. And wait.
WinErr: 01F Reserved for future mistakes of our developers.
WinErr: 020 Error recording error codes - Additional errors will be lost.
WinErr: 042 Virus error - A virus has been activated in a dos-box. The virus, however, requires Windows. All tasks will automatically be closed and the virus will be activated again.
WinErr: 079 Mouse not found - A mouse driver has not been installed. Please click the left mouse button to continue.
WinErr: 103 Error buffer overflow - Too many errors encountered. Additional errors may not be displayed or recorded.
WinErr: 678 This will end your Windows session. Do you want to play another game?
WinErr: 683 Time out error - Operator fell asleep while waiting for the system to complete boot procedure.
WinErr: 815 Insufficient Memory - Only 50.312.583 Bytes available