Since the online news column At the Evil Empire ended last year, there's been a gaping hole in Microsoft coverage. Despite Empire's three-year run, with insightful stories like, "The Lesser of Two Evils: Microsoft or AOL?", award-winning journalist Mary Jo Foley stopped the column when she resigned from online publishing company CNET. "CNET was new and had a lot of young reporters coming in. I just thought I'd be a better fit someplace else," says the 40-year-old Foley from her NYC office. Foley's brand-new online, twice-weekly newsletter, Microsoft Watch, should fill the void.

Foley has garnered quite a reputation in the tech community for breaking news about Microsoft, consistently scooping the national and local press. "I find her material unusually acute and insightful," says Seattle Post- Intelligencer Microsoft reporter Daniel Richman. "Fred and Ginger, Sonny and Cher, Mary Jo and Microsoft. Can't think of one without the other," jokes Steve Eisenstadt, spokesperson for IBM Software, one of Microsoft's biggest competitors. Foley broke the story last year that Microsoft's Windows XP had significant security holes and anti-piracy measures. She was also the first to report about .NET, Microsoft's new and far-reaching Internet strategy. Microsoft is an obsession for her. "There is no other company as influential or aggressive in the tech industry," she says. "They've done a lot of good work to grow the industry, but a lot of bad work too. I mean, they did violate anti-trust law," she says, referring to last year's federal ruling.

Foley's Microsoft Watch, published by Ziff Davis Media, will take over where Empire left off, but with even more emphasis on breaking news, and less commentary. (A recent story reported Microsoft's entry into peer-to-peer services--i.e., a legal Napster.) "I want to look hard at Microsoft strategy, where their new monopolies will be, getting scoops," she says. However, there's one significant difference between Empire and Microsoft Watch. The latter will be a whopping 399 bucks a year to read! Watch is a subscription-based online newsletter geared to developers and Microsoft's competitors, not the common reader. However, Foley says, her stories will occasionally be reprinted in other tech-industry mags like Baseline. No comment from Microsoft about Foley's return.

pat@thestranger.com

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