By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated October 24, 2002 11:00 AM

Bill Gates, upstaged? Lenny Kravitz, likewise?

Amazing but true, as proved Thursday afternoon in a special big white tent erected in New York’s Central Park, where the richest man in the world assembled the press so he could officially unveil Microsoft’s new Internet service provider, MSN 8.

But the talk of reporters over the finger sandwiches at the gathering wasn’t about parental controls and junk-mail filters but the morning arrest of Army veteran John Allen Muhammad, 41, and his 17-year-old stepson, John Lee Malvo. Police are claiming that the two are the deadly snipers who for the past three weeks have been terrorizing the Washington, D.C., area.

Broadcast outlets since dawn Thursday had been reporting that police in Maryland’s Montgomery County found a rifle in the men’s car that appeared to be the same caliber as the one used in the shootings. Police also discovered in the vehicle a scope and a tripod in the vehicle, and they are now awaiting ballistics tests on the gun.

Because of the breaking news of the arrests, Gates’s scheduled Thursday morning appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” was pre-empted, a Microsoft staff member told at the Central Park gathering.

But that didn’t mean the company still didn’t try its best to herald its new service, including having Kravitz perform his song “Fly Away,” which is the MSN 8 ad campaign theme.

Also, facsimiles of the service’s butterfly logo were plastered along the pavement that leads into Central Park. Inside the tent (where the finger sandwiches were) real live people were dressed as butterflies.

Gates, who turns 47 next Monday, wore a blue, open-collared shirt. But he also showed a video in which he was dressed up as a butterfly.

MSN 8 is meant to compete with America Online’s AOL 8.0, which was launched last week. (AOL is part of AOL Time Warner, which also owns PEOPLE.)