RE: virus: TV is Good but Microsoft is bad

Gifford, Nate F (
Thu, 31 Jul 1997 16:18:18 -0400

>Marc Swenson wrote:

>>For example, Bill Gates has had very little to do with technology
>>enhancement since the 70's. If there is any genius to be found in his
>>persona, it's his assemblage of marketers, advertising and legal

Richard Brodie wrote:
>What are the forces that make this meme so persistent? This is a good
>example of something else being more powerful than "truth." Some of us
>on this list actually KNOW Bill, by the way.

I agree with you that people are in denial about Bill's intelligence. But
I suspect this is to so they can remain in denial about their own
stupidity...which in my opinion is the basis for Bill's millions. I think
the book Hard Drive makes a good case for why we should hate Bill ... but
I'm not sure that the world doesn't actually deserve to be running Window's
95. Mark Swenson has a point that Microsoft's assemblage of marketers,
advertising, and legal minds let it get away with monopolistic practices.
For instance, I programmed using Borland C until I had to write a DOS TSR.
I suspect I could have gotten the TSR working with Borland C ... but it
was a no-brainer using MS C 6? and the MS-DOS encyclopedia. I ran DR-DOS
and Win 3.1 until Window's for Workgroups made me go to DOS 5.0. I can't
remember what made me go to Window's for Workgroups ... but I remember one
consideration was that it was dirt cheap until I realized I'd have to
upgrade DOS too.

I'm not saying that Microsoft is Unethical ... I've got some great books
from the early Microsoft Press that must have been loss leaders ... lately
Microsoft has published some really good chess books at a very reasonable
price ... is a great news site....Microsoft at home can't be
making a whole lot ... but Microsoft certainly knows how to leverage an
advantage for a large overall profit. Its other contributions to the state
of the union pale compared to those delivered by the
monopolist/philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

A case where I've seen Microsoft crush a good thing would be in distributed
computing. When Microsoft entered the market the choice was between
expensive, but open and reliable technologies <CORBA> and proprietary but
cheap and reliable technologies <IBM SOM>, Microsoft seemed to split the
difference by offering open, cheap, and unreliable technologies<DCOM>.
They use a vaporware strategy of promising features of the expensive
technologies as soon as their cheap offerings get reliable enough. This
occurs right after the market shows enough interest in a product to
encourage Microsoft to pursue its current foothold. It seems that as soon
as Microsoft enters a market the technology in that market atrophies until
Microsoft either wins the market: in which case the technology begins to
improve at a roughly linear pace instead of the exponential pace that seems
possible in truly free market; or Microsoft pulls out of the market: in
which case whoever took the market from Microsoft improves the technology
at a roughly linear pace...<case 1:spreadsheets, case 2:money management
software and intuit>. I can't think of when Microsoft getting involved in
a technology improved the state of the art ... this certainly includes the

Overall I think that Microsoft has been more benign for programmers then
either IBM or Apple ... who got rich by taking giant margins on the cost of
their products, denying technology to those who couldn't pay the price.
But Microsoft certainly hasn't been as benign as Bell Labs whose Unix
efforts have spawned FREE computer software with support that is better
then you get from Microsoft ... if you know how to get it.

There are alternatives to Microsoft software that can be had at prices
comparable to Microsoft's price. Unfortunately those alternatives don't
have a support network equal to Microsoft's. Going to Microsoft for help
is on par with asking Marie Antoinette for a ham sandwich ... but the law
of averages favors finding an answer to your problem based on the sheer
volume of information available. Using alternatives to Microsoft software
requires more self-reliance and deterministic reasoning. If you can find
any information about your problem that information will probably solve
your problem, but finding the information is difficult. Rather than pay
this price most computer users seem to prefer the comfort zone of software
whose flaws are well known.

The book Hard Drive talks about the lack of market acceptance for Microsoft
Word 1.0 <your product> because the paradigm shift was too unwieldy. I
never used the DOS version of Word ... but I have to confess that when
Windows 2.0 came out I took the version that came with my home PC and
surreptitiously installed it on a manager's PC so I could show people
notepad. I installed it on the guy's PC twice, demoed notepad, paint, and
solitare ... and then uninstalled it. The people I showed the software to
were unimpressed...although Window's on a 286 was a pig the people I showed
it to had the vision of a planaria with its head cut off. Since then those
people have all gone on to much better paying jobs ... while I continue to
cut code and impress the new hires with my hacker cognos.

The world is certainly a better place with Microsoft running most of its
computers instead of IBM., but I can't help but think that the world would
be an even better place if all those computers were running Linux
Slackware. My sister-in-law has called me to do things on her computer and
I always tell her that my fixes were to get around bugs that Bill Gates put
on her computer to maintain his monopoly. I'm sure she believes me and
spreads the story to friends who come to her to print lost dog posters
because they don't have computers. On the other hand I have friends who
are computer consultants and who actually get paid to fix people's
computers. They always use the party line of "upgrades" and "driver
updates" so that their clients will be totally bamboozled and will call
them back the next time something goes wrong.

My apologies to the group if this post seems too technical or too simple
... since it is probably both. You asked why the meme is so persistent ...
I think it is because us computer utopians believe that the world would
have been a better place without MS-BASIC, etc.... but I can also see where
you might resent this since it certainly could have been a shittier place
if we were all running OS/360 for the PC on our desks. Microsoft has been
wonderful for popularizing PCs and offering good-enough software at a
reasonable price but Marc has a point ... exactly what contributions has
Microsoft made to the state of the art? Hard Drive points out that Bill
Gates bet the fort on Win 3.1 over OS/2. But who is to say that the
window's technolgies like GEM <a windows operating system from Digital
Research> that Win 2.0 forced out of the market place weren't better? I
have no idea what the GEM internals were like but it was a whole lot
stabler on my 286 running my Radio Shack $10 desk top publishing software.