Understanding Microsoft

Part 31. The Fix is In

Whenever professional gambling is considered, there is always the opportunity and the danger of a "fix." This means that the outcome of a sporting event has already been established in advance, or that the outcome has been strongly influenced in a certain direction with the help of unscrupulous insiders who intentionally adjust the flow of the game in one direction or another. This is illegal, even in locations where gambling itself is officially sanctioned and accepted. The essence of the "fix" is to take what appears to be a contest of uncertain outcome, and to make sure that it is really not a gamble at all -- for the one holding the bettor's money. For the organizer of the wager, the outcome is a "sure thing."

Using this line of reasoning, we can see that many situations in life would be much less risky by having an "edge" or a way to ensure the outcome of a contest before it even begins. Perhaps by paying off a few officials, a construction bid can be obtained without the risk of losing to a superior competitor. Perhaps by using carefully planted media acquaintances, opinion about a new product can be slanted in a positive direction before a large number of people have even tried it yet. Perhaps an attitude of inevitable success can be developed about some new scheme before the actual groundwork has even been completed. In this way the outcome is almost a "sure thing" before the contest has even begun.

What takes even greater cunning and cleverness is to accomplish this sort of "fix" without breaking any laws. For example, to offer monetary rewards, gifts, or other material consideration to influence the outcome of some contest is obviously illegal. But what if other non-material incentives are offered, such as an appeal to a person's desire for prominence, influence, fame, or revenge? It is difficult to imagine a legal statute being successfully implemented to outlaw success stories or to prevent the failure of a hated rival. It is in this way that clever manipulation of emotional issues can lead to a "rigged" outcome in an ostensibly technical competition.

Given his arrogance toward rival intellects, is it any wonder that NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center CIO Jack Garman was so thoroughly sold on the Microsoft-only computing model, despite the angry complaints of thousands of NASA scientists at losing their prized Macintosh computers? Considering their enmity with IBM, is it any wonder that IBM rivals like Compaq and Dell found a Microsoft-only preload regime appealing? With the current managerial frustration about dealing with the techie types who dominate the Unix world, is it really surprising that managers foolishly stampede to dump their reliable Unix machines in favor of a Microsoft-only solution? After considering the fact that California spends more money on prisons than on education, should we be amazed to hear that the California State University system is on the verge of signing a ten-year exclusive deal with Microsoft, including the sellout of targeting taxpayer-funded professors as telecom customers? Taking into account their past rivalries with IBM, can we honestly profess shock at hearing that Amdahl and Digital are joining the Microsoft axis?

Microsoft doesn't have to offer bribes. They simply offer to satisfy people's emotional hot-button issues, to satiate their desires for revenge, to fulfill their goals of triumphing over bitter rivals. Microsoft just offers people what they can't get anywhere else: the opportunity to settle petty personal scores and selfish vendettas. The Fix is just Microsoft playing people for suckers by manipulating their emotional weaknesses.

Most recent revision: February 12, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.

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