Understanding Microsoft

Part 34. The Common Cold

There are certain laws of nature that mature adults have learned to deal with, to accept, to submit themselves to without question. Nobody really questions whether there is a law of gravity, or whether they can safely drive off a cliff. Nobody really thinks they can go more than one or two nights without sleep. And, of course, there's always the common cold. Nobody, with the exception of a handful of unusually germ-resistant people out there who somehow manage to accumulate decades of perfect attendance, really believes that they will be able to go through their entire lives -- or even the next few years -- without catching some kind of cold or flu bug.

What people have resigned themselves to doing, then, is merely to address the symptoms. They stock up on cold remedies, aspirins, cough medicine, extra Kleenex tissues, whatever it takes to get them through those miserable few days of illness. They use hot water bottles or hot coffee or menthol-vapor rubs or whatever else they need to ease the pain. A few prudent folks even stockpile sick days instead of squandering them on little things. Yet none of these people would be so absurd as to think that any of these pain-relievers or ache-reducers is actually going to effect a cure. Nobody with any degree of sanity gets up from the sickbed and actually says, "Well, that's the last time I'll have to put up with that!"

So people have collectively and individually been beaten into a kind of submission or servitude to a fickle master, the common cold, and they willingly accept that sooner or later they must slavishly obey the commands of this law of nature. Yet a similar kind of absent-minded, blindly-obedient servitude exists in the world of computer software as well. People have come to accept Microsoft products as timidly as they accept the common cold. Just like some immutable "law of nature," Microsoft is viewed as being as twisty, as slippery, and as relentless as a constantly-mutating strain of virus.

How then do people address their frustrations, their downtime, and the unexpected little "sickness" that now plagues their computers? The same way they take care of their colds, with plenty of "medicine" to treat the symptoms: backup disks, virus protection, tuneup aids, helpful books and tip sheets, and even the phone number of a local PC "medic" in case the sickness takes an unusually bad turn. People have basically given up on the hope of ever being safe, healthy, and Microsoft-free once again, just as they have forsaken any hope of avoiding the common cold. Microsoft's vaunted "marketing" is nothing more than the practice of ensuring the pervasiveness of a product to the point of beating into submission people's natural desires for freedom of choice and product quality.

Most recent revision: February 17, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.

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