Understanding Microsoft

Part 39. The Hypocrites

There's nothing more disgusting than a hypocrite, someone who says one thing but does the opposite. For example, if a minister rails against fornication while at the same time engaging in adultery, this person has not only violated moral law but has also gravely damaged their own credibility. Who can believe anything this person says?

A similar form of hypocrisy involves charitable donations. When someone sets out to fleece the public of millions of dollars, and then make a pious showing of false generosity by doling out a tiny portion of this wealth as a public demonstration and a publicity stunt, this is indeed detestable and hypocritical. Far better for the greedy swindler to keep his money hidden like a miser than to try to buy favor in the eyes of the public.

For a company like Microsoft to make a public showing of being concerned about education, and to donate tens of millions of dollars to various schools and universities, is not in itself bad. It would be nice to see more corporations taking note of the sorry and decrepit state of school buildings and other necessities like books and supplies. But for Microsoft to make these donations is really nothing more than a miniscule "rebate" of the funds they are squeezing from the educational system.

For example, Microsoft representatives recently announced to a gathering of university information managers that they are "going to a per-processor license model in every industry." INDUSTRY? Yes, Microsoft's intent to squeeze out billions of new dollars from schools and universities by a dramatic change in software licensing shows that they consider education as nothing more than another industry to be bled dry. For a university computer network having perhaps 20,000 or 30,000 computer terminals, a per-processor license fee means that the administration must suddenly pony up anywhere from one hundred to perhaps 1,000 times as much money to keep their Microsoft cyber-landlord from confiscating their products under federal copyright law.

Imagine owning a condominium that you use only 3 days per year, and then being told you must pay for all 365 days or you will be arrested! This would be bad enough, but a vacation condominium is not a necessity. What if you became dependent on a certain medicine, and one day the pharmaceutical monopoly who made the drug decided to charge each person directly for the research costs of the next version? This would not be extortion, of course, because there is always a chance you might survive without the drug. Similarly, universities could survive without Microsoft products. But how many of them have the money available to rebuild their entire information infrastructure so they can safely evict Microsoft from campus once and for all?

So don't be impressed by a seemingly magnanimous generosity on the part of Microsoft toward education. It's just a few coins falling out of the wheelbarrow that Microsoft just used to carry off their newfound loot, financed by taxpayers and student fees.

Most recent revision: March 1, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.

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