Understanding Microsoft

Part 46. The Faucet

Water is essential for life, but too much water can suffocate someone. They drown, killed by something that ought to be life-preserving for them. Control of water -- its flow rate, its pressure, its temperature -- can determine whether the water causes help or harm.

The water of life for a news publication, a magazine, or even an online website is information. Control of the flow of information to a news organization can either cause the organization to prosper and flourish, or to die of thirst. In some cases, the flow of information can be used like a high-pressure water spigot, washing out alternative news sources and setting the news agenda itself. This means that in many cases, what we see on the news is not determined by the tellers, the writers, the speakers that we observe; rather, it is the hand on the faucet of the flow of information that determines what we see and hear and read. Of all the organizations that manipulate the news via flow control, Microsoft is at the very pinnacle of expertise.

Microsoft can expertly target a particular computer publication by first determining its flow of capital -- the other form of life-giving fluid needed by a business. If a publication is financially weak, simply propping it up with heavy advertising dollars builds a dependency upon maintaining Microsoft's favor. But even more, their dependency is on Microsoft for the "inside information" about upcoming Microsoft products. After all, Microsoft has more than a monopoly on operating systems, office suites, and other products; it also has a monopoly on the *inside information* about its own products. Since Microsoft uses proprietary interfaces and Rube-Goldberg-style internal design architectures, only Microsoft can provide the kind of insider viewpoint these magazines and other publications and media establishments need to fill their pages with content. Only Microsoft knows which products they will hype, and which are just placeholders to keep the competition from succeeding.

Therefore, Microsoft will target a particular publication -- or even better, a certain individual writer within a publication -- and flood them with a high-level blast of information about all sorts of Microsoft products. The monopoly position of Microsoft forces the writer to keep up with all of this marketing-driven information, lest they miss out on whichever product ends up being successful. Since the writer does not know which of these products is bogus and will flop, he or she cannot afford to ignore any of them. This crowds out the time necessary to keep abreast of other developments in the computer industry, such as superior operating systems, new paradigms, and futuristic programming languages. The faucet is turned on full-blast, and the writer must either sink or swim.

Ah, but let the writer put into print that a particular Microsoft product is indeed a crock, a laughingstock, or even just mediocre -- and suddenly that flow of information may be cut off completely. The hand that cranks the faucet will quickly turn it from full-on to shut tight. Now the flow of necessary content information is gone, and the magazine or the writer begins to die from lack of information. Microsoft is capable and willing to punish members of the media for failing to live up to Microsoft's expectations that they will be nothing more than mouthpieces and front-men for the Microsoft machine, making a mockery of the term "free press" by co-opting the media into unpaid extensions of the Microsoft marketing department. For when you write about Microsoft, it's either all or nothing; Microsoft will never allow itself to be viewed as just another choice to be made among competing equals. The flow of propaganda from Microsoft will either drown you or starve you -- take your pick.

Most recent revision: April 5, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.

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