Understanding Microsoft

Part 53. The Flim-Flam Man

"You can't cheat an honest man." -- George C. Scott in the 1940's movie The Flim-Flam Man

The guiding premise of George Scott's scam expert in the classic old movie was that it was a waste of time to try to cheat an honest man. An honest man would not accept the idea of something for nothing; therefore, he would be harder to cheat. An honest person would instinctively know that you typically have to do a lot of hard work and use good judgment to make a buck, or to save one. So, Mr. Scott's flim-flam man focused on scamming the scammers. He went after the folks who thought they were a little smarter than everyone else, and who were also willing to cut a few corners and sell shoddy products and false hopes.

You see, these sharpies would never expect to get conned themselves. They were too busy looking for marks, pigeons, and dupes to pull their little tricks on, so that they would never watch their own "back door." When someone came along with a great new gadget for pulling the wool over people's eyes, these con men would gladly participate in the grifter's crooked scheme. It was Mr. Scott's character who was this grifter, moving from town to town and playing the con men for fools. The classic tricks like the planted wallet, the watered-down liquor, and the rigged game board naturally appealed to the local crooks, and Mr. Scott set them up for his accomplice to come behind him and clean house.

In the computer industry, Microsoft has found a similar tactic to be effective. Instead of selling its products to men and women of integrity, the sharpies from Redmond prefer to target the corner-cutters who will sell any sort of wimpy products to make a buck. This is why technologically superior products like OS/2 and Unix don't appeal to the hard-core Microsoft consultants; these people don't care about technology and its promise of reliability, performance, and capacity improvements. They just want a fast buck. So they are the perfect marks for Microsoft, who also is after the fast buck.

This is why NASA, an organization that can only be described as a petrified dinosaur with a few residual pockets of excellence, was only to happy to ignore their own scientists' pleas and dump their favorite Macintosh workstations in favor of the flaky, unreliable Microsoft products such as Windows95 and related MS networking programs. NASA's top management suffers from the same kind of mental gridlock as the FAA and other collections of pension-happy clock-watchers who just want an easy answer, a low-risk answer for everything. "Low-risk" translates to "politically correct" instead of "reliable" for these spineless managers. The beauty of the Microsoft strategy is that the people most technically qualified to make the computing decisions -- the hobbyists, the purists, the top brains -- are left out of the loop. The decisions are made by people with self-serving non-technical agendas.

Similarly, consulting companies such as KPMG Peat Marwick have recently thrown in the towel in the battle for technical excellence, and have decided that duping their marks with cut-rate monopoly-subsidized Microsoft products is a more effective moneymaking scheme than trying to offer the best products for the money. Sellouts from every field of technological endeavor will find Microsoft making constant efforts to appeal to their greedy side instead of their technical interests. It is only a matter of time before these technological turkeys come home to roost, but the flim-flam man from Redmond will have already moved on to another town and a new set of marks.

Most recent revision: May 2, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.

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