Understanding Microsoft

Part 57. Animal Farm

"Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better." - George Orwell's Animal Farm

Orwell's masterpiece exposed the blatant hypocrisy of the Soviet regime, which was run by the Communist party. The Party claimed to be intent on providing good things for all citizens by opposing the Western industrial elite, when in fact they were interested in placing their own greed and ambition for power as the most important item on the agenda. They started off saying that materialism and decadence were inherently Western flaws, but gradually the Party's own elite accumulated wealth and engaged in the usual forms of debauchery that are the signs of moral illness. This proved that they were no better than their predecessors, nor better than their competitors.

Similarly, Microsoft pretended for many years to be the champion of the little guy, the individual computer user. Microsoft pretended to be the defender of freedom of choice and innovation, bravely standing up to the Old Guard. The spinmeisters in Redmond carefully couched all communication in terms of a mythical heroism against supposed forces of ignorance and tyranny that wanted to prevent individual computer users from choosing their own software. Microsoft, we were told, was going to liberate the workplace from stifling attachment to a single paradigm for information: text-based terminals. Instead, the Windows platform would allow new ideas from many companies to prosper, so that the "best of breed" in each category would be rewarded with a prominent place in the workplace. Microsoft would theoretically supply a "level playing field" and "open standards" so that no one company could control the world of personal computer software.

Of course, like the old party apparatchiks who consistently gave preference to their well-placed friends, Microsoft in reality picked whichever company in each product category that would act as a "front man" for the Microsoft agenda of growth and control, and gave them preferential treatment. Using software codes, license agreements, and product tying, Microsoft was able to "steer" the marketplace toward its own products, or else products that were owned by its close partners and associates. So there never was a "free market" on the Windows platform, just as the Soviet Union did not have a free market economy. Microsoft produced a "directed economy" in the market for computer software, and then hypocritically whined about government intervention when the results of the rigged arrangements became too obvious.

Now Microsoft has nearly abandoned the pretense of offering freedom of choice, and is instead claiming that its own products have "coincidentally" become victorious -- as if the race is to be declared over as soon as a particular runner gets the lead. Microsoft now plays buddy-buddy with the CEOs and CIOs of major corporations, wining and dining them in hopes of building a sense of camaraderie and fellow-feeling with the same folks that Microsoft once bitterly attacked as oppressors. Microsoft now wants to impose the stifling Windows paradigm on the individual computer user, no matter how sloppy the product, and no matter how many millions of people prefer something different. The pigs in Redmond have begun standing on their hind legs, pretending to be the elite rulership from which they once claimed to be liberating us.

Most recent revision: June 18, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.

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