Understanding Microsoft

Part 63. The Suckers

"There's a sucker born every minute." -- American showman P.T. Barnum

The circus is one example of the use of showmanship to convince people to part with their hard-earned money. Like any effective scam, the intended victims are first mesmerized and amazed by sights and sounds that seem almost superhuman. The people watching the show are then offered opportunities to play little games along the midway with a chance to win a prize. A quick demonstration shows how simple and easy it is to win. By applying peer pressure using the nearby crowds of watchers, the grifters push each individual into taking their turn at the contest. After collecting the entry fee, a slight change is made to the game which renders winning nearly impossible. Frustrated losers turn away in disgust and move along to the next booth, only to be smoothly scammed again.

Taking money from the inexperienced players by promising an easy victory has also long been a favorite tool of the three-ring carnival known as Microsoft. Managers and computer users are told in very forceful terms that their computer use will be "easy" and "intuitive" and "user-friendly" if they simply buy only Microsoft products. Never mind that the selective use of statistics blinds the suckers into ignoring the realities of computer technology; the lure of the "easy win" and the "quick fix" is as effective a selling tool as the circus barker's patter. Peer pressure is applied using the groupthink tools of consumer advertising, software user groups, "free samples" that only run on the most recent Windows versions, and even workplace edicts. The ultimate peer pressure comes in the form of PC preloads, meaning that every big-name computer dealer becomes nothing more than a circus barker hawking Microsoft products instead of reliable, safe alternatives that show real innovation.

Of course, every round of disappointment leads only to a greater loss of resources at the next "booth." People disappointed with the slow, buggy nature of Windows 3.X gradually came to realize that Windows95 was not a cure, but rather another round of shakedown showmanship. The suckers who came on board duing that round of sleight-of-hand have had numerous problems with the bulky, self-aggrandizing product in the most recent booth: Windows98. While most of the more experienced victims of Redmond roulette are smart enough to say No this time, the Slick Willie of the Software Circus has a new scam waiting in the wings. This round of trickery is based on the decrepit Windows NT line of products. Corporations who fail to recognize the new P.T. Barnum offering them yet another rigged game will likely find out too late that this is one game that will have no winners and few survivors.

Most recent revision: August 16, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.

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