Understanding Microsoft

Part 68. The Eunuch

In ancient times, kings often had large numbers of concubines handy for their personal pleasure. However, a king was a busy person who must attend to such matters as war, political deals with neighboring countries, and ducking conspiracies. He didn't have time to hang around the castle all day and all night, trying to keep track of his harem. So the concept was developed of having a trusted servant keep close watch on things -- someone who was so trustworthy that these women would not be too much of a temptation for him. This person was called a eunuch.

Yes, a eunuch was often an emasculated man, but not always. The word "eunuch" comes from two Greek words that literally mean "bedholder." In other words, this man was just a placeholder, not the real thing. The king's bedholder had to be beyond corruption and beyond temptation. In later times, the term eunuch was applied to other highly-trusted servants who watched over such things as the treasury. Thus, a king with a faithful set of eunuchs could avoid much worry and instead focus his attention on consolidating his power.

Which brings us to Microsoft. The key ingredient to Microsoft's marketplace success is not any product excellence, but rather the exclusion of alternatives. Windows95 is not where Microsoft wants to force people to go; it is just a placeholder to prevent other systems from engaging the fancy of the consumer. Windows95 and Windows98 are merely eunuchs that keep out non-Microsoft solutions and products by occupying a monopoly position. The fact that consumers often detest and loathe these products for their sloppy design and mediocre performance, numerous crashes, and careless handling of data -- well, that is just fine with King William of Redmond, because he really would not want people to become too attached to the current crop of Microsoft kludges. After all, the king would not want his harem to find the bedholder eunuch attractive, would they?

It is thus no mere coincidence that Microsoft sells an emasculated operating system called Windows that acts as a mere placeholder to prevent serious products like OS/2 and Unix from having an opportunity to engage the consumer in a meaningful relationship. When WindowsNT has been developed to the point of being able to appeal to the consumer -- namely, when software makers have been forced into developing exclusively for NT, and hardware makers find themselves selling $200 worth of processing equipment and a $400 operating system -- then Microsoft can dump the eunuch system and the PC buyers will *really* get screwed.

Most recent revision: October 21, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.

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