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.