Understanding Microsoft

Part 84. The Masquerade

A masquerade party is a chaotic little gathering in which everyone wears a costume to hide their identity. Party attendees have a real blast tying to figure out who is who, and occasionally some real embarrassing things happen. But overall the situation is just a lot of fun, because nobody takes the party very seriously -- nothing is at stake there.

The computer industry itself has turned into quite a masquerade. Nothing is at it seems for very long. Nobody is who they appear to be. For example, huge companies like IBM were for years known as being overbearing and manipulative. Smaller companies like Microsoft were theoretically open-minded, customer-focused, and innovative. The U.S. government was viewed as a nonparticipant, or at least as a daffy but genteel observer who neither understood nor cared what went on in the computer marketplace. Consumers were thought to be happy, enlightened souls whose daily affairs were made simpler and more predictable by the supposedly ever-improving technology of the PC world.

How wrong all these perceptions have proven to be.

IBM turned out to be a (large)-customer-focused giant with a vast array of new patents every year. The average consumer has turned out to be a technologically uninformed, average-intelligence buyer who just wants to do e-mail or play a few games. The U.S. government turned out to be the power-broker that gave Microsoft, IBM, and all the other big companies their strength by the provisions of federal copyright and patent law, as well as a powerful bulldog that discovered Microsoft's crooked and defiant ways that had long been kept hidden from an unsuspecting public.

Most of all, however, the mask is off at Microsoft. The "little guy" who supposedly defeated "big, bad IBM" has instead been found to be a sneering, bullying, take-no-prisoners intimidator who stops at nothing to take other people's great ideas, butcher them, and then force-feed them to the public via their operating system distribution monopoly. It is Microsoft (and not IBM) who turned out to be the overbearing, manipulative octopus who prevented hundreds of competing companies from enjoying marketplace success, and killed off the profit potential for dozens of superior technologies such as OS/2, DesqView, and Go Corp's pen computing. Just like a masquerade party at the stroke of midnight, the masks are off and a new set of identities has been revealed. We can only speculate on what the next round of discoveries will reveal about such companies as Sun, Red Hat, and Oracle.

Most recent revision: August 29,1999
Copyright © 1999, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.

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