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Many thanks to Mr. Nader for calling the upcoming conference, and to
Essential Information for providing this forum.
Alan Glanz (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote --
What this conference (and mailing list) is about is educating ourselves
and the general public about possible unfair and anticompetitive
practices, nothing more. Anything more (particularly anything more
personal about Gates) is likely to have the effect we've actually heard
off and on right here on this list --"You guys have a problem with
successful companies and/or successful people". [. . .]
The conference is titled, simply, Appraising Microsoft and Its Global
Strategy. Microsoft's global strategy comes straight from the folks at the
top. If they had gotten their jobs in the same ways as the executives of
most other large corporations today, a call to refrain from examining their
character MIGHT be justified. As things are, I don't think it is.
Too bad the conference title isn't catchier. Microsoft vice president Mark
Murray, ignoring the title and latching onto the more familiar "consumer
advocate" always associated with Mr. Nader's name, calls the conference "a
gathering of Microsoft bashers rather than any sort of consumer gathering"
and says it "does not in any way appear to be an effort to take a sincere
look at consumer issues in the software industry." So should we ask all the
independent developers and the people from Novell and Netscape to depart?
(By the way, many thanks to ABC News's Joe Feese for reporting these two
gems of Murray's in the same paragraph: "...it appears that it's basically
a made-for-TV event starring all of our business competitors..." and, "It
does not seem to be a sincere effort to discuss competition issues in the
software industry...." Speaking of made-for-TV, can you beat Murray's "all
of the usual suspects [!] in the anti-Microsoft clique"?)
"A gathering of Microsoft bashers rather than any sort of consumer
gathering" -- as though consumers couldn't possibly bash Microsoft. Well,
it's a dirty job....
I have no connection with any software company; I am not an entrepreneur,
administrator, developer, technician, hacker, nerd, or geek (heck, I can
hardly count my own change); I feel no overpowering attachment to any
operating system or brand of computer hardware. I'm a humanities grad and a
certified former burger flipper. I use computers all day at work and into
the night at home.
I'd say I'm more like the average consumer than Charles "We are the true
consumers of Microsoft's products" Kelly & Co. -- and the very sight of a
machine running Windows MAKES ME SICK.
Well, my purpose here is not to discuss anyone's character, but to give an
example of how ridiculous these accusations of envy are. First, though, I
would like to urge all who are concerned about Microsoft to access two Web
pages. For the first, please go to http://www.fortune.com/ and follow the
links to the Fortune text edition, then its archive, then the October 2,
1995 issue, and then the article "Bill Gates & Paul Allen Talk" (the URLs
change all the time; I'm not sure if you can go straight to the article).
Then, especially if you are knowledgeable about word processing, please
check out http://cwlive.cw.com:8080/home/online9697.nsf/All/970310myhrvold.
Let these people reveal their character with their own words.
We can bend over backwards to avoid mentioning Gates, Ballmer, Myhrvold, et
al., and people will STILL say we just envy them.
The people who make such accusations seem to be the ones who are envious.
We go on and on about freedom of choice, non-proprietary standards,
ergonomics, efficiency, universal access, and such; they speak of little
besides profit and convenience. They expect the entire world to take the
path of least resistance -- unspeakably bad software -- to these goals. Who
is more likely to be envious of the people who run Microsoft?
(Hmmm -- maybe conference participants should wear buttons that say "Warren
Buffet is OK by me.")
A True Consumer(TM)'s story....
I've lived in Taiwan since 1978, and in Hsinchu -- Taiwan's Silicon Valley,
but culturally very much a backwater -- since 1985. Until recently, nothing
interested me less than goings-on in the business world, and I was superbly
situated to ignore them, which I did.
In 1986 I had just started a career as a technical writer. In my mind,
Microsoft was one thriving software company among many, and one to be
trusted. After all, they had been chosen by IBM, hadn't they? Like many
computer users I knew, I was a bit uneasy about IBM, but like most people
with only modest technical knowledge, I assumed that IBM knew computers as
well as or better than anyone else, and that any company they chose to
provide their OS must have impeccable technical credentials. So I
concentrated on learning more about computer technology, and on writing
about the devices my company made. The name Bill Gates meant nothing to me.
Soon the time came to document a Windows program the company would bundle
with one of its products. I ran Windows for the first time -- and while in
principle I was all in favor of a GUI, I recoiled in horror. Anyone who
understood the rudiments of computers and cared a whit about standards
(REAL standards, approved by a 75% or greater majority of supplier,
consumer, and special-interest organizations involved in the formal
standards process) could surely see that Windows was a huge step backward;
that it was designed to impose on us a single inflexible and inefficient
way of working; that it robbed us of options implicit in national and
international standards; that it was an attempt at enslavement.
Why I felt (and still feel) that way is secondary to what I wish to say
now. Because of what I perceived then, I stuck with non-Windows software.
Then in 1994 I changed jobs, and my new employer required me to use a
Windows program. I customized it as best I could to give myself at least a
subset of the standards-based way of working that I (and millions of
others) find most efficient, ergonomical, and enjoyable, and still it was a
horror. I complained about this to a friend.
"Hey, if a guy can make a few bucks in the software industry, what's wrong
with that?" he asked.
What the [deleted] are you talking about, I thought. What does anybody
else's income have to do with the way I use a computer? I've always enjoyed
my work, I'm making a decent living, and all I ask is that I be allowed to
work in a way that a slew of standards say should be possible on any
computer at all, running any software at all. I rejected this system when
the person responsible for it was a faceless nobody to me. What IS this
I have always hoped that anything I produce will have some merit as well as
pay the rent. Perhaps I am projecting my way of thinking onto others, but
it seems to me that to envy Bill Gates, one has to see a certain amount of
merit in the product he apparently takes pride in. Well, I've documented
MS/PC DOS, Macintosh, Microsoft Windows, and X-Windows software; I've used
CP/M, Apple DOS, Macintosh, MS/PC DOS, Microsoft Windows, and Unix
programs; I think I have a fair idea of these systems' and applications'
merits; and no, I do not envy Bill Gates, because if I had produced
something so lacking in merit, I would want to crawl into a hole and die.
Since talking to my friend I've paid more attention to the business world
and to the people running Microsoft. Dump a few billion dollars into any
businessperson's lap to dispense with as they please, and the results will
depend very much on that businessperson's character. Add to that a market
about as sophisticated vis-a-vis the businessperson's products and goals as
non-expansionist peoples were vis-a-vis the technologies and goals of early
European, uh, settlers in their lands, and you have cause to look very
closely at the people now presuming to chart our future for us.
I've looked, and my horror only grows.