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The Software Conspiracy

Week of 2 February 2001

'They spend their time on doodads rather than doing it right.'
 - Mark Minasi

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To anyone who has been around, the current status of commercial software development must work like a provocative cookie tosser. For anyone who takes a pride in their work, this must be so. It's one thing that the machines on which these colossally dumb applications run are trivial; it's quite another that millions are spent consciously producing such shite in the first place.

Detroit once tried a stunt like this, and they're still paying. 'Buy American' became synonymous with 'buy junk' and Volvo and the Japs took over.

Commercial PC software - especially with the likes of UCITA on the boards - is far worse. People don't buy used computers the way they bought used automobiles, and there is basically nothing wrong with the way PC hardware is made. But look for a second at the software instead. Try to see this in the context of an average family with a two car garage.

  1. Daddy buys his first Windows. He is proud of it. He's the first on the block to have one. Everyone envies him. Everyone gets a chance to watch him drive it.
  2. Mommy wants her own Windows, so Daddy goes out and buys a new PC and gives his old PC to her. Daddy's new PC has a new Windows.
  3. Mommy needs to take Daddy's old PC to the garage, but there are no garages for operating systems and software. Mommy's PC gets more and more sluggish. She sees Daddy playing with his new PC and notes how much faster it is.
  4. Mommy also registers the fact that Daddy's Windows just looks better. In comparison, her Windows looks out of date, drab, and sluggish.
  5. College Boy comes by and tells Mommy that the UNIX boxes he plays with in the lab at school are so much better, have so much greater screen resolution, are so much faster - and that they never crash and you never have to hit Ctrl+Alt+Delete. Mommy is pissed.
  6. College Girl wants a PC too, so Daddy buys her a notebook/laptop in a dark sexy colour. College Girl is a very quiet individual, so she won't be figuring in this story for a while. College Girl doesn't learn so fast either.
  7. Both Daddy and Mommy become increasingly frustrated with their PCs. Both experience crashes, hung apps, lost work; both get irritated at having to push Ctrl+Alt+Delete all the time.
  8. Uncle stops on by. Uncle is in graphics design and uses a Mac. He laughs at Mommy and Daddy.
  9. Daddy is running out of disk space. He's traded in his old Windows for a new Windows again. He has almost no free disk space left.
  10. College Girl's notebook/laptop just stops functioning. Daddy doesn't know, but he suspects College Girl is even more clueless than he is. College Girl's notebook/laptop starts to gather dust. Finally, College Girl goes out and buys a new computer herself.

Ok, stop there and add it all up. How many PCs did this average family buy? How many times did they pay for Windows? How much did they get on their Windows trade-ins?

[Answer: They bought five computers but, according to Bill Gates and UCITA, they should have paid for four Windows setups six times. Daddy was due Bill two new licenses when he gave his first computer to Mommy, and he was not entitled to transfer his second Windows setup to his third machine, despite his only wanting more disk space, and College Girl could not transfer her first Windows license to her new machine either. You can give the hardware away - you own that, no contention whatsoever - but you can't give your copy of Windows away - Bill owns it, you only lease it.]

Now compare this to Detroit, where the ideal was to sell three automobiles per family. Read it and weep. Detroit keep laying people off; Microsoft keep hiring on more.

Read more about the software conspiracy at www.softwareconspiracy.com.

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