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Oh Brother

Week of November 1, 2002
It's all over - it's time to get out.

Famous last words - the Radsoft rant for Halloween cited a number of auspicious events. It recalled the infamous Halloween Documents, and it focused on the uncanny knack of one Bill Gates to always judge his situation correctly and to never bluff when not necessary, and to call the other person's bluff when he knows for sure he's won.

The ruling of Kollar-Kotelly was all but forgotten. But now it's here. And it depresses not so much because it's a total sell-out, but because it is in effect just that: a total sell-out. Bill Gates has won. Keep icons off the desktop? Icons? Oh brother. Oh Big Brother.

Remember the Mac ad from 1984? Remember how terrible that looked? Big Brother up there on the big screen? The totally colourless attendants? Everything colourless and gray? That's what we have today. Bill Gates can do as he pleases. And now Bill Gates will never have to bluff again. The kind of settlements he's gone along with in the past, to the likes of Steve Jobs and Ray Noorda, will happen no more. Bill Gates knows he doesn't have to give anyone the time of day from here on out.

The rights of a monopolist are very abstract. What is important - what is so sad - here is not that any one company be allowed to exercise undue market pressure on other companies. What is at the core of this ruling is not the fact that companies like Mosaic won't have a chance in the future.

Looking at that picture of Bill and Melinda Gates coming down the steps from the courthouse puts it all in focus. This is not about politics, or corporate economics. It's about professional pride.

Bill Gates has never invented anything in his life. He hasn't inculcated a corporate mentality where invention is praised. He's a mongrel - a cheating lying thieving mongrel - and he's made that mentality pervasive within his company. The likes of other professional programmers who take their work with pride are destroyed by this ruling.

Remember how Linux users used to cite the fact that Bill Gates was giving debbies the impression all operating systems crashed all the time? Remember how they used to point out that this was not really the case, but only because the debbies used only Microsoft Windows? It was true too: IBM's VM and MVS; DEC's VMS; Sun's SunOS and Solaris; no operating system before Windows has crashed so ignominiously and so often.

Remember how Mark Joseph Edwards and others laid the $5 billion bill for the damages caused by ILOVEYOU at Bill Gates's door? Remember how the financial wing of the US federal government told people to stop using IIS? Have you recently counted the number of vulnerabilities Microsoft has been guilty of this past year alone?

Do you remember how Microsoft tried to turn the advisory business upside-down by squelching anything negative about their software?

If Microsoft still turned out superior product, no one would be dazed. In Everyman's eye it's not political, nor is it corporate-economical. It's about quality in product, and the professional pride taken in that product. The Microsoft mentality, inculcated so thoroughly by Bill Gates, has no room for quality or professional pride. The Microsoft corporate miasma has no room for inventors or thinkers - Bill Gates hates that anyway, as he has to be able to browbeat any employee with his 'superior knowledge' of almost anything.

But Microsoft turn out inferior product - product so lacking in quality that the counterpart in any other industry would be driven off the market by sheer consumer wrath. Because Bill Gates has never cared about ethics or pride, his programmers do not either. They learn how to play dirty tricks, but with the salaries he pays and with the hysterical atmosphere he creates, no one with any personal pride or dignity stays very long.

Bill Gates does not care about innovation, or about quality. He knows by now that if he needs something, he can steal it - and go on to make an inferior version which, through the auspices of his brutal marketing gorillas, will still become an industry standard.

The Kollar-Kotelly ruling is not so much an indication that monopolies will prevail as it is a guarantee that inferior - grossly inferior - products are here to stay. There is no longer any room in this industry for people with fertile minds. There is no longer any reason for anyone who has felt joy in their work to hope against hope that the feeling will return. It's gone, and gone forever.

It's all over - it's time to get out.


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