Microsoft's Arrogant Imagination

With Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruling that Microsoft is an illegal monopoly and Microsoft's stock taking a beating, this is a time for gloating by Mac users, especially those who have prided themselves on being anti-Microsoft rebels.

While I use and appreciate most Microsoft's Mac products (except for Word 6, of course), I sympathize with those who are gleefully applauding Microsoft's black eye. After all, this is the company that has foisted Windows on much of the computing world, making the masses believe that computers are fundamentally hard to use and unreliable.

But for me, the best part of the Microsoft ruling is that in reacting to the verdict, Microsoft has once again exposed its true arrogance for all the world to see. It's more than just arrogance, too -- it's delusion.

My favorite piece on the Microsoft verdict came from the Los Angeles Times , which described Bill Gates as believing that "way down deep, he doesn't think he's done anything wrong."

Oh, to be the richest man in the world, surrounded by Microsoft flunkies who say "That's Right, Mister Gates" day and night. To descend into a fantasy world where everything you do is right and where everyone who disagrees with you is just envious.

That's the world Bill Gates lives in. And even when faced with the potential destruction of his empire by the forces of the U.S. government, he can't bear to alter that world-view in any way by admitting wrongdoing. It would just be too painful.

But here's the best part of that Times report, the part that spells out just how clueless Microsoft is about the state of affairs in the computing world: "[Gates] deeply believes his company benefits the world in general and everyone who uses its products in particular."

In other words, Microsoft is curing cancer here, and who are you to stop them? Without Windows, the world would be a sad place without technology, without an Internet, without anything of value in terms of computer technology.

Come on. Life without Windows? It's a little like contemplating life without Wal-Mart.

This is something that Mac users have known all along, just by looking at the various versions of Windows over the years. Windows is not a product developed by an organization that's in touch with reality. It's probably wise that Microsoft has created an atmosphere of denial up in Redmond, because it would be no fun to work at a company knowing you were creating second-rate products.

The fact is, Windows is a massive success (in terms of market share) because people are cheapskates. Windows, bundled with cheap PC clones, was a cheaper option than buying a Mac. The computer-buying public, not readily able to discriminate between the Mac interface and Windows, took one look at the price tags and bought Windows. And the snowball began to roll, picking up steam until most of the computer world had invested heavily in a second-rate knock-off.

But it's hard to pump up your work force at company meetings by explaining that your company's mission is to provide substandard products at discount prices.

Mac users may be a bit overzealous at times, but they sure know the score when it comes to Microsoft. Still, it was refreshing to hear a mainstream publication like the L.A. Times say it, albeit couched in the language of objectivity: "It is far from universally accepted that Microsoft's domination of the market... has inevitably produced the best products without stifling competition. Windows is widely decried as bug-prone, for example."

For too long, the general public and the mass media have swallowed Microsoft's brilliant PR -- that Microsoft makes the world a better place, that Bill Gates is some kind of genius inventor who actually deserved to appear on A&E's "Top 100 People of the Millennium" special.

And as loath as I am to watch the news media pile on a new victim, it is awfully fun to see Microsoft play the whipping boy. Frankly, they deserve it.

Macworld.com editor JASON SNELL has been using Macs since 1989 and writing about the Mac since 1993.

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