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Bill Gates vs. The Cocaine Pushers

Anecdotal background

When I was young I would take bus rides between major cities. In those days the bus company did not hire security guards to keep the pushers out of the station. Since I was a grungy teen, the pushers approached me in every station offering me their wares. Not being a user, I was surprised by the number of pusher who would offer me a free hit saying, "Try this; its good stuff!" I eventually learned that cocaine makes a person crave more cocaine. This trait is known as addiction. The coke pusher knew that if I had tried it, I would have been driven by a need for more. Then he would have a customer.

Windows 98

A decade later, I suffered the common misfortune of becoming a user of Microsoft products. I found a recurring pattern. The Microsoft operating system (e.g.: win98) comes with free applications that appear desirable. Once you use them, you quickly find that the utilities you really need are not available. But some of them will be available if you buy an upgrade. The only upgrades that are available are costly Microsoft products. Typically, these products are not as user friendly, nor as reliable as the competitors products.

This creates a trap for the user. He can either copy all his data over by hand into the competitor's product, or he can by the Microsoft upgrade. Typically, the burden of copying data over is greater than simply paying for the upgrade, so most users buy the upgrade. Naturally, since the upgrade still does not have what you really need, Microsoft offers to solve that problem for you by selling you another upgrade.

Mr. Gates apparently learned his marketing strategy from the cocaine pushers: Make the user dependent on your product, and then the user will keep coming back, even when your product is not good for him.

Small Scale Vs Large Scale

For each application purchased by each individual user the disadvantage seems minor. But for the computer world as a whole the disadvantages are great. Producers of better applications are going bankrupt as users choose choose the ease of upgrading from free low quality Microsoft products to costly medium quality Microsoft products. As product diversity diminishes, so does product quality. Competitors are no longer competing to produce better options than the the others because there are no others. Product diversity and quality are disappearing as software producers disappear.

Everybody I have talked to who has had to switch from a competitors product to a Microsoft product has been disappoint by the unfriendly and unreliable nature of Microsoft products. But we are all stuck, because the producers of better products are gone.

The antitrust case

Bill Gates has claimed that the antitrust case will discourage competitive production of software limiting the software choices for consumers. That's makes as much sense as a coke pusher claiming that addicts will only be able to chose to quit so long as the pusher keeps the supply available. And with MicroSoft, just like cocaine, users find themselves driven by a need to pay for more, and in the end they only end up feeling down.

Everybody who was forced to switch from another product to a Microsoft product knows they did not switch for quality. Every software company that pays a logo fee to Microsoft knows they do not pay it to make their product the best, they pay it because Microsoft says they have to - a tax imposed by a corporation.

Yes, as users become addicted to lower quality, less reliable software, and the lower quality of life that goes with it, the pusher becomes richer, at their expense, than the kings that past people have rebelled against.


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