Microsoft Car

There have been a lot of comparisons floating around likening Microsoft and the computer industry to various other industries. In the car manufacturer metaphor, which seems to be the popular one, MS isn't the one that builds the car. Here's a more accurate metaphor:

You have your car manufacturers, the OEMs. There are a lot of them, big and small. You can buy Dell cars and Compaq cars and IBM cars, and so on.

Microsoft builds engines. For some reason, a lot of people want an MS engine in their car. As a result, 95% of the cars on the road have MS engines in them. That's not really a problem, people chose the MS engines when they bought the car.

Here's the problem: MS also makes radios. MS tells all the OEM car companies that if they want to build cars with MS engines in them, they have to put MS radios in them, too, and they aren't allowed to ship their cars with Netscape radios. Okay, well, that's not too big a deal, because anyone can pull the MS radio out and put in a Netscape radio if they want. So MS starts inter-wiring the radio and the engine so that you can't remove the radio without breaking the engine. Then they start integrating the steering wheel and the gas pedal into the radio, too, so finally the '98 models are completely driven with the radio.

MS also owns a large chunk of a radio station, and they quite often have WMSN broadcast programs that can only be picked up by MS Radio.

MS also builds gas tanks, and designs their engines so that it's easier to hook them up to MS Gastank than to Corel Gastank. Not only that, when they publish specs on their engines, they leave out important bits that make it impossible for Corel and other gas tank companies to hook their tanks up to the engine properly. And, to top things off, they redesign their gas tank every couple of years so that it won't hold the same kind of gas as Corel Gastank, which forces people to use MS Gastank because that's what all the gas stations have. And every time Corel designs a new gas tank that can hold MS Gas, MS changes the gas "standard".

Now, Sun Autosystems designs a new type of transmission and steering column that allows drivers to learn how to drive once, and then be able to drive any type of car - manual, automatic, wheel on the right, wheel on the left, motorcycle, solid-fuel-rocket powered with just a stick to control the rudder, whatever. MS agrees to integrate this into their engine, and they do. But they change it so that if you learn to drive with MSJavaSteering you can drive any car, but you can only shift gears if you're driving a car with an MS engine, and vice versa. This gets Sun, who has their own model of car that uses their own parts, chassis, engine, and all, which now doesn't work properly with the JavaSteering MS has modified and is claiming is the one Sun designed, somewhat annoyed.

Then MS starts telling the car dealers that they aren't allowed to advertise themselves in their commercials, that if they're going to sell cars with MS engines, they have to advertise MS only.

Now the government gets annoyed and tells MS that they're too big and too powerful, that they have to let the OEMs take the MS Radio out of the car. MS says they can't do that, because you drive the car with the radio. And if the government doesn't let them ship engines that you control with the radio, they'll ruin the economy because there are so many MS cars that everyone depends on them to get to work. Besides, they aren't a monopoly, because Apple builds a 4-cylinder engine with only one control that Apple puts in cars based on the nice, streamlined chassis from Motorola (good name for a car company, don't you think?). And some guy from Finland has designed a home-built 12-cylinder, super-charged, nitrous-oxide powered engine that VAR puts in their sports cars, and a lot of other people use in cars they've built at home.

The government decides, "Okay, we told you that you couldn't make '95 models that you drove with the radio, but I guess it's okay with the '98 models. But you have to stick a Netscape radio in the glove compartment. Netscape radios are free, after all (Netscape builds radio transmitters, too, and gives away radios now so that anyone can listen to their radio stations), so that should be easy enough. And you have to let the car dealers mention themselves in their ads."

MS says they won't do that, and lawsuits are filed...

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