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Cybertalk 2/26/96: Model of a Major Modern Robber Baron

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The media are in the midst of a torrid love affair with Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates.

After purchasing a Leonardo da Vinci codex in 1994, Gates, the richest person in America, was inaccurately portrayed as a modern day da Vinci. The Times of London allowed itself to be bought for a day to promote Windows 95. In talking about Man of the Year candidates, a senior editor at Time magazine proclaimed that Bill Gates had defined not only what is technologically possible on the "information superhighway," but also helped build it. A realistic picture of Microsoft shows its hostility towards customers and other companies, and problems with the quality of its software.

Gates is not inventive. Very few items in Microsofts product catalog were developed within the company. Virtually every significant offering was purchased or designed from ideas that others had developed.

Gates' ruthlessness is legendary. In one case Microsoft tried to license a companys software technology, then used it despite having the license request denied. A senior Microsoft executive in 1991 said: "My job is to get a fair share of the software applications market, and to me thats 100 percent."

Gates is not a visionary. Two people helped Gates write a book on "his" vision of the future of computer networks. The book has been widely panned in the industry for not offering any new ideas. Microsoft was late in realizing the importance of the Internet. Windows 95 is acknowledged by most of the industry as inferior to other personal computer operating systems.

Microsoft has an unhelpful view towards its customers. In an interview with the German magazine Focus, Gates said, "There are no significant bugs in our released software that any significant number of users want fixed." Author and columnist James Gleick has reported on the many user complaints about bugs that have gone unfixed since the first version of Word for Windows was introduced in January 1990. Later in the interview, Gates suggested that those who find bugs arent using the program correctly. Microsoft also refuses to offer a toll-free support number.

Microsofts software offerings continue to be of dubious quality. Many universities, including Northwestern, and companies studied Windows 95 and found it not mature enough to safely use within their environment. Despite the hype of its revolutionary capabilities, Windows 95 has trouble with newer microprocessors, running slower on a Pentium Pro than on a Pentium.

Microsoft is not the benevolent 800-pound gorilla portrayed by much of the media. The company has major problems, including dismal sales of Windows 95. The media need to jump off the Microsoft bandwagon and give us the true picture.

Netscape HTML Checked! February 26, 1996 - Robert Lentz (

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