Microsoft, Dumping, & Education November 29th, 2001
Randy: Told you not to have that super burrito for lunch.
Gary: You Idiot! I was just so outraged by Microsoft's latest stunt that I tore my newspaper. But of course, you saw me do it, so why would I have to explain it? Unless it was such a poorly constructed gag that...whatever.
Randy: You don't even try to pretend to try anymore, do you?
Gary: No point, really. What with Microsoft taking over the whole world.
Randy: What now? Was it revealed that Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates are the real-life Skipper and Gilligan?
Gary: Woohoo! I love it when he womps him with his hat!
Randy: That is funny.
Gary: I got nothing.
Randy: I tried with that Gilligan thing.
Gary: I guess the blatant attempt by Microsoft to spin criminal monopoly charges into controlling even more of the computer universe has got us both down.
Randy: I'm more bummed that such a self-serving proposal could even be taken seriously by a federal court. Who's running the show? Judge Curly?
Gary: Let's review quickly: To settle all of the class action suits that have stemmed from their being a convicted monopolist, Gates and company have proposed that they be "forced" to donate $1 billion in refurbed PC's and software to some of the nation's poorest schools over the next five years.
Randy: This is wrong in so many ways. I can't believe there haven't been more charges filed because of this absurd idea.
Gary: First, you must understand that Microsoft has absolutely committed crimes to enforce their monopoly power. This is why they are willing to settle these class action lawsuits for what appears to be such a lot of money. Microsoft understands that it will have to pay a hefty amount of money, no matter what.
Randy: So, it tries to pay off the trial attorneys with as yet undetermined attorney fees, and dupe the public with promises of computers and software to kids, as opposed to real money to the actual plaintiffs in the case. There is no way that this would ever cost Microsoft even close to $1 billion. These days it isn't hard to find a "refurbed" computer for less than $50 bucks.
Gary: But that same machine could have a suggested value of $500 or more. It's just like those morons who buy jewelry with their shopping spree money on Wheel of Fortune. Congratulations! You just spent 3500 dollars on a 99 dollar silver hatpin! Freakin' moron.
Randy: And of course, the vast majority of the money will go to buy software. This will cost Microsoft nothing except the pressing of a few CDs. Think about it. Windows has already been developed. So has Office. The costs have already been incurred. So Microsoft sends out, say, 10,000 copies of Office to these schools. They spend maybe 5 bucks per copy to package and deliver them. But since Office goes for 500 smackers, Microsoft just donated $5 million and it cost them fifty grand. Sweet. Sure, Microsoft says that the schools will be able to get what they want, even stuff from Apple, but who thinks it will really be that simple?
Gary: I actually have done a pretty thorough cost-analysis of the proposal, and I would say giving Microsoft every benefit of the doubt, at the most they would incur costs of no more than ten percent of the actual value of their contribution. So, Microsoft would at most pay $100 million to pay off their $1 billion debt.
Randy: Did you say cost-analysis? Who are you, and what have you done with Gary?
Gary: I done some book learning because of Microsoft. Damn you, Bill Gates! Damn you to hell!
Randy: The bastards. Don't worry. We will drink all of this knowledge away soon. Mmmmm...ignorance.
Gary: And the worst is yet to come. By "helping" the poorest of the schools, Microsoft invades the last area of education with no computers at all. Microsoft recognizes that the desktop battle has pretty much been decided among those schools that have computers.
Randy: And Apple with 47% of those sales is the clear leader. What better way to cut into Apple's lead than to get to those schools with no computers? Schools that could only get computers through donations. Right now, nobody can sell computers to these schools because they have no funds.
Gary: It is already illegal to sell products at a loss in order to increase market share. It is called dumping. Microsoft seems to have found a way around this by "donating" the products. And that is the biggest dump of all.
Randy: By giving its own software and computers that run it to all of these school, it sets itself up for huge amounts of future revenue supporting and upgrading these systems. So Microsoft unfairly opens another huge market for itself and ensures that it remains Microsoft dominated. Wasn't this supposed to be a settlement that extracted retribution for the plaintiffs because of Microsoft's unfair business practices?
Gary: Seems to me that if you are punishing someone or something, you want to discourage their behavior. This is like force-feeding a fat guy. That guy likes to eat, dammit! Now you have an really fat guy and no more food.
Randy: A better solution would be to make Microsoft buy $1 billion worth of competitors' products for these schools. Seems like a reasonable punishment for an illegal monopoly. Nothing would pop more zits on Bill Gates' forehead than having to buy 25,000 iMacs!
Gary: If nothing else, make Microsoft deposit money into a technology fund for these schools. $1 billion over five years. Then let the schools decide what to spend that money on without any more involvement from Microsoft. It is clear that by proposing this settlement, that Microsoft has learned nothing and is thumbing its nose at the government and the consumer alike.
Randy: Keep feeding that fat guy, America. Just get ready for one of the biggest dumps in history.
Gary Randazzo and Randy Soare are the co-founders of IWS Interactive, a New York based game developer for Macintosh. The IWS in IWS Interactive stands for Idiots With Sticks. How that came about is a long and boring story, but suffice it to say that at four in the morning, it seemed like a good idea.
The demo for IWS Interactive's upcoming mystery-adventure game, Manhattan Apartment Hunter, has recently been released to rave reviews. The Idiots have been into gaming on Apple computers even before the Mac was around. Does anyone remember Choplifter on the Apple IIe? (Boy, we know we do.) Now, they are committed to help ensure that the Mac remains the premiere gaming platform on the planet.
You can email your comment and suggestions to Randy at , and Gary at .