POST OF THE DAY
Microsoft
Dumbing Down the Workforce
Our Own Duel

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By Jon408
January 3, 2002

Posts selected for this feature rarely stand alone. They are usually a part of an ongoing thread, and are out of context when presented here. The material should be read in that light. How are these posts selected? Click here to find out and nominate a post yourself!

Datawrangler's post (in part):

One platform means that both your users and support team need only one skill set. Since everyone is using the same platform there is a common knowledge base - users can help one another. The support team can focus on one platform and share experience. Training costs are lower.

Now lets look at hardware again. If a company standardizes on hardware (for example my company gives everyone identical Compaq Armada 700 notebooks) they can swap hardware between users. If they buy a boatload of the exact same computer direct from the manufacturer they can get deep discounted savings. The tech support staff only has to develop expertise with one set of hardware. The company needs fewer support staff than for a multi-platform environment.

Now lets go back to software. If a company standardizes on an operating system and applications software, they same kinds of savings occur. Shared knowledge base, volume discounts, fewer support folks. Even better when you install identical software and desktop environments on all systems.

It's not the cost of the computer - it's the personnel costs associated with the computers. Companies are continually trying to figure out new ways to cut costs. The current fad in corporate cost cutting is outsourcing. Turn over non-core functions to contract companies. Computer tech support is one of the first to go.

David's responding post (in part):

There are other ways for businesses to save money besides adoption of your ideal of a single platform utopia. Why not ban left-handers? Like holdout David with his Mac, we could forcibly re-train them to be right-handed or just not upgrade them with pay raises, right? If we invite Nazis into the boardroom, I bet we could set other restrictive standards that would save even more dough and reward stockholders.

I understand the sentiment in both posts - and in a way, I can agree with both, but...

To say that the world should become Microsoft "Borg'ed" is just silly. And I don't really care what you preference is, whether it be Windows, Unix, or OS (Apple Macintosh), having the tool of your choice for the job you do is very important - perhaps even critical. Many Windows users may not understand this, but there is a HUGE difference in operating systems and computers...

Why else do people decorate their cubicals with photos of family and friends? Would it be better to say "NO MORE DECORATED CUBICALS!"... because that's what I seem to be hearing.

By the same token, I understand Datawrangler's point; if a company standardizes on a single product, a single vendor, they gain something from a procurement standpoint, even IF the cost of maintenance and training is higher.

But you know something? Hewlett-Packard uses Macintosh computers in their Marcom division. Why? Because, even though they manufacture PCs (for Unix, Windows, and Linux), they also know that people work best when they have the best tools for the job. (I know this because H-P is one of my customers, and I deal with their Marcom dept. people.) They've figured out that it's just plain less expensive to use Macintosh in that division.

Something else; IBM uses Apple Macintosh also - again, in their Marcom dept. So does the New York Times, CBS, NBC, and the Washington Post. Why? All the same reasons - allow people to use the best tool for the job. And web/print/multimedia creation areas are virtually owned by Apple. Don't CAD (computer aided design) people laugh at the Mac? Well, anyone serious about creating large/complex websites, quality/long run printing, and multimedia presentations likewise snicker at the "mess" of incompatibility and inoperability of the Windows environment. (See this article regarding such difficulties.)

But, by the same token, all of these aforementioned companies also use PCs overwhelmingly, partly because they're more "popular", which has nothing whatsoever to do with productivity.

Remember - the average person on this planet has an I.Q. of exactly 100. That's right, 100. And that "average person" is the lowest common denominator in business - and yet that person is causing millions of dollars to be wasted, countless hours of productivity to be lost, all because s/he is enthralled with having what everyone else has, no matter what the overall cost may be.

So, let us say your company decides to standardize on Unix. "Unix for everyone," you say. Ok, so where does that leave "Joe Smith", who doesn't understand the command line? Fire him! Ok, so he's out the door - what about Suzy Smith, who wants to use special flow charts and work at home some of the time? (She has a Windows PC at home). Well, fire her too, goes the cry!

Remember guys - the "average" person is that guy on the street (yes, including the one with the shopping cart shuffling along). And that person, collectively, has chosen Windows over all other operating systems. I don't know about you, but I really don't think I want to base my work experience and overall productivity on a choice made by the "average" person on the street.

Now, some of my comments are obviously based on personal experience and choice, but I want to emphasize that I really don't care what the platform is. What I really care about is how people are treated... Call me a left-wing whatever, I don't care - but "borging" the workplace with mandatory Windows machines is NOT about saving money or productivity, it's about a pervasive standardization that dehumanizes the individual - to mankind's loss.

And I do think that any company that attempts to "make" all their people use #1 Ticonderoga pencils when #2 Dixons are clearly better for bookkeeping (according to the bookkeeping dept.!), is out of their corporate mind.

To put this all in context, I used to sell Digital Equipment (DEC) word processors - the DECmate - which was, in my opinion, the best word processor ever made. Yes, better than WordPerfect on a PC, better that Word on a Mac. (Mainly because the keyboard was "dedicated" and labeled - it was all very visual from the operator's viewpoint.)

But DEC was so wrapped up in it's marketing power that the company couldn't evolve - it refused to accept the changes that were taking place on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. And so the company ended up inside another company, and all of their years of expertise and experience are now gone - due to arrogance more than any one other single contributing factor.

If Microsoft or any other company thinks (like Digital Equipment Corporation did), that they can "own" the entire marketplace simply because of history, they may be sadly mistaken.

People are individuals and wish to remain that way; never forget that one simple truth.

Just my thoughts,

Jon

No current position in MSFT, IBM, AAPL, SUNW, or even RHAT, but rather an end user who happened to grow up in the sixties listening more carefully to B. Dylan, Aldus Huxley, Thomas Wolfe, Wm. Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas, and Allen Ginsberg than Lawrence Welk or Richard Nixon...

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