Sign in with Microsoft

In his continuing series on Big Tech Trust, US correspondent Sam Bocetta poses the question, ‘Can you trust Microsoft’.

Strangely, Microsoft is not part of the FAANG group, so either the letter ‘M’ did not work in this acronym or Microsoft has a clean nose! Well, it turns out people do trust Microsoft of today, and there are good reasons.

FAANG

But to truly understand why people trust Microsoft today, you need to understand the company and its history.

Early Microsoft – Bill Gates and Paul Allen

I first saw Microsoft MS-DOS (MS-Disk Operating System) in the mid-80s running on an IBM PC. At the time, Digital Research was in talks with IBM to make a version of CP/M (called 86-DOS) for its new IBM PC. After negotiations failed, Microsoft, established in 1975, bought the rights to Q-DOS (Quick and Dirty OS) from Seattle Computer Products and developed PC-DOS for IBM and MS-DOS for other 8086 CPUs. 

Trust Microsoft Gates

Even back then, media said that Gates had stolen the opportunity via foul play. Sorry, more media hype as clean room reverse engineering has many times since proven.

But I also started to see what I call “Trial by media’ and a lot of irrational statements.

Bear with me – this is why some don’t trust Microsoft and see Bill Gates as the devil incarnate.

Trust Microsoft Gates

Like most “tech heads” at the time, I voraciously read tech mags. They eloquently and authoritatively told me of the evil empire forming under Microsoft founder Bill Gates (Bill is the anti-Christ and Microsoft is the focus of all evil in this modern world). They delighted in reporting glass-half-empty-style on the masses of litigation, mainly with the US Federal Trade Commission, but also anyone else that got in its way. 

Lawsuits were the norm – Novell (WordPerfect) claiming foul play when running on Microsoft operating system (undocumented APIs), others claiming to have written Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more. Basically, a lot of these issues came, not because Microsoft had acted illegally, but because it was fast becoming the 1000-pound gorilla that was worth a swipe at. You Aussies call that the Tall Poppy syndrome.

Trial by innuendo

IAMN

Well before social media, the highly active “International Anti-Microsoft Network” (IAMN) was busy throwing mud. The site has gone dark now, but there are some interesting links here.  It organised Microsoft boycott campaigns (the famous Mircoshit ‘98), spread scurrilous unsubstantiated rumours, wrote to editors, submitted copious anti-MS articles, relentlessly published Bill Gates and email address, home and work phone numbers, provided template hate mail and proselytised that MS was evil and everyone was against it. “Do not trust Microsoft”.

History has shown this to be an energetic effort by vested interest groups. It allegedly was a well-orchestrated front financed by Steve Jobs and his cadre. As the saying goes – throw enough mud and some sticks. If you want to know more search for it – there is so much pure venom in pages like this.

Trial by deprecation and just plain lies

There are 41 million websites currently containing Windows humour – but most of the content came from one period in the early the 90’s. While this may have started as fair game – some funny jokes about BSOD, Microsoft Car, etc. – it became a national sport to use jokes to attack MS. And there are 10 million sites aimed at Bill Gates jokes alone.

MS Jokes

Q. How many Microsoft programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. None. Bill Gates will just redefine Darkness(TM) as the new industry standard.

MS Jokes

No other Fortune 500 company has ever been subject to such preponderance of deprecating jokes. That smacks of the IAMN conspiracy, and Universities use it as textbook examples to illustrate abuse disguised as a joke. 

But then the social media came along, and trolls got hold of the idea, and jokes/memes got progressively more acerbic, denigrating, poisoned, personal, and fouler. 

According to Forbes, social media still represents Microsoft’s greatest challenge. It is at last gaining control of its image, but it faces an uphill battle. Interestingly jokes about Windows 10 and its current CEO Satya Nadella, are very much in the minority (115,000 sites).