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Could you turn into a Microsoft?
tedster




msg:791173
 1:43 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

For a long time now there's been a lot of Microsoft bashing. There's some truth and some pure, blind emotion both involved.

I've been thinking a lot about how MSFT got to be who they are - the entrepeneurial spirit that Gates took from the garage to the top of the heap. Attitudes that may help the entrepeneur to grwo can have fatal flaws when they grow to large scale.

It's Just Business
This is the killer saying for me. It's something we hear all the time, as if the world were ONLY about dog eat dog and predator-prey activity. Sure, competition is a facet of reality, but it's only one facet. We are each part of the human race, and also part of the planet as a whole.

It's not just New Age clap-trap to say that, it's absolutely true. When an individual behaves as though he is the only one that counts, it causes some (but not usually too much) trouble for the rest of us. But if that self-centered attitude flourishes on a mega-scale, we get, well, Internet Explorer and Adware.

It's All About The Bottom Line
No, it's not. The money is a way of keeping score. But it's really all about what you do that serves others. If you only focus on your profit, rather than whether your daily work truly serves the world, you are a problem for the rest of us.

We're many centuries past the time when an individual could really be self-sufficient. We all depend on the overall group process for our survival, and our daily work is a way of serving this interdependent way of being in the world, not our own assumed independence.

I think there's a kind of self-destruction involved in splitting yourself off and being a planet unto your own self. Something about the process of existence will eventually do you in.

fixed typos

[edited by: tedster at 4:04 pm (utc) on July 14, 2004]

 

ken_b




msg:791174
 3:05 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

I suppose that, given the right circumstances, anyone could turn into another MS. Perhaps more interesting is, given those same circumstances, who does turn into a MS, and why, or why not.

PhraSEOlogy




msg:791175
 3:32 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Richard Branson is a good example of someone who can create a business and make money without being greedy.

He has taken on big corporations in the past who tried to put him out of business because he tried to give consumers a good deal. The side-effect of being attacked by faceless corporations was to make Bransons customers even more loyal to his brand. Even thought he now has many comapnies and has made millions of dollars he has not exploited his customers.

I guess its down to the mindset of the individual. what matters more - simply making money regardless of consequences or making money and being able to sleep at night.

I think Branson can sleep at night - others I am not so sure about.

bedlam




msg:791176
 5:00 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power is about this exact subject:

From Amazon's editorial review:
As a legal entity, a corporation has as its edict one and only one goal, to create profits for its shareholders, without legal or moral obligation to the welfare of workers, the environment, or the well-being of society as a whole...[The author believes that] this ideological order cannot last and that corporate rule must be challenged to bring balance and revive the values of democracy, social justice, equality, and compassion.

-B

Mods, if the link is a no-no, please delete & just leave the title!

[edited by: tedster at 5:23 pm (utc) on July 14, 2004]

tedster




msg:791177
 5:27 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

I actually have a lot of compassion for leaders of big corporations. For many, it's sort of "get the genie back into the lamp" thing. The very traits which we (sometimes) praise and encourage in an individual become, well, anti-life when given too much scale and cope. And no one set out to create anything "evil" but dark effects cropped up nevertheless.

I ask myself, if the way I live and act were given a really mega-scale, would I be as benign a presence as I like to imagine?

webdevsf




msg:791178
 5:35 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

- Employing tens of thousands of people directly plus many more millions indirectly
- Providing useful software used by tens of millions
- Forcing higher priced competitors like Oracle and Sun to compete
- A founder who has dedicated literally billions of dollars to AIDS funds for Africa

If i could turn my company into MSFT, i'd be very proud.

digitalv




msg:791179
 7:28 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

You forgot their $344 Million software donation to train 400,000 teachers. And their $7 Million software donation to help 9 non-profit organizations improve their technology infrastructure. And the $1.3M cash donation to Goodwill, $10 Million cash donation to the 9/11 disaster relief, $100 Million cash donation to the Boys & Girls club, and the list goes on and on.

They've contributed more than $1 Billion in cash and $5 Billion in free product to charities around the world over the years. People hate Microsoft because they're big, plain and simple. If every Microsoft product was 100% bug free and exceeded every other operating system or similar product in performance, quality, and ease of use, the same people that hate them now would find another reason to hate them.

Ironically, most of you who are MS haters fail to realize that this board and probably your job as a web designer wouldn't EXIST if it wasn't for Gates' dream of having a computer connected to the Internet in every home and business - afterall, if there wasn't a PC in nearly home businesses wouldn't care to be on the Internet. You have Microsoft to thank for that, my friends.

PhraSEOlogy




msg:791180
 7:41 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

I thought it was IBM who brought the PC in to every home. They hired gates to build the MSDOS operating system and he got rich off the back of IBM PC's popularity.

Thats how I remember it anyhow.

tedster




msg:791181
 7:52 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

The fact is that most big organizations end up doing unconscious harm, and Microsoft has done some.

You don't have do be a Microsoft "hater" to recognize that there is some dark stuff in with the good that Redmond does. My intention in starting this thread was not to bash or re-open that kind of flaming battle that goes nowhere.

My intention was to stimulate some reflection on the challenges that come with scale, and the fact that we all tend towards uninspected attitudes that, given enough exercise, will generate some seriously negative results that we did not consciously intend.

Have you ever worked within a corporate culture and tried to undo even one relatively minor, but negative issue?

rcjordan




msg:791182
 7:55 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Your love beads are showing, tedster.

bedlam




msg:791183
 7:55 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

People hate Microsoft because they're big

IMHO, this is a perfectly acceptable reason to be seriously ambivalent about the role of an organization.

Microsoft doesn't have armies or navies, but it is powerful, and it is at the very least not obvious that the exercise of their power - including their good deeds, I might add - is aimed at anything other than increasing profit and consolidating power.

The book I mentioned above uses the word 'pathological' in its title advisedly. The main thesis of the book is that, if you run the characteristics of a typical corporation through a standard personality test, the result you get is, or resembles, 'psychopath'.

The way large corporations typically behave is what philosophers and ethicists call 'egoism' - in other words, the maximization of self-interest. The problem many people have with Microsoft - and many other corporations - is that we are uncomfortable with entities so powerful being governed essentially by a principle that considers activities that increase profit to be uncontestedly good without real regard to (or even consideration of) their other consequences.

What if their interests and yours conflict?

-B

webdevsf




msg:791184
 8:01 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

They hired gates to build the MSDOS operating system and he got rich off the back of IBM PC's popularity

Bell Labs invented the transistor.

Reductio ad absurdum.

ogletree




msg:791185
 8:05 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

What if I don't want to support some of those things. Why does he not just lower the price and stop giving away money. Give it to the customers. If you have so much money you have to give it away then just lower your price. It's funny they have so much money but yet everyones saying MS is in trouble because they can't keep growing by insane margines. I am so sick of the way business is in the US. Nobody is happy with what they have. If I make $1Mil then I have to make $10Mil. I'm sorry but when I get what I need and I can do what I want to do I don't need any more. I don't want to work any more. I just want to have fun. Bill Gates could never work another day in his life and do what ever he wants. Why does he care about working any more? I could make a lot more money right now if I just worked as hard as I could all the time but I like being at home and doing whatever I want whenever I want. I'm not filthy rich but I have more than enough. I have a very nice place and a nice car and a beautiful Fiance. I eat out a lot and have nice stuff. People need to chill out.

Sidenote:
Unfortunatly there software is running the computers on Navy boats.

digitalv




msg:791186
 8:38 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

I thought it was IBM who brought the PC in to every home.

Gates was a consultant for IBM for a few years before Microsoft became a household name. It was Bill Gates who sold DOS to IBM way back when, and it was Bill Gates who envisioned a graphical desktop environment. He had approached IBM with the idea but they weren't ready. Apple was. Look this stuff up if you don't believe me, or better yet pick up a copy of THE ROAD AHEAD. :)

What if I don't want to support some of those things.

Not really your call, is it? Don't buy their products if you don't agree with how they spend their profit.

Why does he not just lower the price and stop giving away money. Give it to the customers. If you have so much money you have to give it away then just lower your price. It's funny they have so much money but yet everyones saying MS is in trouble because they can't keep growing by insane margines. I am so sick of the way business is in the US.

Are you kidding me? Heh. Aside from the clearly selfish attitude that you would rather keep money in your own pocket instead of seeing it go toward a charity, remember they have shareholders to please. Companies continuing to profit is what keeps our economy going, it has nothing to do with how much money Bill Gates wants - it's about how much money the shareholders want. Lots of people would lose their retirement if Microsoft, and other large companies, stopped increasing their revenue every year.

bedlam




msg:791187
 8:53 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Lots of people would lose their retirement if Microsoft, and other large companies, stopped increasing their revenue every year.

Huh?

It seems to me if corporations were a little less concerned about ever-increasing profits, consumer goods (both necessary and luxury) might be cheaper. If they were, doesn't it seem likely that people would retain more cash for their own retirement funds?

Besides which, the ever-increasing profit idea is mind-bogglingly senseless. Ever-increasing profit can only be brought about by ever-increasing consumption of human/natural resources - and that can only lead to an ever-diminishing quality of life...

-B

digitalv




msg:791188
 11:05 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Huh?

It seems to me if corporations were a little less concerned about ever-increasing profits, consumer goods (both necessary and luxury) might be cheaper. If they were, doesn't it seem likely that people would retain more cash for their own retirement funds?

You can't tell me you honestly believe what you just said :) If a company's stock doesn't go up people STOP BUYING IT and those who already have it SELL IT. That makes the stock go down. And everyone who has mutual funds or a retirement plan with any portion of it based on stocks just lost some of their retirement income.

If Microsoft drops their price NO ONE is going to say "Woohoo, now I have an extra $300 for retirement. Yeah!"

bedlam




msg:791189
 11:31 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

If a company's stock doesn't go up people STOP BUYING IT and those who already have it SELL IT. That makes the stock go down. And everyone who has mutual funds or a retirement plan with any portion of it based on stocks just lost some of their retirement income.

The point was supposed to be that, if the overall standard of living that people enjoy were higher (i.e. people's costs were a smaller portion of their income overall), they wouldn't have to rely on (relatively) high-return investment strategies such as mutual funds.

Besides, my other point still stands: unless it is gradually wound down, there is either a terrible crash at the end of the 'ever-increasing-profit' cycle, or a blackened, impoverished wasteland of a world where a select group has lots of nice shiny stuff and no one else has a pot to p*** in or a window to throw it out of...

The system is out of control.

-B

digitalv




msg:791190
 11:41 pm on Jul 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

Besides, my other point still stands: unless it is gradually wound down, there is either a terrible crash at the end of the 'ever-increasing-profit' cycle, or a blackened, impoverished wasteland of a world where a select group has lots of nice shiny stuff and no one else has a pot to p*** in or a window to throw it out of...

Heh true ... either that or prices will just continue to rise and in contrast they're really not making any more money than they were before. Many years ago my grandfather bought a house for somewhere around $20,000. Today he lives in a $500,000 house - and he's never moved. By that math, it's gonna cost about $10 Million to put my 3 month old through college :)

toolman




msg:791191
 12:36 am on Jul 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

>>>the result you get is, or resembles, 'psychopath'.

AKA "control freak" and/or "driven"

We'll see how benevolent people think MSFT is in 10 years when you cant play a movie or listen to a song without their permission/software.

I think corporations are really just mirrors of a societies soul. A gross conglomeration of good and bad, with money.

There is however, a disturbing trend toward elitism in the leadership...elitist thieves. Nothing new under the sun.

I do know one thing for certain after many years of trial and error and earnest testing. There is such a thing as absolute zero when balancing a checkbook.

ken_b




msg:791192
 12:59 am on Jul 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

History is full of individuals and businesses that became giants in their industries and wealthy almost beyond the average persons ability to comprehend through the use of what some might call predatory or at least questionable practices.

Some might also say that a number of these individuals and busnesses later laundered their names and reputations by contributing significant portions of their substantial fortunes to charitable causes.

One might expect this practice to continue.

rogerd




msg:791193
 1:18 am on Jul 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

Tedster, I think the answer to your question depends partly on whether the corporation is public or private. A privately held corporation can more closely reflect the values of its owner(s). The board of a public corporation has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to increase the value of their investment. Many of these shareholders may be impersonal entities themselves, like mutual funds or pension trusts.

That doesn't give corporations license to act in an unethical or illegal way. And only foolish companies treat employees, vendors, or customers shabbily. In fact, some investment analysts claim firms selected on the basis of high ethical standards and similar criteria may outperform other firms.

Like most Americans, I own a few shares of stock in diverse firms. I must admit that I'm counting on these firms and their CEOs to try to dominate their industries with Gatesian perserverance and single-mindedness. I doubt if any will be that successful, but perhaps they'll at least outperform their competitors and produce an above-average return.

tedster




msg:791194
 1:38 am on Jul 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

rogerd, you're absolutely "on the money" there. One my most hideous employment experiences was middle management in a company during the period which it got ready to go public. A lot of borderline stuff was going on - borderline by legal standards that is. Most any individual would have had no trouble seeing it as way over the line ethically.

Think I'm going to buy that book bedlam mentioned. There is something here in the current structure of things that needs fixing - this is not exactly a legacy to hand down the generations. We should sort it out, and you never know what contribution you might be able to make if you're prepared.

bedlam




msg:791195
 5:58 pm on Jul 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

Think I'm going to buy that book bedlam mentioned.

Hey Tedster: If you want to avoid putting a little more money into a big corporation's grimy hands, you can always take it out of the library >;->

-B

ergophobe




msg:791196
 3:24 pm on Jul 22, 2004 (gmt 0)


it was Bill Gates who envisioned a graphical desktop environment. .... Look this stuff up if you don't believe me,

Read the Road Ahead? That was written by Gates! I suggest that instead you read the Encyclopedia Britannica:


The Lisa and the Macintosh popularized several ideas that originated at other research laboratories in Silicon Valley and elsewhere... In 1968, as a researcher at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), Engelbart gave a remarkable demonstration of the “NLS” (oNLine System), which featured a keyboard and a mouse, a device he had invented that was used to select commands from a menu of choices shown on a display screen. The screen was divided into multiple windows.... Xerox built a prototype computer with a GUI operating system called the Alto and eventually introduced a commercial version called the Xerox Star in 1981...

Note that 1981 is the year that Apple *started* working on the Mac. Bill Gates was 13 when Englebart was using a mouse to navigate from window to window on his computer.

Tom

Chndru




msg:791197
 3:34 pm on Jul 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Looking at an even bigger picture, any corporation in itself is a reflection of the society that raises it. Whether you like it or not, you are inturn a part of any corporation or individual's raise or fall. "By how much" can vary, but you still impact it. So, quit whining.

HughMungus




msg:791198
 3:45 pm on Jul 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

It seems to me if corporations were a little less concerned about ever-increasing profits, consumer goods (both necessary and luxury) might be cheaper.

A publicly-traded corporation, by definition, owes its allegiance to its shareholders. Shareholders want a return on investment. Whoever said earlier that corporations would be defined, psychologically, as "psychotic" was right -- they're designed to have one single-minded function -- increase return on shareholder investment.

Tedster, could you give us some examples of the types of issues or activities you're thinking about?

tedster




msg:791199
 5:01 pm on Jul 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

One classic issue is what sometimes gets called "age-ism".

Looking only at a major coroporation's spreadsheet, the older, experienced employees appear to be more of a drain on the bottom line than younger employees. The value of their experience (even wisdom) and their impact on the corporate culture is not easily quantifiable. And so to a pure "number head" analysis, it looks like you can just plug in younger employees with lower salary/benefit requirements and increase corporate profits.

And so you can, but only to a degree and only over the short term. The long term repurcussions DO take a toll on the bottom line. There is a value in employee loyalty and that has been smothered over the recent past.

On the other side of things: as a business scales up there are some very tough decisions that do not easily yield to the kind of simple ethics that may work well on a small scale. One such issue that is a very hot button right now is offshoring.

Yes, offshoring can appear to make sense to the bottom line. Is there a problem with the loss of employment within one's home country? Is there some hidden positive value in the traditional "employ your fellow countrymen" attitude? Or is the entire concept of "country" evolving, the way that separate states eventually became the United States?

So, to return to my Microsoft metaphor, was their extremely high profit-taking early on a mean-spirited exploitation of the market with long-range negative consequences? Or was it simply a wise step to establish a strong corporation? Did they cut corners in software development in order to exploit? Or did they get blind-sided by an unforeseen security landscape - something that only appeared with their global near-monopoly in software?

No individual, and no small business needs to have much practical concern for global impact. In fact, the emergence of truly global concerns is only a few generations old - our ethics and moral values evolved in relation to some local group. It is my position that large scale decisions of global impact cannot be successfully addressed with attitudes learned on the small scale.

bedlam




msg:791200
 5:42 pm on Jul 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

A publicly-traded corporation, by definition, owes its allegiance to its shareholders. Shareholders want a return on investment. Whoever said earlier that corporations would be defined, psychologically, as "psychotic" was right -- they're designed to have one single-minded function -- increase return on shareholder investment.

Clearly corporations must provide a return on shareholder investment, but I don't think it's that obvious that they have always regarded their responsibility to shareholders to be an ever-increasing return on investment. Such an idea is only possible in a world where people (absurdly) believe that it's possible to produce infinite quantities of goods or services - which is, historically, a new idea.

But as I mentioned earlier in this thread, the very idea is ludicrous (I'm tempted to say that it borders on the insane, which brings us back to the psychopathological theme...)

-B

HughMungus




msg:791201
 7:07 pm on Jul 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

Such an idea is only possible in a world where people (absurdly) believe that it's possible to produce infinite quantities of goods or services - which is, historically, a new idea.

I know. But try telling that to the last guy who bought the stock...or try getting a stock analyst to admit that. :D

Part of the problem as I see it is that shareholders are a mob and we all know that mob rule is not a good thing.

ergophobe




msg:791202
 5:51 pm on Jul 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Tedster asked if *I* could turn into another Microsoft and the last example was one I could relate to...

Did they cut corners in software development in order to exploit? Or did they get blind-sided by an unforeseen security landscape - something that only appeared with their global near-monopoly in software?

My books are very precise scholarly editions of historical texts, but they are also very complex with perhaps 5K references to archival materials in each one (plus perhaps gain as many to printed sources). Like an operating system, precision and accuracy (read: stability and security) count. I thought my first book was scrupulously done and, in some ways it was, but I knew less about quality control than I do now and I find the numerous "bugs" in it. Experience has taught me to work to higher standard, but I really needed the apprenticeship first. Maybe MS had nefarious motives, but I can certainly see myself, with the best motives, tackling such complex projects and still ending up with security holes all over.

Would I try to crush and kill every competitor? Not as a matter of principle, but as a matter of practice, I could see thinking "Hey, my customers shouldn't pay $30 for a disk defragmenter, that should be part of the utility package included with the OS." In the end, I might end up destroying that business even if I had no intention to do so.

Part of it in MS's case is just scale. I hop in my car and go kill millions of insects. I'm not an insect hater, I'm just trying to get somewhere.


Such an idea is only possible in a world where people (absurdly) believe that it's possible to produce infinite quantities of goods or services

Actually, it is possible in a world in which people (not so absurdly) believe that it's possible to produce ever-increasing quantities of goods and services.

What is absurd is the belief that we can use ever-increasing quantities of resources. If we have a fixed amount of resources, we may still, through ever-increasing efficiency, be able to supply ever-increasing (but not infinite of course) quantities of goods and services. It's Buckminster Fuller's idea of a planet of a billion billionaires.


- which is, historically, a new idea.

Well, it depends on what you mean by new and what precise idea you're talking about. I would say that in a European context, the idea that things will consistently improve is a child of the Renaissance when Euros, for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire, believed that they could surpass the ancients. So in the grand scheme, the general idea is only a little over 500 years old, which is relatively new.

On the other hand, your idea, that it is not possible to consistently surpass our forefathers, is a either a very old idea recently recycled or a very new idea.

This 38 message thread spans 2 pages: 38 ( [1] 2 > >
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