The Lite Side

Microsoft the Ultimate Pyramid Scheme?

- 2005.08.03

Sometimes the headlines just write themselves.

According to an article at the Register, MS Website Trumpets 'Pyramid' Company, Microsoft has been featuring a case study about GoldQuest, a pyramid scheme company!

This, of course, is not Microsoft's fault. Companies that use Windows to generate funds through pyramid schemes do not have to tell Redmond what they are up to any more than purveyors of spyware, adware, viruses, Trojan horses, networks of zombie computers belching up personal information to Mafia lords, spammers, or anyone else has to. These things manifestly do not have anything to do with Microsoft per se, any more than . . . some other analogy that I was thinking of but forgot.

Any way, the point of this article (and I do have a point) is that Microsoft itself is a kind of pyramid scheme.

In your classic pyramid scheme, you sell something of limited value and tell the seller that they can make money by selling the same valueless thing to friends for the same price less a minor finder's fee. The "mark" is told that as more people join the pyramid, more money trickles down the pyramid to him through the finder's fees, eventually making him rich with very little effort.

In the Microsoft version, the "mark" (an IT guy) is told that if they use Windows, they'll be more compatible and more productive. Further, if they convince 10 users in their company to use Windows, then all the additional savings will be passed on to the IT department, which can hire more people to take care of the additional computers.

Managers further up the food chain know to get a budget proposal through the executive committee. They need to include a technology line estimating the costs of additional computers, data storage resources, etc. required to complete a project. The IT guys clue them into the savings they will have if they go single-platform across the company, and the managers buy into the pyramid.

CEOs and CIOs are told not only by the managers but by the IT staff as well how going single-platform (read: Windows) will save them money not only for a particular project, but for the budget of the company overall.

Funny thing is, no one ever writes a line item in a budget for the savings. No managers ever get additional resources for these savings, and somehow the IT staff always seems to soak up the savings without managing to cut staff, reduce expenses, or increase productivity.

Isn't that a pyramid scheme?

In a true pyramid scheme only the people in the first layer get really rich. And those would be . . . umm . . . lemme see . . . it wouldn't be the people actually using the computers, hmm . . . not the managers . . . not the CEO or CIO . . . hmm . . . it would have to be . . . . Microsoft!

Why is it, I wonder, that people always say, "They are making us all switch to Microsoft," and never, "We are all switching to Microsoft because we want to?"

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