Friday, February 27, 2009

Retweet: Microsoft vs. GM

As I was trying to think up something witty and poignant for today's entry - I came across an old story from 1997 that pitted Microsoft against the now-up-sh*ts-creek-without-a-paddle - GM.

Back in the heady days of the late 90's the computer industry was bragging about how far the technology had come in comparison to the automotive industry. That spawned a single 3 line joke with a cool punchline:
There's word in business circles that the computer industry likes to measure itself against the Big Three auto-makers. The comparison goes this way: If automotive technology had kept pace with Silicon Valley, motorists could buy a V-32 engine that goes 10,000 m.p.h. or a 30-pound car that gets 1,000 miles to the gallon — either one at a sticker price of less than $ 50. Detroit's response: "OK. But who would want a car that crashes twice a day?"


The over time the joke morphed from that simple 3 liner into one that has replaced the "computer industry" with Bill Gates and the "automotive industry" with GM. Somewhere along the way, some unnamed person added some additional observations and it circulated around the (then spanking new) Internet via something called "email."

Over the years it's turned into one of those urban legends that has been repeated so many times that people think it's actually true. Well, it's not - but I think it's especially enlightening given the current circumstances with both GM and the on-going Vista controversy.

Plus, it made me chuckle - and I think we could all use a little more of that these days:
If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:
  1. For no reason at all, your car would crash twice a day.

  2. Every time they repainted the lines on the road, you would have to buy a new car.

  3. Occasionally, executing a manoeuver such as a left-turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, and you would have to reinstall the engine.

  4. When your car died on the freeway for no reason, you would just accept this, restart and drive on.

  5. Only one person at a time could use the car, unless you bought 'Car95' or 'CarNT', and then added more seats.

  6. Apple would make a car powered by the sun, reliable, five times as fast, and twice as easy to drive, but would run on only five per cent of the roads.

  7. Oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single 'general car default' warning light.

  8. New seats would force every-one to have the same size butt.

  9. The airbag would say 'Are you sure?' before going off.

  10. Occasionally, for no reason, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key, and grabbed the radio antenna.

  11. GM would require all car buyers to also purchase a deluxe set of road maps from Rand-McNally (a subsidiary of GM), even though they neither need them nor want them. Trying to delete this option would immediately cause the car's performance to diminish by 50%t or more. Moreover, GM would become a target for investigation by the Justice Department.

  12. Every time GM introduced a new model, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

  13. You would press the 'start' button to shut off the engine.

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