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Microsoft story still highlights Gates’ power

BILL Gates, our favourite love-hate person, is not noted for his sense of humour and therefore, in the perverse ways of the world, must increasingly be the subject of comic attention.

Whether the following story is true or not, the tale highlights the hallowed position Microsoft occupies, being the first manufacturing giant in history to operate effectively unchallenged in the marketplace.

Bill Gates apparently once stated: “If General Motors had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that go 1,000 miles to the gallon.”

Nice thought with soaring petrol prices.

General Motors, however, was not going to roll over easily. It apparently issued a press release in response to Mr Gates’ comment, as follows:

“If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

1. For no reason whatsoever, 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 your car would die on the freeway for no reason, and you would just accept this, restart and drive on

4. Executing a manoeuvre such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart until you reinstalled the engine

5. Only one person at a time could use the car, unless you bought Car95 or CarNT but then you would have to buy more seats

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

7. The oil, water, temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single ‘general car default’ warning light

8. New seats would force everyone to have the same size butt

9. The airbag system would say “Are you sure?” before going off

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

11. GM would require all car buyers to purchase a deluxe set of Rand McNally road maps (now a GM subsidiary), even though they neither needed nor wanted them. Attempting to delete this option would cause the car’s performance to diminish by 50 per cent or more. 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.”

He who laughs last must be a Microsoft shareholder.

• Ann Macbeth is a futurist and principal of Annimac Consultants.

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