As the holiday season looms, my friend Dave starts to sweat.
You see, Dave is a computer doctor who goes door to door, fixing people’s PCs. Christmas means computers given as presents — and that means computer problems as people set up their new machines.
Last year, when Microsoft released its new software, a frantic Dave claimed that there would be about 2,500 bugs to be discovered — and dealt with. And spraying your disk drive with disinfectant just doesn’t do the trick.
But Dave shouldn’t complain too much. If Microsoft made perfect products, he could be out of a job.
And things could get worse. Should another operating system like Linux overtake Windows, Microsoft would have no choice but move on to another industry, with the same gusto it conquered the computer world. Let’s say hotels, for instance.
Imagine, if you will, a world where Microsoft expanded into the hotel industry.
There would be about 1,000 Microsoft motels to every Apple Resort Hotel — the latter being a five-star hotel, which has been fully booked for two years with a waiting list long enough to go around the Earth’s equator about 10 times.
Meanwhile, Microsoft motels aren’t cheap, but everybody uses them. They don’t have much choice – it’s industry standard.
The first time you go to Motel Microsoft, you’re excited, just like the first time you logged on the Internet.
But as you step inside a bland-looking beige building with beige walls and mustard-coloured shag carpet — you’re kind of disappointed.
A month ago, you were convinced by the Microsoft motel sales representative that you could expect a hotel with palm trees, swimming pool, good-looking staff, spacious rooms, all the computer hookups you could possibly want and exceptional service.
As you check in, you meet a pale clerk with a slight overbite. “Hello, my name is Bill and I’ll be your support.”
For a moment, you’re not sure if you’ve come to the right place and you ask: “What about the hotel I saw in the video?”
He solemnly replies, peering over his wire-rimmed glasses: “Oh, that was just a demo. But if you look closely around, you’ll find everything.”
Sure enough, you squint a bit in the dark (must be an energy-efficiency strategy), and you see plastic palm trees and attractive cut-out cardboard staff by the entrance to the bar. You realize now that the pool in the video was actually a closeup of the tabletop water fountain, now filled with guppies.
Bill hands you your key. You go to your room and notice that the bed is missing. So that’s what they mean by spacious rooms! You return to the main lobby.
“What seems to be your problem?” Bill asks.
“There doesn’t seem to be a bed in my room,” you say.
“Go back to the room and look for it. Maybe you haven’t looked for it hard enough. We always configure our rooms properly.”
A bed is a pretty large thing to lose or hide, you think to yourself. Just in case you’ve been suffering from jet lag or think you had one too many tequilas on the flight down, you take another look at the room. Sure enough, there’s no bed.
You return to the registration desk. “You again?” Bill sighs.
“There’s no bed in my room!” you say again.
“Have you tried the floor?” Bill asks.
“No, I haven’t.”
“Then try the floor. It works fine as a bed.”
“But I don’t want to sleep on the floor.”
“Oh, why didn’t you say so in the first place? You want an upgrade.”
“So how do I get an upgrade?”
“Well, just go back to your room and dial 11 for housekeeping. They should reconfigure your room in no time.”
So you head back to your room and pick up the phone and dial 11. You get a pre-recorded message: “Hello, you have reached housekeeping in Motel Microsoft.
Sorry, we are not available to take your call. We are busy servicing other guests. Please call the hotel operator for further options.”
You call the hotel operator.
“Hello, you’ve reached the front desk at Motel Microsoft. Sorry, we are not available to help you. Please press the pound key on your touch-tone pad for further options.”
You leave your room again to go down to the main lobby.
Bill asks: “What seems to be the problem?”
“I can’t seem to get an upgrade for the room.”
Bill looks at his watch. “Oh dear, it’s past 9 p.m. Housekeeping is shut down for the day.”
You head for the entrance to Motel Microsoft when Bill yells at you: “You forgot something, sir.”
He dashes over to hand you a piece of paper. “Check-in time, 8:45 p.m. Check-out time, 9:30 p.m. Support services at $150 per hour. Access to support — $50.
Request for Upgrade — $50. Withdraw for Upgrade — $50. Room — $100. A total of $400 has been charged to your credit card.”
It is now time for a stiff drink.
Bill’s bar with the attractive cut-out staff is a few feet away. You can’t imagine what one drink would cost, so you decide to return to your room. A nice warm bath might calm your nerves. You return to your room and turn on your tap, but no water comes out . . .
You see, Dave? It could be worse.