Barney's Rubble

Don't Be Hatin'

Microsoft's detractors may have softened their views a bit over the last few years, but there's still no shortage of haters. Especially on the Internet.

Microsoft executives need thick skins. The critics aren't as fierce as a decade ago, but it's still no picnic walking into a cocktail party or computer show and announcing you're from Redmond. Sure, plenty of folks will pat you on the back, and maybe even buy you a drink. But in every crowd there are mudslingers, muckrakers and nitpickers. Bill O'Reilly, Nancy Pelosi and Steve Ballmer all know what I'm talking about.

I see this attitude first hand. About two years ago I called a business writer to talk about a job with Redmond magazine. This clown wouldn't even come in for an interview -- he said he'd be too embarrassed to tell his friends he wrote about Microsoft.

As an independent journalist I'm often caught in the middle. Many claim I'm a card-carrying member of the Microsoft politburo, a simple apologist supporting anything and everything the company does. Company supporters wig out every time I say something the least bit negative -- and I've been particularly brutal toward Windows Vista, Word and Software Assurance.

Using Google Alerts I come across those who take my name in vain, and this helps me discover pockets of Microsoft rabble rousing.

One of my favorites is Boycott Novell, a Web site that looks like Wikipedia and reads like it was written by Ted Kaczynski -- really smart but awful loopy. The site is upset that Novell reached a detente with Microsoft, turning its back on the fundamental tenets of open source software.

Those behind Boycott Novell take particular delight in lambasting Bill Gates. They claim that not only is he a software monopolist, but that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is designed to monopolize the food and drug industries and take control of Africa. That's right. And George Bush took down the Twin Towers, Hillary Clinton is a shape-shifting reptile, and the New World Order controls everything. (Actually, I think it's Google that controls everything.)

Then there are old standbys: dozens of Web sites dedicated to simply hating Microsoft for whatever reason. The phrase "I hate Microsoft" returns 380,000 results in Google, and more than 70 million in Bing -- go figure.

As wacky as these critics are, I love this stuff. I always look for the opposite view. When a Republican was in the White House, I watched MSNBC. Now that Obama is president, Fox News takes up more and more of my TV time. And even these two aren't radical enough for my eclectic political tastes.

Has your opinion of Microsoft changed over the years? What do you admire and what do you dislike? Answers to both welcome at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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