Every political campaign comes with its quota of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). You think I'm bad, they say, you should see the other guy. No matter your own political leanings, you all know what I'm talking about.Well the same thing happens in business, all the time. Cable companies claim that dish owners lose their pictures in a heavy dew. Dish owners call cable a rip-off and say they have never been happier. Microsoft has been a master of FUD for decades. The whole birth of Microsoft Windows was mainly an exercise in FUD. Back in the early 1980s Visicalc stunned the industry, claiming they would deliver a windowing interface called VisiOn, compatible with MS-DOS. Everyone knew what a windowing interface meant because Apple already had it, first with Lisa and then the Macintosh. Microsoft spent years debunking its rivals while working feverishly on its alternative. I was there at the unveiling. John Dvorak held a roast at Comdex. Computer press "luminaries," their names now mostly forgotten, told jokes about how late Microsoft Windows was. Then at the end Bill Gates came in on an electric motorbike, pulling a cart filled with shrink-wrapped copies of Microsoft Windows 1.0. Then he spent the next half-hour signing them. My copy promised, "the software will do the job."Of course it didn't, not for quite some time. It really wasn't until Windows 3.0 and, more especially, Windows 3.1 that the promises were redeemed. But the FUD had done its work. The bulk of the market didn't junk its PCs for Windows. Visicalc went under. Microsoft ruled the day.Well, they're at it again:
- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer sent an e-mail to customers testing new arguments on why Linux is no-good. For anyone who takes this as gospel I've got a slightly-used curse from Boston to sell you.
- Ballmer's newest spin is on the issue of "indemnification," the idea that lawyers should make your decision because other lawyers will get you if you don't to the right thing. This is put most clearly by Edmund Walsch of Wolf, Greenfield, & Sack (no Web site found). Walsch claims to be an "intellectual property" attorney, although that term appears nowhere in the Constitution and was considered by Thomas Jefferson akin to blasphemy.
- Finally we have a pro-Linux report from the UK that was apparently "sexed down," that is, toned down so as to minimize Linux' strenths and make its weaknesses seem more glaring.
How much of this is real, how much of this is FUD? We don't tell voters the answer to that one, and we don't tell the market that, either. It's for you to decide.Like they say in politics, "You have the power." You vote with your dollars. And in the marketplace every day is Election Day.